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Bicentennial Conference  on 
        Bibliographic Control for the New Millenium: Confronting the Challenges of Networked 
        Resources and the Web
sponsored by the Library of Congress Cataloging Directorate
Topical Discussion Group 2:
What Are the Continuing Education Needs of Professional Catalogers?

Discussion Facilitator:
Sheila Intner
Simmons College Grad School of Library & Information Science
11 Hupi Woods Circle
P.O. Box 151
Monterey, MA 01245-0151


The Conference topical discussion groups are for the purpose of identifying recommendations made by the speakers and commentators in their presentations and for developing recommended actions and an overall action plan for discussion and approval by the Conference in its concluding plenary session. Each topical discussion group consists of a facilitator who, with a designated number of participants, is assigned a specific topic related to the presentations that will serve as the focal point for identifying recommendations and deriving recommended actions and an overall action plan. Each group will also have an LC staff member to take notes and capture highlights throughout the discussion.

In a few cases, topics for the topical discussion groups are assigned to address near-term and long-term directions. We have defined "near-term" to be a recommendation of an action that is "doable" in the range of 12 to 18 months, and "long-term" to be recommendations or actions accomplished within 2 to 5 years. Both of these definitions have been applied in addressing this topic.


The knowledge and skills needed by professional catalogers have undergone considerable change in the last decade. This change has been attributed, in large part, to technological advances, the most prominent being the development and growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web, which has resulted in an explosive expansion of information resources online. Professional catalogers, while being challenged by the opportunities to provide bibliographic control for remote resources, also question their preparation to deal with this new and rapidly changing environment. Current professional catalogers have acquired their cataloging knowledge and skills mostly through on-the-job training and experience in organizing and providing access to their library's collection of "physical" items. Formal course work has been mostly traditional in scope and content, commonly consisting of an introductory course and one or perhaps two advanced level cataloging courses. This course work was considered adequate for the traditional work of a cataloger at the time. However, this is no longer the situation; this is particularly evidenced in the recent postings of available cataloger positions. New competencies are being required that go beyond cataloging and classification to include a broader spectrum of knowledge organization structures and systems, such as database design, indexing and abstracting principles, and information retrieval. In some vacancy announcements, specific competencies are identified, such as knowledge or experience in applying a metadata scheme, one or more markup languages, and/or specific operating systems and networked environments. Even the title of cataloger is undergoing a change with some positions advertising for a "metadata cataloger" or a "knowledge access manager."

One theme in a number of the papers presented during this conference is that libraries are experiencing a paradigm shift in the way they communicate and distribute bibliographical information. Technical services administrators are increasingly aware of this shift and the evolving role of their professional cataloging staff in this environment. Yet, they are unsure of how to upgrade their staff's competencies or, indeed, what those competencies should be. Further, they grapple with questions as to who can best provide the continuing education needed, whether internally by its own or other skilled academic staff or externally by organizations or groups on a contractual basis.


In this assignment, we are asking you to develop a prioritized list of 4-6 recommended continuing education opportunities that technical services administrators in academic libraries could use to meet the more immediate education needs of their professional catalogers. Such educational opportunities might be provided by library schools, workshops organized by professional groups or organizations, and/or take the form in-house training. This list would be of immediate value to academic libraries which are expanding their use of the Web or are in the course of undertaking digital projects involving their own or consortial collections. The list is also seen to have potential value as a referential document for future digital projects and activities requiring the relatively rapid acquisition of new or special cataloging knowledge and skills. In developing recommendations, please distinguish between short-term and long-term as defined above, when appropriate.


Your topical discussion group is organized into two parts to cover the two Conference days in which you meet.

  1. The first meeting is in the afternoon of Day 2 of the Conference. The objective of this meeting is to have you brainstorm your topic by sharing your thoughts and ideas in an informal discussion. Your facilitator will serve to direct the discussion and to keep it focused and moving. An LC staff member will be present to record major points of discussion.

    Follow the lead of your facilitator in determining the format of the discussion. Then start by identifying any suggestions or recommendations offered by the speakers, commentators, and participants on your topic. Which or what continuing education opportunities--general or specific, if any--were mentioned in the plenary sessions? Was there any discussion about the changes libraries or technical services, in particular, are experiencing or anticipating that would impact the ability of professional cataloging staff to undertake or accomplish digital projects? Next, move to discuss possible continuing educational opportunities that might be considered particularly useful in the short term. What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with these opportunities? Are there certain topics better suited for a particular delivery format; if so, what might these be?? Who can best provide the continuing education needed? In the course of your discussion, take into consideration any work or management experience you may have had in developing continuing education efforts in your own institution. By close of the meeting, you should have an extended list of opportunities and their evaluation for review on the following Day 3 of the Conference.

  2. The second meeting begins in the morning of Day 3 with the facilitator and LC recorder present. Time spent at this meeting is focused on reviewing the list of short-term education opportunities and their evaluations drafted in the first meeting and extracting from it a list of 4-6 recommended opportunities and evaluations arranged in priority order. In the course of determining this list, consider these questions:

    1. Does the list identify specific continuing education opportunities that could be easily or readily developed or adopted? Does it explore newer as well as conventional delivery formats?

    2. Is the list responsive to the pertinent short-term needs of professional catalogers who are expected to make extensive use of the Internet, applying traditional cataloging and classification systems along with new metadata schemes?

    3. Does the list identify who in the way of individuals or organizations might best provide these opportunities and where?

Once you have finalized the prioritized list of criteria, the LC recorder will input it to a computer and a Powerpoint presentation will be created for your facilitator to present to conferees.

Presentation and Action Plan:

Your facilitator will present the prioritized list of education opportunities and evaluations for discussion and approval in the closing session of the conference. Conferees will use this list along with the prioritized recommendations presented by the facilitators of the other topical discussion groups to develop an overall action plan that the Library of Congress can carry forward from the Conference.

Library of Congress
October 22, 2000
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