Now what do you want me to do? New and Emerging Roles for Cataloging and Metadata Librarians

Guest post by Jeremy Myntti and Liz Woolcott:

Two years ago, we sat outside of a conference session at ALA Midwinter in Chicago discussing the stormy restructuring debates going on at our respective libraries.  Jeremy, in his third year as the Head of Cataloging and Metadata Services at the University of Utah, and Liz, barely into her first year in the same position at Utah State University, were facing a similar challenge – developing a vision for the role of cataloging and metadata in an academic library.  Our respective libraries diverged down two different paths in addressing this issue, but the conversation sparked an intense interest in mapping the landscape of this shift in the larger profession.


A year later, we had devised a survey to ask how this was happening at other institutions and to gain a sense of what cataloging and metadata professionals were being asked to do.  What was their role?  The answers were all over the map – quite literally.  Where once, the role and expectations of a cataloger was clearly defined, now they are blending and morphing along with the dramatic change in information formats and discovery vehicles that are driving the identity crisis of libraries everywhere.  


It was during the first big dig into the survey data that we realized this is not a single research project, but an ongoing investigation.  The survey provides some high levels views of what is happening now and how the shifts are occurring, but the answers often open as many questions as they close. The changes that are happening are as unique as the libraries involved.  


We developed a website and titled it the Organization of Cataloging Units in Academic Libraries ( to help us analyze and keep track of the data, provide an open forum for survey participants (and any other interested parties) to see the results of the survey, and to create a space where the profession could discuss the different approaches to meet new and evolving information discovery needs. Currently, the website features 75 data points that have been analyzed from the survey, including organizational structures, staffing models, expected future skills, differences in tasks completed inside and outside the traditional cataloging unit, analyses of outsourcing trends, and a host of other data comparables.  


In addition to these, we have also featured two guests posts that reflect on staffing and organizational structures in their units.  We have an open invitation for additional contributors to write about how their units are organized, structured, divide responsibilities, tackle new challenges, or address any issues related to cataloging and metadata.  We encourage any viewpoint and invite you to submit your own experience! Contact Jeremy Myntti (, @jmyntti) or Liz Woolcott ( , @lizwoolcott).
We look forward to joining with you on May 9th to explore some of these topics at the opening session of the ALCTS Exchange.

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