Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Reveries of libraries, the forty-first: Cataloguer Job Description, or A Cataloguer’s ABC

 Extract from a paper by Philip Harvey


Today I found this ‘Cataloguer’s ABC’, written for a library conference workshop and left in a file dated June 2004. I cannot even remember writing this ABC.


Amateur expert in software configurations.

Bearer of the full depth of the collection.

Collator of inconvenient authorities.

Defender of enduring standards.

Elucidator of erroneous electronic entries.

Free floater amidst the free-floatings.

Gardener of the right terms.

Handler contracted to supervise the products of time.

Indexer or rejector of every misspelt name, title travesty, puffed-up publisher, insufferable pseudonym, faulty form division, and variable series you wouldn’t want to meet in a month of Sundays.

Janitor of injudicious inclusions.

Kleptomaniac of overseas expertise.

Light touch with lumber.

Master or mistress of the perpendicular or precious periodical, or its impermanent online partner.

Nitpicker of the hopelessly incorrect.

Overseer of backups, transaction analyses, and program updates. Provider of anything and everything required to keep the place going that has nothing to do with cataloguing.

Quoter of other people’s forgotten prefaces.

Replacer of commas with colons and colons with semi-colons and dashes with full-stops.

Subtle synchroniser of the synonymous see reference.

Tracer of a thousand names with odd initials and no death. Undeterred unjumbler of indeterminate jumble.

Vanquisher of the viable backlog.

Warden of predictable passwords.

X-marker of misbindings, printing errors, blank chapters.

Yes-man to utterly insignificant no-noes.

Zealot for every jot and tittle in a file of fixed fields.


An incomplete second ABC is also in the paper. Some of the letters await a line, probably because I had run out of time before the presentation.


Arbiter who distinguishes the controversial from the contrariwise. Bibliographer of revelation and revealer of bibliography.

Colander of the old and new calendar.

Delineator of deity.

Educator in the classification of religion.

[F G]


Inquisitor who separates the heretical from the heterodox and the heterodox from the orthodox.

Judge and jury of theological context.

Keeper of sacred traditions. Lifter of leaning learning.

Minister to the ministers of ministry.

 [N O]

Preserver of all the possible holy versions.

[Q R S]

Tender of the treasures old and new.

[U V W]

X-ray maker to the bones of the living words.

Yearner after the perfect religious thesaurus.

Zoologist of papal bulls.


A purpose of the paper was to get attendees to think about all the unwritten role descriptions of the job. As I say in my 2004 introduction: “One-word roles for a theological cataloguer would include once in a blue moon ‘holy fool’, some of the time ‘neophyte’, most of the time ‘devotee’, fairly frequently ‘angel’, and occasionally ‘saint'.” Longer statements about the role included all the job descriptions listed in the two ABCs.


On train to work this morning, here in April 2022, I completed the second ABC as the Melbourne landscape passed by.


Filler-in of in-publication half-blank and blank in-boxes.

Giver of the sufficient levels of specificity.

Namedropper and name-enabler of numberless name authorities.

Organiser of order of online tags and unfolding fields.

Quibbler of pre-existing downloads.

Rememberer of remote references.

Superlative supremo of subject control.

Unifier of nations of ununified literatures.

Vindicator of ancient encyclopaedic information.

Watcher of the cast-iron bibliography.


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