That title doesn’t accurately reflect the gist of this post, but since it is about the fate of a cataloger, I just couldn’t resist. You gotta love a catchy title.

The genesis of this post is a comment that was made during the course of a conversation the other day. In describing the desirable and necessary traits that make a good cataloger, the job was described as a “niche” position–one that not everybody can do or would want to do. The person went on to say, “Catalogers do not become library directors.” Someone else added this–“And they don’t go into administration, either.”

I beg to differ; however, my begging hasn’t gotten me very far, thus far.

It is no secret that cataloging is not necessarily my niche even though I can do the job very well (not to mention appreciating the simple fact of having a full-time job). I don’t fit the mold for the typical cataloger. Or do I? True, from my experience most catalogers (and by cataloger, I also mean copy cataloger and cataloging assistant since I try not to make those distinctions) are very happy doing what they do and can envision themselves cataloging for their entire careers.  I don’t know all that many catalogers, at least not personally. I follow many on AUTOCAT, and they do seem to be very happy in their “niche.” But there must be others out there like me who got into the library world on the coattails of cataloging and haven’t been able to break out of that mold even though they would like to do just that. Once a cataloger, always a cataloger…whether you like it or not?

Is there a bias against hiring catalogers into public service or administrative positions? Is there a widespread, preconceived notion about the personalities and skill sets of catalogers–a stereotype (within the traditional stereotype of a librarian)? And is being a cataloger a deal breaker in the résumé review process unless the vacancy being filled is also in technical services? I don’t know, but I’m beginning to wonder. In fact, I’m surprised that it took me this long to raise the question.

If you have an opinion, whether that opinion is based on first-hand knowledge or conjecture, I’d like to hear it. I’d also like to hear from anyone who has successfully made the transition from cataloging to a public service or administrative position.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a cataloger, and there are aspects of cataloging that I like. I think it is a valuable and important branch of librarianship. In fact, a well-known, now-retired, formerly blogging librarian once said he believes it is the foundation of librarianship.

But for accidental catalogers like myself, it shouldn’t mean a closed door. If you fall into cataloging, there should be a way to climb out.