The Future of Cataloging (for the Rest of Us): Forecasting for Production-Level Cataloging
For decades, catalogers have lived in a place of change. We’ve been in a nearly continual shift ever since library catalogs moved to digital environments, and before that as concepts and new formats emerged. In the past, many of these changes have taken years or decades to implement locally, let alone implement on a national or global scale. Our era in cataloging is no different. The implementation of RDA, the shift away from the MARC record, and increasing interest in linked data (among myriad other factors) are beginning to coalesce into a discernible future. This is an exceptional time when we can begin to imagine a practical future for the catalogers, copy catalogers, and staff-who-occasionally-catalog who might not always be privy to the inner workings of committee meetings, task forces, or academic conferences.
In this article, I will look specifically at how copy cataloging will likely look in the near future. The pace of evolution in cataloging is generally glacial, so by “near future,” I’m thinking of the next 20 years. I’ll also summarize current developments with RDA, linked data, BIBFRAME, and other factors, and discuss their impact. I will use the terms “catalogers” and “copy catalogers” interchangeably, since most of us are both or either, depending on the day or hour.