I just came back from a 2 day training workshop at Ontario. Now you may ask why do I go that far for a training class? Why does a librarian assistant need training for?
I rarely talk about my work here because I don’t know if I can explain correctly what I do. Most people when they heard that I work in the library, they immediately thought I sit in the circulation desk, check out books and shelve the books. In fact, there are a lot of things going on behind the circulation desk. In a library, you need librarians to develop collections, meaning searching for the types of books that would benefit your target patrons and order them. You need assistants to input those book orders and process when the books arrive. Then the catalogers catalog the books according to the rules and regulations. Finally, the books go out in the public shelves. But that’s not all, you constantly need to maintain the books. If the books are getting old and worn out, you may need to repair or bind them. If the shelves are getting too crowded, you may need to pick out some books and put them in storage room. These are just procedures for books. Our library collects magazines, videos, DVD, electronic resource, and maps. Different materials have different procedures.
I handle cataloging and acquisition (ordering) works for Chinese materials here. Acquisition works are comparatively easier and much more straight forward, while cataloging may take years to train. Even an experienced cataloger wouldn’t be able to tell you that they know everything about cataloging, because it’s simply impossible. Cataloging rules are constantly changing and updating. Take the workshop I attended these 2 days for instance. We went thru 2 days (from 8am to 5pm) of rigorous training and went over countless pages of information together. The instructor still told us that it was only basic stuff that they could fit into 2 day frame. It normally would take years to be familiar with all those materials.
As a cataloger, we basically follow the rules standardized by American Library Associations and the Library of Congress (LC). LC was established in 1774 and served as research institution for the Congress. They are the largest library in the world and hold over 128 millions items. Their catalog system is one of the oldest and most complete system. We pretty much follow their guidelines when it comes to cataloging. During this workshop, we learned about their subject cataloging systems, how they create and develop their categories, how to apply those categories into our records according to their rules..etc. Being an organized freaks, I’m very impressed how complete and organized their systems are. Hundreds of people spend countless years and efforts to standardize and improve the catalogs. I couldn’t imagine how tedious this task could be, and it’s still a continuous, never ending process.
The workshop I attended was developed and designed by a cooperative program among numerous librarians. They volunteered to sacrifice their work time and spend days training new comers like us. This time they happened to choose the location at a a private organization’s office in Ontario. About 15 people or so from various places attended this workshop. Not a lot of people realized how vast and large the library community can be. Not only do public libraries and school libraries need library workers. Government agency, army/navy base, research institution and even major corporations all need library people to sort out their collections.
I better stop before I bore everyone out. My point basically is that there are actually a lot of different tasks and a lot to learn in the library field. It can be both challenging and interesting depends on how you look at it. I’m glad I have the opportunity to work in this field and gain more insights and respects for the library profession.