Essay

Concluding Reflections

From the outset, the Cataloging a High School Makerspace project presented multiple challenges and opportunities.  As the project proceeded, the challenges proved not so much obstacles to overcome but rather pathways towards a much deeper appreciation for the fundamental nature and importance of cataloging work.

First, in what was a basic collection development question, the issue loomed of which makerspace information resources should be cataloged.  High school librarians face strong competing demands on their time with priority given to working with students. Reflecting that, focus quickly centered on cataloging only the highest value items: major equipment, tools that could circulate, student (user/patron) content and select documents. While recognizing their importance in a makerspace, a crucial early decision was made to not include consumable materials.

Left unspecified and somewhat beyond the bounds of this project was the question of precisely what student content would be included.  For instance, the difficulties posed by potentially needing to catalog and store numerous physical objects are substantial.  A possible compromise might be to use images or video of these objects and then catalog those items either individually or as collections. A library will make such determinations based upon its local requirements and constraints.

Second, examination of WorldCat and other library catalogs rapidly revealed little in the way of existing records for makerspace items.  Consequently the four sample records are all original cataloging examples.  For most makerspace information objects, particularly but by no means limited to student content, original cataloging will prove frequent if not typical.  This is quite the reverse of the norm in a typical high school library where a librarian performs copy cataloging almost exclusively.  Likely this helps explain the limited amount of makerspace cataloging to date.

Third, creating the original cataloging records was highly demanding but very rewarding.  There is undoubtedly a much greater intellectual challenge, degree of difficulty and time required than in copy cataloging.  This is true even of familiar bibliographic items like documents and more clearly so for those less frequently encountered like physical objects.  In layman’s terms it might be compared to the difference between building a house and redecorating one.  Encouragingly, though perhaps obvious, building original records does get easier with practice.  The high quality resources and tools available online (ALA’s RDA Toolkit, Library of Congress, OCLC, Special Libraries Cataloging, WebDewey, and Yale Beinecke) were excellent guides.  Specific illustrative examples found at these sites were frequently utilized during this project and helped overcome a lack of comparable records.

Finally, emerging from Cataloging a High School Makerspace is a very strong affirmation of the value to library students of attempting some original cataloging work.  Grappling with the demands of original cataloging in the context of a practical scenario has deeply enriched our understanding for which we are enormously appreciative.

 

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