Special Libraries Cataloguing, Inc.



J. McRee (Mac) Elrod

[Revised text of a talk given to the Korean/Korean-American Discussion Group, ALA San Francisco, 16 June 2001]

In 1955 the campuses of Korea were teeming with neatly dressed young men and women, anxious both to learn, and to help rebuild their society in the aftermath of a savage civil war. Although many lived in tents and other substandard accommodations, they arrived on campus each morning immaculate in white shirts or blouses, navy blue pants or skirts, eager to devote themselves to a day of study in classrooms which were often unheated in winter, and uncooled in summer.

With an interest in Asia, I began a five year term at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea, that year, having chosen Korea as the place to work and teach because it was the only Asian country with a phonetic alphabet (as opposed to ideographs or syllabury). Koreans had not had the opportunity of develop modern library practices using their alphabet, having been forced to use Japanese methods during the Japanese occupation (1910-1945), and had not yet been able to develop its own library practices when the civil war broke out (1950-1953) and threw the country into chaos.

Yonsei University when I arrived was isolated in rural Shin Chun, across a sleepy hollow from Ewha Women's University. Later, both were engulfed by the growth of Seoul. At the head of the valley stood a tiny Buddhist temple, peaceful and beautiful particularly under a fresh fall of snow. Despite the rural setting, and still visible signs of war, the campuses were no cultural backwater. The surviving musicians of the Yee Dynasty court orchestra played regularly. The singer Marian Anderson and cellist Pablo Casals, among other well known artists, visited and performed before enthusiastic students.

There was only one person other than myself active in a Korean library with a library science degree - Lee Pong-soon, Librarian of Ewha. (One additional Korean had an MLS, but was employed by Unesco in Paris.)

There was no library in the country which circulated books for home use, intershelved books by subject regardless of language, or had a comprehensive catalogue of their whole collection. At Yonsei University Library, books which had been excavated from the fallen ceilings caused by wartime shelling, where shelved behind chicken wire, spines out. Students would poke the book they wanted. Staff would fetch it, and students would surrender their identification cards in exchange for the book they wished to use, and which they were not allowed to take from the library.

One morning I came to work to find that the ink had frozen, and burst the glass inkwell on my desk. Korea has changed centuries since those hard postwar days, but at the cost of much that I miss when revisiting the country: the cry of "ice kaki" on the streets, the clack of shears of a candy cart, the sound of wooden stick ironing, the green traffic circles of Seoul, the thatch-roofed houses (warm in winter and cool in summer), the beautiful flowing traditional Korean dresses, dignified gentlemen in horsehair hats, and the teeming outdoor markets.

In 1955 the Yonsei Library collection was still housed on the top floor of the old main building, with is clanking prewar radiators. In winter the smell of kimchi heating in metal lunch boxes, and placed on the radiators, permeated the space. Although the collection later moved to a succession of new buildings, it was here that reorganization began.

In 1955, as now, major Korean academic libraries were composed of older traditional material in Hanmun (Chinese ideographs, often printed from wood blocks), Japanese works, and works in modern Western languages, notably English and German.

Educated Koreans of that generation are unique in the world in the number of Eastern and Western Languages in which they can function. As I was later to discover as Head of Cataloguing at the University of British Columbia, only Korean librarians of that generation could easily catalogue Chinese, Japanese, and Korean works. Mr. Ahn Young-ju, helped to immigrate from Korea for that ability, has just retired as Korean Language Librarian of the Asian Studies Library at the University of British Columbia. So far as I know, he is the only person whose Yonsei degree (as opposed to one from an ALA accredited institution) has been accepted as a professional credential in North America.

Peabody College (now the Faculty of Education of Vanderbilt University), as part of a foreign aid contract to assist education in Korea, proposed to help start a library school. Aid officials and Peabody representatives toured the universities of the country. At Yonsei they found that we had begun home circulation of books to students, and were creating a unified catalogue of the collection.

The catalogue consisted of three parts. Eastern materials were listed in a Hankul (Korean alphabet) section by author, title, and the usual added entries, plus Korean index cards for the classed catalogue. Western materials were listed in a Roman alphabet section by author, title, and the usual added entries, plus English index cards to the classed catalogue. These two sections flanked a third, a classed catalogue, in which all library materials were listed by class number, and which for some material included cards under class numbers in addition to the one by which the items were shelved. All material on the shelves were interfiled by class number, regardless of language. Eastern materials had Cutter numbers using Hankul letters and numbers, and Western materials had Cutter numbers using the Roman alphabet letters and numbers. Imagine an extended alphabet beginning with "ka, na, da" (the first three letters of Hankul), and ending with "X, Y, Z".

