Career Profile: Cataloging & Special Collections Assistant


Crystal Schmidt

Title of current position:

Cataloging and Special Collections Assistant

Current employer:

McIntyre Library, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Please provide a brief description of your job including a general overview of your responsibilities.

My job is split 50/50 between our Cataloging and Special Collections & Archives departments. In the mornings, I do original cataloging of special collections materials (rare books, films, maps, blueprints, cookbooks, you name it). In the afternoons, I work in the cataloging department doing copy and original cataloging of new materials. In addition, I also work on maintaining our ebook records.

How did you choose your specialty (i.e. music cataloger, metadata specialist, technical service manager, etc.)?

As an undergrad, I started with a library circulation position and worked my way around the library, eventually landing in the cataloging department. I really enjoyed stamping and labeling the new books and mending the books that were falling apart. My university also offered a library science minor, so I took the cataloging course and while it was a lot of rules, the methodical approach of cataloging grew on me. Technical services became my focus in graduate school—it’s my favorite part of any library!

What specific skills, aptitudes, training, or education does your specialty require?

Cataloging requires practice in identifying items and writing descriptive records. My cataloging courses in my undergrad library science minor and during my time at UW-Madison SLIS were crucial for becoming a cataloger. Other helpful courses included archival preservation, tribal libraries (where I learned more about historical artifacts), and information architecture for understanding more about website design and HTML. Being a good speller, copy editor, and researcher has come in handy too! NACO training is beneficial, as well.

What do you find rewarding in your career?

Figuring out how to describe a challenging item well, publishing MARC records to the catalog—it’s a joy to see my work in the catalog.

How do you keep up with trends in the field (i.e. involvement in professional organizations, email lists, publishing and research, professional reading, etc.)?

I subscribe to AUTOCAT, browse the Library Resources & Technical Services journal, and follow the Troublesome Catalogers and Magical Metadata Fairies Facebook group! They’re really active, and you can learn quite a bit from following them. My library school colleague Tracy has a blog about cataloging comics and graphic novels called Librarian with Issues.

What advice do you have for those considering a career in your specialty?

Learn as much about electronic resources as you can alongside the traditional cataloging of print materials.

How do you strive for a work-life balance? Do you have any hobbies or interests outside work?

I enjoy travel, good music, international foods, and fitness.

This career profile is one of 14 developed by the Cataloging & Metadata Management Section (CaMMS) Recruitment & Mentoring Committee in 2017. To view a list of all profiles, see Career Profiles in Cataloging, Metadata, & Related Fields.

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