Cataloguing – The Fear Fades

For about five months I had been working on the cataloguing module for my course.  It was, without doubt, the single most difficult module that I have done to date.  Both the assignments filled me with dread when I first saw the outlined requirements.  The first of the two assignments in particular had caused me a great deal of stress and fretting.  Even the advice of colleagues had failed to relieve the stress I was feeling about completing this module.  It was, in short, a nightmare.

One of the main reasons for finding this topic so daunting was that I am not currently involved in cataloguing in any way, shape or form.  Consequently, the subject was a bit of a mystery to me. Much of the reading made little sense to me (although I am sure it did to those who have more experience of the subject) and, quite frankly, I was dreading working on the assignments as I feared that I would be found out at last.  A fraud amongst librarians. An impostor attempting to muscle his way in to an exclusive club populated by people who understand Library of Congress Subject Headings and suchlike.

The assignment that had me particularly vexed required the analysis of a number of different types of records.  One from an OPAC, one from a printed catalogue and one example from a full-text search (eg via an internet search).  It was then necessary to create our own record and suggest a suitable retrieval system that could be used in conjunction with it.  Having only ever used Dewey Decimal (and with only a rudimentary understanding of that), the thought of trying to comprehend another system caused palpitations.  How on earth was I even going to attempt to do this one??

As is now the norm, I finally went for it and made my way through at least six different drafts.  At each re-drafting I found myself analysing what I had written so much, that I began to lose sight of what was actually required.  I had begun to over-complicate the assignment itself and was tying myself in knots.  Heaven knows how many emails I fired off to the module coordinator – no doubt enough to have her tearing her hair out!  I don’t know why I always end up doing the same.  Maybe because at the back of mind I am thinking that as it is a Masters, the answer must be more complex than my initial gut reaction suggests.  Still, nothing wrong with a healthy bout of self-doubt.

Eventually I got to the point where I just needed to send it off and keep my fingers crossed.  Otherwise I could see myself re-drafting for all eternity.  Chipping away at a little bit here, a little bit there, (foolishly) hoping for perfection.  I never took such an approach when studying for my undergraduate degree.  I simply handed in first drafts time and time again.  This perhaps explains my new found dedication.  I still feel I underachieved first time around, so here is my chance to prove that that degree was no mere fluke…I actually might just have been worthy of it (just).

So anyway, I received my marks the other day and was quite frankly shocked to see that not only did I score over 70%, I scored over 70% for the whole module.  Needless to say I opened a (very small) beer to celebrate.  What is particularly pleasing on a personal level is that I never scored above 68% on my first degree (and I only achieved that twice).  So far on this course, I have hit over 70% on at least six assignments – something I never could have imagined when I started the course as although I always wanted to go on and complete a post-grad, I always had the nagging doubt that I was not capable.  As I have said before, I have always felt that at some point someone is going to turn around and call my bluff.  That eventually someone is going to ask the question: how did I slip the net?  Maybe one day they will.

Anyway, as time is progressing I am giving more and more serious thought about the possibility of a doctorate at some point in the future.  Given my background, it would be a dream to be in a position to do so.  I certainly don’t want to get to the end of my studies and then come to an abrupt halt.  I am seriously interested in working on some studies and conducting some research when I do complete the course.  Maybe I need to get out more, but I do actually quite enjoy studying.  Now I know there is definitely something wrong with me!  I really must get out more………

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5 thoughts on “Cataloguing – The Fear Fades

  1. Well done! I wished I’d realised how tough you found this at the time you were Twittering it, so I could console you a bit – cataloguing is a bit of a mystery to me too and it’s my full-time job title!

    So don’t worry too much.

    I must say, you seem to have put the kind of effort into that assignment that I saved for my dissertation; most of my assignments went through 3 drafts *maximum*, mainly due to the time pressure of simultaneous deadlines, but also through editing fatigue! Even my thesis didn’t get that much going over (but then I tend to just *write* and then cut what’s extra).

    Seriously, you’d do a PhD? I got that hankering during my thesis sometimes too, but actually going for it? Hmm.

  2. Thanks. Yes, I do tend to overdo it with the re-drafts….just can’t let go and put it in the post! Yes, keep thinking about the PhD, but not thinking of doing one for a while yet….what with the newborn on the way, could be tricky! Probably the urge will fade away once I get onto the dissertation. By then I will be sick to death of studying…which is probably not entirely a bad thing.

  3. Congratulations! Glad my advice (such as it was) didn’t totally lead you up the garden path as I was seriously wondering if I had lost the plot after all these years. I might well be coming to you for help re: Library of Congress Subject headings! Since that scheme is in use at the cathedral library where I will be working one day a fortnight and I’m pretty rusty on the topic. It’s all too easy to lose sight of the finer points of cataloguing when faced with the daily grind of such things as children’s storytime, helping people with the computers, answering comment cards etc etc…..so I think we’ve all felt the same worries about being thought a fraud.
    Cataloguing however doesn’t necessarily equal fear (except card cataloguing, which to me has become the stuff of nightmares, but lets not go there!!)

  4. Cool, well done!

    A phd is very tough but a really great experience too. You tend to spend a lot of time reading things that appear to be very relevant and then actually turn out not to be, stabbing in the dark, and finally realising that you just have to do something. I’m glad I decided to do mine, and I’m also glad to be at the end of it. Love what you choose to research, because I think it must be incredibly difficult to finish otherwise.

    I love reading your blog, I’m a computer scientist, working in search engines and language systems. It’s nice to learn how the librarians work and get a glimpse into your methods. Our professions have always overlapped but more so now with the semantic web.

    Anyway, well done 🙂

  5. Thanks CJ. I’m glad you enjoy reading my blog, always nice to hear positive feedback 🙂 And yes I agree with you regarding the two professions, as the internet and other technologies continue to grow and develop, I think they will continue to converge. Consequently, I think that a very high level of computer literacy is absolutely essential. It is not enough to be able to simply navigate the Internet, we must be able to identify and exploit new tools that can help us as professionals (well, not that I am a professional yet of course!).

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