s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: Cat. & Reference

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cat. & Reference

"In the library system, patrons are assisted by two separate yet equally important groups: the catalogers, who organize the information; and the reference librarians, who assist patrons in finding the materials they’re looking for. These are their stories."

(Actually, these are mostly cataloging stories, since I don’t do reference work so much – and then strictly pro bono. But I can’t resist the opportunity to be clever, on occasion.)


So, I’ve been working at this cataloging job for about two months now, and I have to say that I really love it. Almost sickeningly so. It turns out that I really like new books, especially more academic or highbrow books, and . . . that’s what I catalog for 10+ hours a week. I still get excited every day about all the new books to catalog (unless it’s a truck of boring engineering books or obscure gift books – I’m all about obscurity, but it’s hard to find high-level matching records for some of these books). The excitement will probably wear off eventually, but for now I have the tendency to go in to work every day and say something like “Look! New books to catalog!” (My coworkers tolerate this behavior, for now.)

Also, the books I catalog often remind me of people I know. Here’s a brief list:

La Bamba:

Bollywood : sociology goes to the movies / Rajinder Kumar Dudrah.


Southern Fujian : reproduction of traditions in Post-Mao China / Chee Beng Tan.

Dr. Manning:

Signs of logic : Peircean themes on the philosophy of language, games, and communication / by Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen.


Medieval obscenities / Nicola McDonald.

Tolkien in translation / Thomas Honegger.

The Big O:

The encyclopedia of trains & locomotives / C J Riley.


Krushchev’s cold war : the inside story of an American adversary / Aleksandr Fursenko; Timothy Naftali.

(I’m glad that I finally spotted a book for Optimistic.; I was quite concerned at the lack of Soviet-era history books being acquired by the University of Illinois library system. In retrospect, many of the books acquired are probably in Russian, and are thus going directly to the Slavic library for cataloging.)


Isidore van Kinsbergen (1821-1905) : photo pioneer and theatre maker in the Dutch East Indies / Gerda Theuns-de Boer & Saskia Asser ; met bidragen van Steven Wachlin.

(This is a really beautiful book of photographs taken in Indonesia.)


Discovering sexuality in Dostoevsky / Susanne Fusso.

Also, I found one more book that reminded me of someone, but this book is such a good match for this person that I think I’m actually going to give it to them as a Christmas present, so I’m not including it here.


At October 22, 2006 6:19 PM, Blogger Becca said...

I've never told you this, but sometimes when I read Miss Marple books I'm reminded of you. Maybe because she knits.

At October 22, 2006 7:01 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Well, Miss Marple also seems deceptively nice and harmless, until you get to know her. I think that's true of me, too. :D

At October 22, 2006 7:12 PM, Blogger Optimistic. said...

Aww, you found a book that reminds you of me! How precious!

Actually, the stack of Soviet history books next to my desk here reminds me of you, if only because you recommended 100% of them to me.

At October 22, 2006 8:16 PM, Blogger Tolkien Boy said...

There's no other way to say this, but the teacher who hates me looks just like you.

I get surprised every time she demonstrates her dislike.

At October 22, 2006 9:35 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Optimistic. - You raise a good point. In a sense, all books should remind people of me; I am a librarian, after all.

Tolkien Boy - Oh, how sad. At least you're surprised that she doesn't like you instead of thinking things like "Yeah, I always guessed as much." (Actually, that reminds me that I knew an insanely liberal girl out here who looked just like Ma Grape. It was highly confusing to hear those political sentiments coming out of that face.)

At October 22, 2006 11:29 PM, Blogger Th. said...


I'm reading this with the Big O at my side, and he was excited to see his name on your blog--until the last line, when he learned Katya would not be giving it to him for Christmas.

At October 23, 2006 4:39 PM, Blogger Katya said...

th. - Well, that's a charming introduction. "Who's Katya?" "Oh, she's the person who's not giving you a fabulous book for Christmas." Thanks.

In other news, has no one caught the clever pop culture reference in the title and first line of the post? Does no one watch TV? Or was it too obvious?

At October 23, 2006 10:55 PM, Blogger Melyngoch said...

I caught it. But only cause you told me it was there. I just assumed there were good solid librarian reasons to abbreviate "cataloging."

Not that I'm unahppy with my medieval obscenities, but TO always gets the sex stuff. Sigh.

At October 24, 2006 1:16 AM, Blogger Th. said...


I recognize it but can't place it. I was guessing Law & Order?

At October 24, 2006 2:17 PM, Blogger alea said...

Of course it's Law & Order. I laughed enough to (almost) cry. I wondered about the sort of episodes they'd include. Maybe lengthy meetings about why, exactly, the transliteration to English from Arabic is inaccurate. Or perhaps a librarian helping a patron track down benchmark figures for the infantwear retailers in Canada (an actual question I have received)

I envy your job. But then, I'm the sort of person who gets worked up about the supposed demise of MARC and has opinions about RDA.

At October 24, 2006 5:56 PM, Blogger mysh said...

Is your boss the most passive-aggressive green you've ever met? (An uber-passive-aggressive Berkeley linguist, I might add.) It makes cataloguing torturous.

On the other hand, maps are pretty to look at.

At October 25, 2006 3:16 AM, Blogger Katya said...

alea - I got the original idea because our supervisor has this special card that lets us pull any book from the stacks if it needs to be re-cataloged - even non-circulating books. So we were joking about going into the stacks and showing the card as official ID in a Law & Order-esque manner.

Actually, we have a student working on a Hebrew cataloging project right now, and the lack of consistent vowels in transliteration is making it very hard for her to determine Cutter numbers. Also, I refuse to say "RDA." I just say AACR3, and figure people know what I mean.

myshkin - Um, no. I would die. My current supervisor is a red with a dry sense of humor. When we get too caught up in obscure technical details, she has been known to remind us that we work in Rapid Cataloging (as opposed to Original Cataloging) and we should therefore be working rapidly.

At October 25, 2006 6:28 PM, Blogger Ethan said...

Ok, I am sitting here in the second row of my Social Ecology of the Family class with the professor who just hired me as a graduate assistant when I read the first line of your post.

All the training that our year of poker nights gave me weren't enough to keep me from starting to smile and coughing to stifle the laugh that your intro evoked.

At October 26, 2006 12:25 AM, Blogger Th. said...


Crap. What's AACR3? That's not a vitamin I'm familar with and I suspect I am not getting my recommended daily allowance.

At October 27, 2006 11:40 PM, Blogger Trevor said...

Is the book for me? I bet it is.


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