Monthly Archives: May 2011

Guest post: Cataloguing 23 Things, some thoughts from Helen Stein

We’re delighted to host this guest post from Helen Stein – @NunuThunder on Twitter – about the intriguing idea of a Cataloguing 23 Things. We’d love to hear your ideas, suggestions, thoughts on this in comments below!

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A few days ago I got together the courage to offer a little help to someone who had asked a cataloguing-related question on Twitter. I typed my answer in less than 140 characters and was breezily about to hit ‘send’ when it struck me that this would be my debut in helping anybody with a cataloguing question.

Big Moment! I didn’t want to get it wrong (publicly wrong – Twitter is a big public place). So I moved away from the return key, grabbed my AACR2 & MARC21 guidance and double checked what I was about to say out loud.

Happily for the person asking the question there are folks out there who know this stuff like the back of their hands and part of the reason for my anxious perusal of Chapter Six and then Chapter Three was that over the past year or so I have been watching them all swap ideas and suggestions about interpreting cataloguing rules and tag wrangling without feeling like I could join in.

I did however join in with a conversation about “metadata technology” and how people would like to learn about it, because apparently I found this less daunting…

Thus the idea of a cataloguing 23Things (Cat23) came about. 23Things is an approach which has been used to introduce people to using Web 2.0 platforms such as blogs, wikis and Twitter. It’s a way of breaking down barriers to understanding what such tools are, how they can be useful and so on. The original suggestion to build Cat23 was made because this approach seems to be an effective way for people to learn through practice.

Consequently a small group have been thinking about Cat23, identifying groups it might appeal to and what sorts of things it could cover. Early thoughts are that Cat23 could be useful to:

  • lone workers, who cannot easily mange time away from the workplace to undertake formal training
  • those who find themselves cataloguing by default with little or no experience in working with a variety of materials
  • distance learners (like myself!), who want to undertake further study
  • experienced cataloguers who need to use a different set of rules from normal, or who wish to pick up knowledge about new standards, and
  • those who wish to expand their professional skills but find workplace training budgets are not available to cover it.

As for coverage, there are many obvious inclusions – such as commonly used rules, data structures and classification systems, LMSs and OPACs, new rules and hybrid environments, linked data and XML, etc – but there has also been a strong emphasis on including worked examples so that Cat23 would accentuate practical learning. Obvious difficulties such as copyright implications for worked examples and the fact that many cataloguing tools require subscriptions are playing in our minds but it is encouraging that there seems to be a real appetite right now for a strong, mutually supportive learning community within cataloguing.

A recent initiative saw the Cataloguing & Index Group of CILIP hold a 2-day e-forum, moderated and excellently summarised by Celine Carty and Helen Williams. Enthusiasm for more was evident and certainly there are plenty of willing voices ready to lend help when it is sought. Cat23 may yet prove to be part of a broader picture in which cataloguers support one another’s continued learning.

And for anyone who questions the worth or impact of this sort of online support I’d like to point out that I did eventually hit ‘send’, letting my answer to the question someone asked on Twitter show up on people’s timelines ‘though I half expected the words to look wobbly, echoing in appearance the querulous sound of my voice in my own head as I read it back. This small step was made possible by all the cataloguers I’ve been following online, as well as by my reading and the workplace experience I’ve had of cataloguing. Thanks guys.

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