Exploring the role of repertoire in library cataloging

Rachel Ivy Clarke (School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA)
Brian Dobreski (School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 9 September 2019



Library work is increasingly being explored from the perspective of design. Still, little work has actively explored specific aspects of design as they relate to library cataloging. The purpose of this paper is to dive deeper into the relationship between library cataloging and design by exploring a specific aspect of design – the concept of repertoire, or the use of previous experiences and bodies of knowledge during current work.


To examine catalogers’ use of repertoire, this paper employed a juxtaposition of field observations of professional library catalogers’ work processes with elements of “think-aloud” protocols.


The researchers identified three major types of repertory knowledge that were demonstrated by catalogers: internally embedded repertory knowledge; externally embedded repertory knowledge; and seeking out new knowledge using other sources. Additionally, certain trends were noted concerning which repertory knowledge was utilized for which particular task. Determining subject and genre headings were noted for relying quite extensively on internal repertoire such as personal knowledge and institutional knowledge, along with external sources, such as personal notes and local examples.


This paper adds to a growing body of work calling for design approaches in libraries and related information settings, and breaks ground by applying the previously unexplored concept of repertoire to librarianship, specifically library cataloging, which offers a new perspective on cataloger’s judgement.



Clarke, R. and Dobreski, B. (2019), "Exploring the role of repertoire in library cataloging", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 5, pp. 1169-1189. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-10-2018-0169

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