Career Profile: Supervisory Librarian


Arthur Liu

Title of current position:

Supervisory Librarian

Current employer:

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

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

I am the head librarian for technical services and circulation. I supervise a staff of four library technicians who serve patrons on the circulation desk and perform other tasks related to circulation, shelving, cataloging, and other office duties. I am also in charge of managing the library’s collections (print and online, monographs and serials), and serve as the chief cataloger and metadata specialist. I am responsible for ensuring that our various databases (catalog, discovery tool, etc.) accurately reflect the library’s collections.

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

Although I have wanted to be a cataloger since library school, I did not specifically choose the exact job and institution where I am now. The job chose me! During my job search, I discovered that this is where many opportunities appear: in blended positions (part cataloging, part collection management, part access services, part staff management) and at special libraries.

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

Supervisory skills:

  • Managing staff
  • Scheduling
  • Conducting performance reviews
  • Creating guidelines
  • Resolving conflicts

Cataloging and metadata skills:

  • Knowledge of and experience with national and international cataloging standards
  • Creating individual records to describe and provide access to resources
  • Managing databases of records
  • Attention to detail
  • Working with vendors, cataloging utilities, and discovery services to manage large collections

In what ways did your formal education prepare you for your career? What did you need to learn outside of this?

At Simmons College, I gained valuable knowledge about the basics of library cataloging and metadata: AACR2, RDA, LCSH, Dewey, LCC, MARC, Dublin Core, XML schemas, etc. But most of this training involved traditional cataloging and working to describe individual resources, one by one. I also gained some valuable experience preparing and delivering presentations.

Outside of library school, I gained more experience with cataloging, but I also learned to work with groups of records in bulk: managing the forest (i.e. catalog or database) in addition to pruning individual trees (i.e. cataloging single records). This is especially true for managing subscription packages of online serials. I also gained experience working with specific systems (e.g. integrated library systems, OCLC).

What do you find rewarding in your career?

To me, a library cannot function without cataloging and metadata work. What’s most rewarding to me is (my belief that) my work matters and helps connect people to the information they seek.

What do you find challenging in your career?

The sheer volume of resources that require cataloging and metadata work can be daunting. Also, deciding when to do a task myself versus delegating it to other staff can be difficult. Finally, dealing with bureaucracy and advocating for the library within its parent institution can be a perennial challenge.

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

Attending ALA Annual Conferences. Keeping tabs on email lists like AUTOCAT, RDA-L, PCClist, etc. Social media, such as the Facebook group Troublesome Catalogers and Magical Metadata Fairies.

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

Take all the courses your library school offers in cataloging and metadata. Gain work experience in an internship or similar while in school. Keep an open mind about the type and size of institution you’d like to work in. I was initially apprehensive about applying to work in an institution that is affiliated with the military, but I thoroughly enjoy my job now and the people I work with.

What do you see as the career outlook in your field (i.e. job prospects, changes in responsibilities, etc.)?

I expect the number of positions to be fairly stable in technical services overall. After several decades of shrinking due in part to automation, we’ve hit a point that seems fairly stable. But the jobs themselves may change in nature. I expect to see more hybrid positions with a wide variety of responsibilities.

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

Honestly, I’m the wrong person to ask about this! The only thing I will say is I keep work at work. I do not work from home. When I leave the office, I do not take work with me. In my spare time I volunteer at a local animal humane society. I am also keenly interested in public transit and urban development, and I regularly follow several local transit advocacy groups. I’ve been known to attend the occasional march or protest to support various political and social causes.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.