Professionalism and Professional Activities in the Cataloguing Department

Accessibility of information when needed is important, in particular in libraries where thousands of books are stocked. In this paper the author is going to discuss professionalism and the professional activities in the cataloguing department
A catalogue according to Ranganathan (2004:33) is to "show what the library has by a given author, on a given subject and in a given kind of a literature" Kumar (1975:1) defines a catalogue as a "work in which contents are arranged in a reasonable way, according to a set plan, or merely word by word" Cataloguing defined by Taylor (1992:3) as "the skill or ant... of organizing knowledge (information) for retrieval" usually cataloguing is done in the cataloguing department by professional cataloguers.

Cataloguers are trained professionals. Professionalism requires them to be honest in their work. There might arise problems during the process of cataloguing, a professional cataloguer does not conceal errors to his/her manager because "concealing problems deprives the department head of the opportunity to consult with his supervisor in a calm and productive context and benefit from his advice."

Sometimes the cataloguing department receives numerous types of materials to be catalogued. A profession cataloguer must be able to set priorities. He/she must be able to decide which materials should be catalogued first depending on priorities settings.

A professional cataloguer strives for quality and quality control. "Issues of quality lie at the heart of everything the catalog department does. It is the other side of the coin from questions of productivity because productivity standards are affected by quality standards. If there are national, regional or international standards professional cataloguers try by all means to adhere with them.

Communication is one of the professional qualities of a cataloguer. Communication offers a change for continuing education, communication facilities administration of the department, communication and communication combats stereo types and self-pity.

Kumar (1975:293) summarizes the qualities of a cataloguer as follows:

"First of all, a qualified and efficient cataloguer should be appointed who should possess the following qualities: He should be a scholar. He should have a working knowledge of a regional language or a foreign language other than English. He should keep himself up to date regarding the latest development in cataloguing and catalogue codes. He should possess a good library hand. He must understand thoroughly the rules of a catalogue code adopted by the library. He must understand the requirements of the users. He should make an attempt to become aware of what is going on in the other department of the library. He should have enough capability and possess flair for accuracy of details".

Duties of cataloguers in the catalog department include descriptive cataloguing, description, access, and subject analysis and authority control.

Taylor defines descriptive cataloguing as phase of the cataloguing process that is concerned with the identification and description of an item, the recording of this information in the form of a cataloguing record, and the selection and formation of access points ? with the exception of subject access points. Descriptive cataloguing describes the physical make-up of an item and identifies responsibility for intellectual contents, without reference to its classification by subject or to the assignment of subject headings, both of which are the province of subject cataloging.

A title is almost always the first identifying element, followed by the name of persons responsible for the contents of the item. Next one looks for information identifying an edition... even the size, the type or number of illustration. When found, all these elements of information are useful in the description of an item.

Another professional activity in the catalog department, it is that of choosing access points for any item. Choice of access points means choosing all names and titles under which the description of an item may be sought by a user. For any one item, one of the access points is chosen as a main entry and the other as added entries.

Wayner (1992:18) had the following to say on access points "After describing an item the cataloguer selects access points. Names of person and corporate bodies associated with a work are chosen according to the cataloguing rules used. Title access points also are chosen in addition to the obvious main title (called title proper) there may be alternative titles, variant titles, series title, and titles of other works related in some way with the work being catalogued."

Cataloguers do what is called subject analysis. Subject analysis involves determining what the subject concept or concepts are covered by the intellectual content of a work. Once this has been determined, as many subject headings as appropriate are chosen from a standard list. Again, an authority file must be consulted into the catalogue with other works covering the same or related subject concepts.

The final step in the process usually is to choose a classification notation from whatever classification scheme used by the library. The cataloguer therefore must choose only the one best place in the classification scheme for the item.

Subject analysis is the part of cataloguing that deals determining what the intellectual content of an item is 'about' translating that about ness into the conceptual framework of the classification or the subject heading system being used, and when translating the conceptual framework being used, and then translating the conceptual framework who the specific classification symbols or specific terminology used in the classification or subject heading system.

Cataloguers also do what is called authority control. Authority control is the process maintaining consistency in the verbal form used to represent an access point in catalog and the further process of showing the relationships among names, works, and subjects. The goal is to make possible the identifying and collocating functions of the catalog.

Wayner (1992:19) says "Authority control is the process of maintaining consistency in the verbal form used to represent an access point and the process of showing the relationships among names, works, and subjects. It is accomplished through use of rules (in case of names and titles) use of subject heading list, and reference to an authority file to create an authority character string called a heading."

In conclusion, the library catalogue is such an important tool in the library. Though materials if rightly arranged on shelves can be found easily, there might be documents absent from shelves owing to various reasons ? loaned out, away in the hands of readers, misplaced by readers. So that cataloguer can reveal the entire resources of the library. So the cataloguer and the catalogue department are of paramount importance in the library.

1. Kumar G, (Theory of cataloguing", Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, 1975
2. Ranganathan S.R. (Cataloguing Practice", UBS Publishers Distributors Pvt Ltd, 2004
3. Lal C, "Practical Cataloguing", Ess Ess Publications 2003
4. Wayner B.S. "Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification", Libraries Unlimited, Inc, Colorado,1992Etiwel Mutero holds a National Certificate in Records and Information Science Management and is Studying for the Bsc Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management through the Zimbabwe Open University.You can contact Etiwel on His Mobile phone +263773614293 or email can also contact him on facebook.This and other articles by the same author can be found on

Etiwel Mutero published a booklet of his articles titled Records,Archives &Information Science-College and University Articles.Articles found on this blogg and others are also included in the book which is found as a hard copy CD or as an ebook.To order the book or a single article please contact Etiwel Mutero through his phone 263773614293 or email

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