Friday, December 16, 2011


I said something I'm not proud of and ever since I've been trying to gather evidence to back myself up.

Circumstances: Driving home with Koch, talking about work. I had just finished cataloging a massive French literature collection and was back to the dregs of a collection of books about cows and grass.

The Criminal Thing I said: "I think I actually prefer working with books about cows and grass because it involves more imagination than cataloging literature."

There is only one thing you need to know before I present the evidence to support the above statement. (I'm sorry, this is not very interesting, but it is relevant.) Following the Library of Congress call number system (and I'm sure it's the same with Dewey, but Dewey is for babies), fiction is cataloged according to author; non-fiction is cataloged according to subject. Got that? Good.

Here's what I mean by "imagination". It's a book called The Burning of Dead Animals by R.H. McDowell. This crumbling pamphlet is bulletin no. 53 published by the University of Nevada's Agricultural Experiment Station in 1902. It's about the burning of dead animals. That's the subject. Officially, we'll call it "Dead animal disposal". Simple enough. Unfortunately, the fewer books there are about a given subject, the harder it is to find a corresponding call number. Library of Congress doesn't have any books about dead animal disposal, and the only book I did find in our library system was actually about animal waste disposal. And I'm not going to put a book about cremation next to one about plumbing. That would be, like, sacrilegious. So what next? Well, speaking of cremation, let's look up cremation. Burning dead animals, that's like cremation, right? I hit a dead end here, since books cataloged under "cremation" involve manners and customs and/or humans. Neither apply. Well shit. Let's try carcasses of the horse, animal, or cattle variety. Or dead animals? Bio-degradation? All of these are valid subjects. They lead me to two books, Live animal carcass evaluation and selection manual and Structure and development of meat animals. Not really the same as burning dead animals. More books should be written on the subject. By now, believe it or not, I've probably wasted half an hour. Mostly because I'm thinking about how "meat animals" is kind of redundant. I eventually stumble upon livestock carcasses: call number SF140.C37. Good enough. I'm not going to get any closer than that, not until the Library of Congress get their act together and create a call number specifically for dead animal burning.

Oh man, I don't even know if I should publish this post. I fell asleep writing it. Here's a picture I got from Googling "cataloging".  Like staring into my future.

1 comment:

  1. Pop quiz, hot shot. What's the call number for a book about smuggling in colonial southeast Asia? Invention of differential steering? Paper-processing industry? Biography of Helmut Kohl?