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University Libraries

Know Thy Staff: An Interview with a Cataloger

By Adam Schwartz, '18

Interviewing Ms. Joan Milligan was a great way to finish out my week. I’ve met many people passionate about their job, but none as passionate as Ms. Milligan. For those of you unfamiliar with her line of work, Ms. Milligan works as the special collections cataloger for the Roesch and Marian libraries. Her basic duties include cataloging any rare or special books that the University should get a hold of, and in doing so, ensuring that other librarians, students, and researchers can use the books cataloged.

When discussing what she does and what she enjoys about her job, she told me that each book she catalogs is a little puzzle to her. Many of the books we get at UD are not in the English language, and therefore can be a bit puzzling when trying to catalog. As part of cataloging, Ms. Milligan must find out the primary topic of the book so as to give it the proper Library of Congress headings and subheadings. This cataloging also includes putting the information into what is known as WorldCat, a database that libraries around the globe use (fun fact: OCLC, the organization that hosts WorldCat, is located in Dublin, OH). For Joan, the joy comes in seeing the history given in each book. One of the more recent finds that Joan had the joy of working with was a 15th century Spanish song book.

In talking more about her work, Joan said that she finds cataloging very peaceful. She mentioned how the work is very meditative, which helps to explain the calming layout of her office. She has prayer flags from Nepal, along with artwork of Buddha and distant locales on the walls of her workspace.

As we continued our conversation, Ms. Milligan expressed sadness that many of the students were unaware or simply didn’t look into the special collections that UD has. They are available for students and faculty alike to enjoy, and here to help enrich the college experience. Along with that, she hopes that students will still be interested in the physical books, and not just online resources such as JSTOR and other online databases with older material on them.

To conclude, I had a fun question to ask Ms. Milligan: who she would like to sit next to on a ten hour flight. Without missing a beat, Ms. Milligan then responded, the Dalai Lama. Her rationale? He would peaceful and quiet. And perhaps she could gain a little enlightenment.

- Adam Schwartz is a 2018 graduate of University of Dayton and Knowledge Hub employee.

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