Charles Ammi Cutter believed that cataloguing was an art, not a science. In the fourth edition of his Rules for a Dictionary Catalog (1904) he wrote:
‘The convenience of the public is always to be set before the ease of the cataloger. In most cases they coincide. A plain rule without exceptions is not only easy for us to carry out, but easy for the public to understand and work by. But strict consistency in a rule and uniformity in its application sometimes lead to practices which clash with the public’s habitual way of looking at things. When these habits are general and deeply rooted, it is unwise for the cataloger to ignore them, even if they demand a sacrifice of system and simplicity.’
Today, the clarity and common sense that Cutter brought to cataloguing and classification is menaced by technological determinism, idiosyncratic vocabularies, ill-conceived philosophies, and poorly-applied, questionable methodologies.
I’m interested in both the theory and practice of cataloguing and classification, broadly understood, and in returning cataloguing to the principles advocated by Cutter and his contemporaries. However, my research has mostly focused on the socio-cultural prejudices embedded in cataloguing standards and classification schemes, the history of bibliographic description, and current trends in film cataloguing.
My academic publications on cataloguing and classification include:
- ‘Did Aristotle invent library classification?’, Libraries: Culture, History, and Society, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Fall 2022). [Peer-reviewed article, forthcoming]
- Cataloging & Managing Film and Video Collections: A Guide to using RDA and MARC21 (Chicago: American Library Association, 2015). ISBN: 9780838912997 [Book]
- ‘Library of Congress Classification: Teddy Roosevelt’s world in numbers?’, Cataloging and Classification Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 4 (May 2012). DOI: 10.1080/01639374.2012.658989 [Peer-reviewed article]
Reviews, and more general writings, include:
- My blog, Cutter’s Last Stand.
- Review of: Maxwell’s handbook for RDA: Explaining and illustrating RDA: Resource Description and Access using MARC 21, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, Vol. 47, No. 2 (June 2015)
- Review of: Practical cataloguing: AACR2 , RDA and MARC 21, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, Vol. 45, No. 4 (December 2013)