Thursday, November 26, 2009

The subterraneans

Some companies have what is called "casual Friday", where employees can come to work dressed less formally, what is considered "smart casual" or "business casual" -- dressing in such a way to appear professional yet relaxed. Where I work, everyday is casual day and there is no dress code. Some might dress formally, others very informally -- t-shirts, shorts, etc.

I work on the second floor of our library, yet it is one floor below ground level. Actually, it is split level, in that the west side of our floor is on the ground level with very nice windows, but the east side is not. All of us work in cubicles, called "stations," even the top supervisors.

I am not complaining about either the lack of a dress code or the location of our work. But it is representative of the fact that most of us in technical services do not engage professionally with the public. Like the ship engine mechanic below deck, we in technical services are the ones who provide the foundation to keep the library and all its branches functioning, but we are not the public face.

What I describe may be more true here at a large university library than in smaller libraries, where catalogers and others in technical services might perform a larger variety of tasks. Of course, we have plenty of interaction among ourselves, and meetings to attend, but in the end, cataloging is for the most part a solitary task. It can be intellectually challenging at times, other times the work can be dull or frustrating. Sometimes it gives one the feeling of accomplishment. But it is different than working as a reference librarian, for example, or in the circulation department where one engages in frequent contact with the public.

All that said, I would recommend to anyone starting a career in the library world to spend some time working as a cataloger, if possible, because it helps establish a good understanding of how the library is organized, where one might find particular items, and how to search for them.


  1. Which integrated library system do you work with? We use Polaris at my library, with mixed opinions.

  2. We use Millennium ILS, which can be found at:
    We have had this since June of this year.
    Previously we used Gladis, an in-house system.

  3. I've worked with Millennium before, at another library. It's a good system.