The Peabody and aid visitors were impressed by the heavy student use of the catalogue and the collection. Yonsei was selected as the site of the new school of library science.

The classed subject catalogue which Yonsei was developing had at that time a revival in library literature*. The development of machine readable cataloguing (MARC) and cataloguing in publication (CIP) in the late 1960s and 1970s resulted in the closure of the better known classed subject catalogues in North America, except in French Canada. Today classed subject catalogues exist mainly in the multi lingual libraries of Europe.

While some Korean libraries make use of Library of Congress Subject Headings, and special subject lists such as the National Library of Medicine's MeSH, the National Library of Korea has developed an extensive subject heading list which replaces an earlier much briefer list based largely on Sears, by Lee Jae-chul. The use of two subject heading lists fragments subject control of the collection. Use of either LCSH or the Korean list alone places much material under headings in a language other than the contents. It is my hope that Korea will resume the development of the classed catalogue, and become a leader in the development of the automated browsable classed catalogue for multilingual and multi script collections. The automated browsing of bibliographic records by class number can be an excellent way of subject searching, organizing material logically as opposed to randomly as does an alphabetic subject catalogue. All animals are together, as opposed to be scatted aardvarks to zebras. To distinguish the classed catalogue from a public shelf list, indexing is required, preferably in all languages used by patrons. (At Yonsei we used S. R. Ranganathan's chain indexing technique in creating the English and Korean index cards.) The classed catalogue also allows multiple class numbers for the same item, reflecting the different subject treated, while only one of them reflects the shelving location.

Keyword searching is often a means of subject searching. Dr. Lee Too-young, President of the Korean Library Association, proposes an automatic translation program, in which keyword searches in one language would automatically extend to searches of material in other languages. This would be a major contribution to library software development, particularly if it could be extended to the searching of the class schedules text and index, leading to a classed retrieval of material.

The difficulty of keyword searching of titles alone is what I call the _A Puritan in Babylon_ syndrome. That is the title of a biography of Calvin Coolidge. A retrieval of that title based on a keyword search of either "Puritan" or "Babylon" would be of little help on either of those topic.

So it was the classed catalogue Yonsei was creating, and taught in those early classes.

With a succession of teachers provided by Peabody (I was also a Peabody graduate), preparation of professional librarians began in Korea. Park Ke-hong, a member of an early graduate class, was interpreter in my cataloguing class, until I began entertaining students with my fractured Korean. (I once told a student to eat his magazine and catalogue his lunch.) Mr. Park later became the President of the Korean Library Association. Another early graduate, Mr. Ahn mentioned above, began library reference service at Yonsei before moving to the University of British Columbia. When your former students start retiring, you know you are getting older!

Unlike the North American pattern of two year junior college library technician courses, and one or two year library science graduate courses, the Department of Library Science at Yonsei, founded in December of 1956, began as both an undergraduate department, and as a graduate course for those with degrees in other subjects. Classes began in 1957. The curriculum was much like that of a North American library school, with some additions.

One of those additions was "Cataloguing Japanese Books". In reaction to the Japanese outlawing of the teaching of the Korean language, Korea at that time outlawed the teaching of Japanese. (A student's father had earlier died in prison, having been caught teaching Korean in his home.) A major proportion of library collections were Japanese (although new titles could then only be acquired by indirect means). Those Japanese materials were heavily used by faculty, and still by older students. Students entering at the freshman level had not learned Japanese in school as had graduate students and faculty. It was with some nervousness that these young undergraduate library science students gathered in the library lobby, and were led to a remote room in the library tower where they would not be overheard learning a bit of bibliographic Japanese. We were never challenged concerning the course. Since normalization of relations with Japan in 1962, of course, Korean libraries are again acquiring Japanese materials, and Japanese I'm told is second only to English as a foreign language in Korean library collections.

While a few later graduates of western library schools returned to Korea and created mini segregated American style collections of Western materials using English subject headings, leaving Easter material in their Japanese influenced arrangement, most Yonsei graduates (and later Ewha and other program graduates) developed integrated collections. Inter shelving regardless of language is the most common pattern today I've been told.

