Contributed by Nina Mamikunian
To explain cataloging to the uninitiated, Luiz Mendes, Cataloging Coordinator at the Oviatt Library, will tell students (or friends or his mother) to think of their personal CD or recipe collections. How are they organized; by title, alphabetically, by ingredient, or cuisine? What is the best way to find the thing that you are looking for? In this way, Luiz does what all great teachers do; takes a complex subject and distills it to its essence. He can succinctly explain the fundamental principles of information organization while making it personal and relatable. In addition to his concise explanations, Luiz can also rattle off the exact chapter, subchapter, and section numbers of the source for a particular cataloging rule, with barely a hesitation. For Luiz, cataloging is almost as natural as breathing.
Luiz came to Los Angeles from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as an undergraduate to study English here at CSUN. While moving to California came with a few cultural shocks and too much driving, Luiz admits that the good weather and beaches made him feel more at home. The ready availability of movies, which he prefers over books, also helped. Though he now feels as native as any Angeleno, his yearly visits to Rio to see friends and family eases the sense of saudade (a Portuguese word that means longing or missing) for the food and culture of Brazil, for Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city.
After finishing his degree at CSUN, Luiz pursued graduate coursework in linguistics and syntax at UCLA, and it was there that he found himself working at the Young Research Library in records management. After six years, he transitioned to UCLA’s Cataloging and Metadata Center as a library assistant. His knack for details and accuracy led him to cataloging and it wasn’t long before he was training staff. When asked what he likes about cataloging, his face lights up and he exclaims, “What’s not to like!” For Luiz, cataloging’s application of rules and standards—a natural transition from the rule-based grammar and syntax that he studied—is only part of the appeal. It’s also about the interplay between librarians and users. The work that catalogers do makes it possible for users to find information.
Teaching has been an integral part of Luiz’s career as a cataloger from the beginning. Inspired by his own cataloging professor at San Jose State, where he was a Spectrum Scholar, Luiz developed a secret passion for the theoretical issues but always stayed grounded in practical matters. He has taught numerous workshops throughout California for the California Library Association (CLA), focused on teaching the new cataloging code Resource Description and Access (RDA) since 2009, and taught graduate courses in Descriptive and Subject Cataloging at UCLA’s Department of Information Studies. He has received the CLA Technical Services Award of Achievement as well as a Distinguished Teaching Award from UCLA’s Department of Information Studies. Luiz, however, is not one to boast about his awards and when asked he is quick to give credit and praise to his colleagues. He is currently working with a Library team on “Oi! Que Pasa? A study of Latin American collections at the Oviatt Library.” This is an important assessment, as it focuses on material in languages other than English and seeks to determine what materials we have and what is being used. It is funded by a grant from the Center for Mexico and Latin American Studies and their findings will be presented at the Reforma National Conference this April.
Of his position at CSUN, Luiz notes that he feels lucky because it is the perfect combination of his interests in cataloging and teaching. In addition to being the Cataloging Coordinator and the subject specialist for Linguistics and Modern and Classical Languages, Luiz teaches information literacy sessions and spends time at the reference desk. He is excited by the changes happening in the cataloging world as librarians and information users begin to think more about metadata and linked data. Luiz sees this as a time when we have to remain flexible and think of open structures. No matter the changes, Luiz will continue to serve the faculty, students, and library community. “Cataloging is great,” he says, “teaching is superb.”