Nominate a cataloguer as Library Journal Mover & Shaker!

Cataloguers/metadata librarians/tech services people should all please read this post. It’s something we feel sums up everything we are trying to achieve and believe to be true at High Visibility Cataloguing.

Those of you based in the UK might be less familiar with the annual Library Journal Movers & Shakers so for a bit of background on it, have a look here, but also you might be interested to know that this year there were two British people on the list (the ever-wonderful Ned Potter and the inspiring Lauren Smith). Every year, Library Journal asks for nominations for that year’s crop of Movers & Shakers who are “50 or more up-and-coming individuals from around the world who are innovative, creative, and making a difference“.

You can probably tell where this is going – where are all the cataloguers? Well, please read the great guest post below by Becky Yoose (@yo_bj), Shana L. McDanold (@slmcdanold), Jen Young (@jen_young) and Laura McElfresh (@lauramac95) about why we should make a huge effort to nominate cataloguers for LJ Movers & Shakers this year and what they have done about it. Those of you on Twitter may have seen some of this discussion but by bringing it to High Visibility Cataloguing, we’re hoping to reach even more people and widen participation with the aim of finally getting some cataloguer recognition out there! If nothing else, we will gather together a list of people doing great, innovative, creative things in the world of cataloguing and making a difference.

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This year those of the cataloging persuasion participate in an annual event that is predictable like the changing of the seasons.

Another year comes, and another Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers awards are announced. Another round of well deserving librarians, paraprofessionals, and librarian-type people are recognized for outstanding work, innovation, and extraordinary achievements within the library and information field. And, without fail, catalogers bemoan the lack of catalogers in the announced list.

Why does this award invoke such a reaction? The Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers award, currently in its tenth year, has recognized over 500 individuals and gives an international platform for these individuals to communicate their achievements and projects. The award is seen by many in the library profession as a overview of the latest innovations in the field as well as an indicator of future leadership. The award gives credibility to those innovations, projects, and ideas and the people who bring these things into fruition.

Catalogers, however, make up a very slim margin of previous award winners. If one analysed the positions of each Mover and Shaker up to 2010 (as one Laura McElfresh did),  only five out of the 464 individuals were catalogers (using the word cataloger liberally). The lack of catalogers, or Techical Services staff in general, being recognized as Movers and Shakes is by no means a trivial matter.

Why would anyone choose a cataloger to be a Mover and Shaker anyway? Catalogers are stereotypically classified as the traditional, risk-adverse breed in the library environment. They are the rule lawyers, the one who shoots down anything that challenges the established order of things. Interestingly, one can speculate that catalogers are looked upon in the library community like librarians are looked upon in the general public: prudish, unfriendly, and resistant to change.

Inside the cataloging and metadata community, many are quick to conclude that cataloging isn’t interesting, exciting, or “sexy” enough for any cataloger to gain notoriety outside of their own community. They don’t see much benefit in fighting this view, noting that they would be fighting a losing battle. What’s innovative about standards and formats, anyway? No one outside of the cataloging really understands what they do, so why bother?

The problems with maintaining the status quo in relations between catalogers and the rest of the library community have long lasting consequences, some of which have been playing out in the community for a while: reduction in cataloging staff and activities and devaluation of duties and responsibilities. If the works of catalogers form the foundation of the library, then neglecting or cutting corners in maintaining that foundation overall weakens the ability for others to build off of that foundation, including many of the initiatives featured in the Movers and Shakers list.

In reality, there is an increased need for cataloger skills in dealing with the metadata created from the fast-evolving information environment. Catalogers and Metadata Librarians alike are in a unique position to influence information organization, access, and discoverability, which leads into influencing the future of libraries. This position has seen many collaborative and innovative efforts: the CRCC RDA Testing Task Force, RDA vocabularies, High Visibility Cataloging, and various continuing education/training opportunities ranging from the formal SCCTP to informal discussions on various online platforms like Twitter. The training and continuing education efforts are especially important due to the reduction of formal cataloging training in library schools and workplaces.

In response to this year’s cycle, a few catalogers have started an effort in making sure that some can answer in the affirmative to the question, “How many people actually nominated a cataloger?”  Catalogers on the Radical Cataloging (RADCAT) listserv and on the Magical Metadata Fairies Twitter list have started and encouraged others to nominate possible catalogers for the award. While RADCAT has seen some push to nominate catalogers, the main push has been through Twitter. Many started naming possible people for nomination in tweets (with the appropriately named #ManchurianCataloger hashtag). It was noted, though, that the nomination process requires a reference in addition to the nomination. There was also a question as to the best way of getting a nominee noticed by the ones reviewing the nomination forms. The general consensus was to create a list of potential nominees and to focus on a small number to increase the possibility of getting noticed. To help keep track of potential nominees, Laura McElfresh created the Manchurian Cataloger form, where people can submit potential nominees. Laura has also made the spreadsheet behind the form publicly available so others can see who could be a reference for a potential nominee. Since the nomination process is based on multiple interviews, nominators should focus on making the strongest case possible for nominees to make that nominee stand out in the crowd.

The #ManchurianCataloger form and entries can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ManchurianCataloger, and, if you’re inspired by some of the entries there, head over to the 2012 Movers and Shakers nomination form and nominate someone. Happy nominating!

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Posted on April 3, 2011, in high visibility opportunities, News and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Nominate a metadata librarian or Systems Librarian too!

    I have already made a nomination and I feel that this would do wonders for raising the awareness and visibility of cataloguers, metadata librarians and systems librarians alike.

  1. Pingback: Nominate a cataloguer as Library Journal Mover & Shaker! (via High Visibility Cataloguing) « Thoughts on Technical Librarianship

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