According to Mr. Kim Sung-woon, a Yonsei graduate and Autocat e-list member, the last (1999) KLA library survey reports that 87% of Korean public libraries, 83% of university and college libraries. and 26% of special libraries, have automated catalogues. This high percentage is probably due to The National Library of Korea having developed and distributed without charge software for automated catalogues.

In this, the Korean National Library has far surpassed both the Library of Congress and the National Library of Canada. Far from developing software for their nations, or even for themselves, both have had a rocky road installing less than satisfactory software, and then migrating to other purchased systems.

Returning to Korea for the International Federation of Library Associations' Seoul World Wide Seminar (1976), and later in connection with the introduction of bibliographic utility use to Korean libraries, I have been encouraged by the strides that Korean librarianship has taken. Hankul lends itself well to automated library procedures, just as it had to catalogue card filing.

A hot debate in the 1950s, when incoming freshman could read some academic Japanese books (because of their use of Hanmun), but did not always know the Japanese multi syllabic pronunciation of those characters (one syllable in both Chinese and Korean), was whether to list Japanese names by the Korean or Japanese pronunciation of the characters. Now that Japanese is again being studied and used, the Japanese pronunciation is used for transliteration into Hankul.

At the time of my last visit, Korea was already creating some of the best MARC records in the world. Korea has the professional expertise to create excellent CIP on the basis of publisher supplied information to a national cataloguing agency or major academic libraries (as in Brazil and Canada) for inclusion in Korean publications, but had not yet begun to do so.

The presence of CIP in Korean works would help prevent needless duplication of effort among Korean libraries. It would help integrate Korean materials in libraries in other countries which lack the ability to catalogue them unaided, particularly if Romanized CIP were also included. The existence of ISBNs, which began since my last visit, already facilitates international acquisition of Korean titles, and automated searching for MARC records in bibliographic utilities and databases.

On my return visits to Korea, it seemed to me that the thing most holding back progress in Korean librarianship was the continuing practice in many Korean academic libraries of appointing non professional librarians to the head librarian position. This is not a practice unique to Korea. Both the present head librarians of the U.S. Library of Congress and the National Library of Canada are not trained librarians. But when last in Korea, I found this practice extending to types of libraries which in other countries would have a professional librarian in that position. It was discouraging that this continued to be the case, when Ewha had a professional head librarian as early as 1955, and professional library training started in Korea soon thereafter.

While some academic libraries have appointed professional librarians, unfortunately this task has sometimes been added to the duties of an already too busy head of a library science department. In some institutions, the position is used as a sabbatical for a professor. Perhaps the Korean Library Association could work with the body responsible for the accreditation of academic institutions, to make a professional head librarian a requirement for accreditation.

One of the main things to be learned from developing modern library practices in a new environment, is that the rationale for, and principles behind, rules and practices are more important that the letter of the rules themselves. By making decisions based on underlying principles, one can meet new situations, as well as often anticipate changes and developments to accommodate new media**.

Such a grounding in principles, I think, would lead Korea to explore the classed catalogue as better suited to its multilingual collections than North American style unilingual subject headings.

By having at the head of libraries persons firmly grounded in basic principles of library science, and in the ideal of public service, librarianship in Korea can have a bright future. The profession might even produce a Korean Ranganathan, who will influence librarianship internationally.


J. McRee Elrod (B.A., M.A.(LS), M.A.(CLT), M.L.S.) has since 1979 been Director of Special Libraries Cataloguing on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. SLC provides cataloguing services to small special libraries world wide. He attended Emery and Yale Universities, and is a graduate of the former Peabody Library School in Nashville Tennessee. He was Head of Cataloguing at the University of British Columbia 1967-1978.

He is the author of _An Index to English Language Periodicals Published in Korea 1890-1940_ (Seoul, Korea : Korean National Assembly Library, 1965), and professional journal articles.

This account includes some materail from an article published in _Logos_ vol. 5, no. 1, 1994.

*Elrod, J. McRee. "The Classed Catalog in the Fifties". _Library Resources and Technical Services_, 5:12 Spring 1961. pp. 142-156.

Elrod, J. McRee. "A Korean Classified Catalog." _Library Resources and Technical Services_ 4:4 Fall 1960. pp. 331-336.

**"Classification of Internet Resources: An AUTOCAT Discussion". _Cataloging and Classification Quarterly_ vol. 29:4 2000. pp. 19-38.

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