I found a wonderful little collection of letters from a cataloger to library school students. They address common complaints and perceptions of cataloging as being monotonous and mechanical work, and the author tries to persuade her readers that cataloging is, in fact, a Great Adventure:

A Great Adventure: Twelve Letters to a Library School Student, by Esther Anne Smith, Head of the Catalog Department, University of Michigan Library. Ann Arbor: George Wahr, Publisher, 1930.

All of the letters are fun to read, but I think this is my favorite:

A Great Adventure, IX

There are catalogers who accept the dictum that cataloging is ‘mechnical’ work, and who act accordingly, and let me assure you, they are mighty poor catalogers.

It sometimes seems to me that I can almost hear the books chuckling to themselves when they get into the hands of such a cataloger (so-called). The tricky little ways in which they fool her. The perfectly absurd things that they ‘get away with’! I don’t wonder they laugh. And the cards–how they can tangle themselves into a maze wholly unintelligible to anyone! Books and cards can be perfect imps in the hands of the mechanical cataloger.

No sir! You’ve got to be on the alert every instant if you do not wish to be caught. That mind of yours must work, quickly, thoroughly, accurately, all the time, approaching every book with the suspicion that it is not what is seems. And your imagination cannot play hookey for even the fraction of a second. Oh, the trouble that is caused, both to the public and to the library, by the unimaginative cataloger, who cannot picture her cards in the catalog, cannot foresee what will happen if she does–or does not do–certain things! You must learn to follow with your thought, at least subconsciously, every smallest act, or failure to act, throughout your day’s work. And don’t stop until you can actually see some one using the resultant card, in the catalog. If you can do this, you will never be bored, and best of all, your public and your fellow-workers will rise up and call you blessed.

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