Library School: Last Semester!

The Spring Semester started last week at Simmons and this is my last semester of library school. If all goes according to plan, I’ll graduate in May.

As I’ve done in past semesters, I’m sharing the courses I’m taking this semester. The italicized descriptions are from the course catalog.

Course 1: The History of the Book

The course will cover a wide variety of topics concerned with the history and development of the book, both as a physical object and as the bearer of intellectual content. Therefore, the lectures/discussions will look at two different kinds of phenomena: the physical properties of the objects that carried written and pictorial texts and the intellectual use to which books have been put. A third area that the course will address picks up the miscellaneous, but important, issues of the world of libraries: the antiquarian and out-of-print book trade; remainders; handling, storing, caring for, repairing, and conserving books; legal considerations of book/text ownership and use; and other areas of book history. Students will be introduced to the extensive vocabulary of the book world. With a mastery of this new vocabulary, the students will have a grasp of a subject of extraordinary breadth, boundless fascination, and endless debate. As Milton said, “A good book is the precious life blood of a master spirit.” This course will explain why. 

Instructor: Katherine Ruffin

The History of the Book is an elective. From the first time I looked at the course catalog, this is one of the courses I hoped I’d be able to take during my time at Simmons. When I started this program a friend who is a curator at a rare book and manuscript repository told me to take a course with Katherine Ruffin if I had the opportunity. She is the Director of the Book Studies Program and Lecturer in Art at Wellesley College and also teaches at the Rare Book School.

I am thrilled to be taking this course, but also a bit intimidated by the topic. It seems so vast and yet very deep. A search paper is a big part of the work for this course, so I’m already poking around in databases and catalogs on subjects about the history of the book in pre-twentieth century America with a focus on women. In the twentieth century, I’m also interested in Alfred A. Knopf’s work. We’ll see where I end up focusing.

Required books for this course are:

  •  The Book by Amaranth Borsuk, MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series, 2018.
  • The Dictionary of the Book: A Glossary for Book Collectors, Booksellers, Librarians, and Others by Sidney E. Berger, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

Course 2: Subject Cataloging & Classification

This course addresses the theories, principles, and practices of subject cataloging and classification. It covers the application of national standards to the creation of bibliographic records and to the construction of catalogs in libraries and other information environments. It teaches the concepts of subject cataloging including: understanding the various approaches to and pitfalls in determining aboutness; the theoretical foundations, structure, and the application of LCSH in subject cataloging; the application of the policies in the LC Subject Heading Manual; and complex number building in Dewey Decimal Classification and Library of Congress Classification. The course also includes examinations of the history and theoretical foundations of subject cataloging and classification and explores other subject access systems from around the world (e.g., UDC, Colon, Bliss, Expansive classification, PRECIS, AAT, and MeSH). May include readings, discussions, presentations, exams, exercises, and individual or group projects.

Instructor: Daniel Joudrey

This course is another elective for me. In my first semester I took Information Organization with Joudrey and appreciated his tough but compassionate teaching style and deep knowledge and involvement in the world of cataloging. He was part of the team that created the cataloging training courses at the Library of Congress. Call me old fashioned, but I feel like it wouldn’t be responsible of me to graduate from library school without an advanced cataloging course.

The textbook for this course is:

Introduction to Cataloging and Classification, 11th edition. Daniel N. Joudrey, Arlene G. Taylor, and David P. Miller. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio/Libraries Unlimited, 2015.

I’m off to do homework now. Anyone out there have experience with/advice for either of these subjects?


  1. “Call me old fashioned, but I feel like it wouldn’t be responsible of me to graduate from library school without an advanced cataloging course.” – I thoroughly agree. And that’s sadly exactly what I did – we had some stuff on the theory but no practicals I can really remember (I could dig out my notes but really I need to throw them away!). So I had to learn on the job. I’ll just say don’t be intimidated because you can do this!

  2. I learned a lot about cataloging on the fly. This course should put you ahead of many just starting their library careers. I am looking forward to see where you land.
    It’s been a long haul Chris and I can’t congratulate you enough. I expect all will go well.

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