Catching Up with NLM Catalogers

Read other profiles: 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 Meredith Horan, Phyllis Chui, and Sharon Brown
Question Meredith Horan Phyllis Chui Sharon Brown
headshot of Meredith Horan headshot of Phyllis Chui headshot of Sharon Brown
What got you interested in cataloging and how did you get started as a cataloger? I worked at Mullen Library, Catholic University, ordering books right after college. CU paid a few students to type preliminary catalog cards for the order file and public catalog. Catalogers and some techs worked in the next room. Advancement meant an MLS so I headed to Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland. The CWRU Library School was across the street from Allen Library, where precious parts of the NLM collection were housed in 1942. There were PhD candidates in information science taking advanced classes. Phyllis Richmond, who developed PRECIS, taught classification. Professor Sarah Gibson, whose husband was a Bruegel scholar, taught cataloging. Professor Emeritus Jesse Shera came in daily always followed by a cadre of students. As an intern, I cataloged books in the library school library. After school hours, I cataloged beautiful books at the Cleveland Institute of Art. When I was in library school, I did not think of being a cataloger. It happened by chance. After graduating from library school in Hawaii, I went to San Francisco to look for jobs, but had no luck. In the meantime, my friend from school got a job as a contractor in a federal library in Maryland. At that time, I could only afford a one-way ticket to the East Coast. My first job was working in a law library in DC shelving books and filing loose leaves. Then I got a job as a contract librarian in a small library within the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but that position was cut because of funding. When I was offered a contract cataloging position, I accepted it, and that’s how I started as a cataloger. I began my career at the National Library of Medicine in the Serial Records Section. I was a bibliographic librarian, which required me to set up records for serial titles so they could be acquired, cataloged, and checked in. My interest in cataloging came from working with these records. I became a cataloger when my unit was transferred to the cataloging section.
In a nutshell, what is your background? BA, English Lit, Washington College, Chestertown, Md.; MLS, Case Western Reserve University; M.Ed. in Teaching Reading, Western Maryland College; cataloging at NLM since Nov. 1976; NLM auxiliary reference staff 1980s, 1990s I studied English language and literature, so there weren’t many options to choose from for graduate studies. The idea of working in libraries was attractive. I worked as a contractor in my previous job and have been at NLM for 10 years. I received my undergraduate degree in nursing then went back for another undergraduate degree in applied technology. Afterward, I acquired a MS in library science.
Where else in your life do you use your organizational skills? Town government committee work and church vestry tasks. We can apply organizational skills in every aspect of our lives. For me, mostly in managing my personal life and interacting with my daughter. Goal setting and time management are important as I juggle work, study, and family. I use my organizational skills with my photographic and memorabilia albums.
What excites you the most about your work? The chance to be part of NLM and NIH’s mission. The detective work needed in name authority work. I come across many books in my work. Some of them are very interesting, but I don’t have time to read them all. I try to keep up with things in the medical field and in counseling/psychotherapy. I enjoy the flexibility of working from home three times a week. I also like being involved in different projects and working with my colleagues. I like connecting different titles to each other and getting into the history of different organizations.
If you weren’t a cataloger, what else might you have been? Maybe a teacher, journalist, or doctor. I think I could have been a social worker or a counselor. I like to work in the helping professions and am interested in psychology. In fact, I have taken classes in counseling psychology at the University of Baltimore. I also like drawing, so I could have been a painter or graphic designer or something similar. If I decide to quit studying, I probably would learn charcoal drawing and watercolor painting. I don’t know. I might still be in nursing.
Tell us something surprising about yourself. I have show business in my blood. My mother’s cousin, Johnny Haymer, was a veteran actor and comic, who played Staff Sergeant Zelmo Zaleas Zale in the TV series M*A*S*H. I’ve seen him in Annie Hall, Carnival, Irma la Douce, and some commercials. His daughter Susan is a TV and movie producer in LA. His visits to my home in Washington Grove, MD, were never dull! I was certified in scuba diving many years ago but never go diving. I want to be re-certified and go scuba diving again, or volunteer to help clean tanks in the aquariums. When I retire, I want to volunteer with the Peace Corps. Also, sky diving is on my bucket list. I collect vinyl records and love taking pictures.

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3 thoughts on “Catching Up with NLM Catalogers

  1. Pingback: Weekly Postings | The MARquee

  2. How do you feel about MeSH for identifying the subject content in works related to health services administration, nursing and allied health professionsAlso, do you think that inverted headings are obsolete now that we don’t use card catalogs? They’re definitely difficult to explain to anyone who’s never seen a card catalog (or print index).

  3. Pingback: 2018’s Seasons of Stories from NLM in Focus | NLM in Focus

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