Catching Up with NLM Catalogers

Can you find the book, article, or video you need?

Thank a cataloger.

Catalogers are concise and precise. They’re logical.

They pay attention to every little detail, and they understand the big picture, too.

Catalogers combine descriptive information (title, author, publication details) with subject analysis to create a standardized record for each item in the collection so searchers can find what they’re looking for.

Here at NLM, catalogers make it possible for us to home in on the precise items of interest among our myriad and diverse holdings.

They do that by following international cataloging guidelines known as RDA: Resource Description and Access. Every NLM cataloger must be an expert in RDA.

But that’s not the only reason, NLM catalogers are so impressive.

NLM catalogers have an average of 16.5 years of cataloging experience—just at NLM.

They know the ins and outs of our bibliographic database system, understand and apply multiple metadata standards, and are often proficient in more than one language. In fact, they can work in almost any language—from Arabic to Ukrainian plus American Sign Language—and have even created a cataloging record for a journal in Esperanto.

From audiovisual materials to books, journals, websites, and more, catalogers create the metadata representing information resources, so you can find what you need, when you need it.

And that’s just what they do from 9 to 5.

After work is a different story.

NLM’s catalogers include a former standup comedian, a contra dancer, theater goers, a photographer, and someone eager to sky dive.

Read on to learn about some of the catalogers at NLM.

Diane Boehr  | Sharon Brown | Phyllis Chui | Karen Detling | Meredith Horan  |  Ihsia Hu | Elizabeth Lilker  |  Christine Mandic | Elizabeth Plantz | Tina Shrader | Alvin Stockdale | Sharon Willis

Quick Q&A with Diane Boehr, Alvin Stockdale, and Christine Mandic
Question Diane Boehr Alvin Stockdale Christine Mandic
headshot of Diane Boehr headshot of Alvin Stockdale headshot of Christine Mandic
What got you interested in cataloging and how did you get started as a cataloger? I was one of the few people in library school who had never previously worked in a library, so I took an internship at the American College of Cardiology Library, where the primary task they wanted accomplished was cataloging their audiovisual collection. Since NLM was right down the street at the time, I got guidance and training from NLM’s primary AV cataloger. I always liked the investigative work involved and being able to fix problems. Each piece offers new challenges, and you just continue to learn new things along the way. I learned cataloging through an internship at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art on a retrospective card catalog conversion project. That internship turned into a full-time job with the Archives of American Art. I’ve been at NLM since 1999.
In a nutshell, what is your background? I have a BS in chemistry from City College of New York and an MLS from the University of Maryland. After graduating from library school, I worked for a small library consulting firm that chiefly provided cataloging services for a variety of libraries, including NLM. I also taught a graduate level course in bibliographic control at the University of Maryland. I only got into library work within the last 7-8 years. I was all over the place earlier in life. I started in the military, worked construction, private security, was a 911 emergency dispatcher, and had some really laughable/bad short-term jobs. A five-month stint as an unlicensed forklift operator in Los Angeles and one 12-hour shift in a steel mill comes to mind. My undergraduate degrees are in art history and museum studies, and psychology from Gallaudet University. I also have an MLS from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Where else in your life do you use your organizational skills? My books and records (yes, I still have vinyl) are arranged first by genre and then alphabetically by author/composer/performer. My spices are all alphabetized in the spice rack. Cooking and gardening! Usually at home, my collection of books is organized by author.
What excites you the most about your work? There is something new and unexpected almost every day. Parts of the cataloging process are like puzzle solving, and I enjoy that challenge. Knowing that hundreds of other libraries and their users benefit from the work we do is rewarding, as is working with smart and helpful colleagues. The great people I work with and our library’s mission to our users. I am contributing to NLM’s mission in providing valuable information for researchers, medical personnel, and the public to use via the library catalog.
If you weren’t a cataloger, what else might you have been? I think I would like behind-the-scenes theater work, like stage manager or props manager. Something outdoors. Probably park ranger/forestry service. Originally, I wanted to be an archivist or work in a museum utilizing my undergraduate degree.
Tell us something surprising about yourself. Most people here are probably not too surprised that I am an avid contra dancer and theater-goer, but people have been surprised to learn that the ringtone on my phone is the Ramones song “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Maybe not too surprising if you know me, but I did stand-up comedy for around four years with mild/moderate success. I had to learn sign language in three weeks in order to attend Gallaudet University.

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