Saturday, September 03, 2011

On Gorman

First about my relationship with Michael Gorman. I first met him when I started Library School at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in June 1975. He was teaching the introductory class for the library school at the end of his first stint in the US. Later, our paths crossed occasionally at ALA, including on ALA Council. At the Midwinter Meeting in 2003, I was nominated for election to the ALA Executive Board. Michael Gorman was nominated from the floor. When we gave our speeches to Council (the extent of our "campaigns"), I was assigned to sit at the end of the table on the podium, with Michael Gorman next to me. Thank goodness I got to speak first!

Along with Jim Rettig, we were both elected to the ALA Executive Board. The three of us began our service at the end of the ALA Annual Conference in Toronto. It was a lot of hard work, and a lot of fun. It was during our three year terms that Michael ran for, and won election to serve as the ALA President in 2005/06. So, at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans (2006), he ended his term as ALA President as Jim Rettig and I ended our terms on the ALA Executive Board. (And for those who don't know Jim, he ran for, and won election, as ALA President in 2007, serving as President in 2007/8.)

So, why am I blathering on about Gorman? I just finished reading Broken Pieces: A Library Life, 1941-1978. It is his autobiography. I found it fascinating, partly because I know him. It is also very personal and revealing about some of the mental health issues which he faced as he began his library career.

Cataloguers (especially those of a "certain age") will find the discussion on the production of AACR2 (Ango-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition) most enlightening.

As is his style, he is very forthright about his opinions. In this book, most of those opinions related to cataloging issues, from his evaluation of the older rules (pre-AACR) used in both the US and UK, as well as the proposal for a whole new scheme for cataloging methods.

He notes that AACR2 probably should not have been called the second edition, but been given a whole new name. Based on what I read in his work, I think I agree. I also agree with his comments about "tagging" versus the controlled vocabulary offered by Library of Congress Subject Headings (even with the shortcomings of LCSH).

It will be interesting to see what happens in the cataloging world. I feel better prepared to think about it and talk about it.

I think the book is well worth the time to read, even if you do not personally know Michael Gorman.

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