Author Archives: Céline

To India, with love: a cataloguer’s tale

Thanks very much to Rachel Playforth, of the British Library for Development Studies, for this guest post. 

As demonstrated by the recent ‘anatomy of a cataloguer’ debate, the thing we most love about our job isn’t pinning down bibliographic details with merciless accuracy just to appease our uptight personalities, but the fact that what we do helps people find stuff. More than that, without us they may never find it at all. So I just wanted to share a recent experience that warmed my heart and shows how a catalogue record created in the UK can lead, in less than 72 hours, to a satisfied patron with an item on their desk in India.

At the British Library for Development Studies we catalogue (index) individual journal articles from about 160 journals, many of which aren’t indexed by any other A&I services. Once an article is added to our OPAC it is harvested by our ‘Updates’ service, which sends out subject-specific notifications of our new acquisitions to subscribers via email or RSS on a fortnightly basis.

Subscribers (who may be individual researchers, librarians or other staff working on sourcing information for research institutes, universities, NGOs etc) can then request any item in their Update via our document delivery service.

In this case, I catalogued an article from The Indian Journal of Economics on Wednesday, taking care to add relevant subject descriptors (from the catchily named OECD Macrothesaurus for Information Processing in the Field of Economic and Social Development). It was then harvested and sent as part of our ‘Governance, civil society and democratisation’ Update on Thursday. One of our email subscribers, who also has a document delivery account with us, requested it on Friday morning and I duly scanned and delivered the full text of the article to his email inbox on Friday afternoon.

I’d say that was pretty good customer service and an excellent use of the cataloguer’s art (or is it a science? or a craft?) And while it may be unusual for a cataloguer to also be involved with document supply and hence see both ends of the process, as it were, it’s definitely not unusual for us to go out of our way to make things findable, whether from India or anywhere else.

Conversations with Cataloguers in Wales

Here at HVCats HQ, we think this is a great idea and are very happy to post this for Karen Pierce – @darklecat on Twitter. We look forward to hearing all about how it goes in Wales and wonder whether people in other parts of the country/world might get inspired by Karen’s idea (hint, hint).

Are you a cataloguer, or someone who works with metadata, in Wales? Would you like to meet up with other likeminded souls? I am hoping to organize a day/half-day seminar featuring presentations from cataloguers in Wales, and to enable a networking occasion. Can you please contact me if you are a) theoretically interested in attending such an event and b) willing to give a presentation at this event

I am looking for presentations on any of the following themes: special projects, reclassification, retrospective projects, working as a sole cataloguer/one-man band, preparing for RDA, collaborative cataloguing… but am quite happy to have anything suggested!

  • Venue: Cardiff University
  • Date: January/February 2012
  • Cost: Free (or low cost) – this will be a zero budget event, I just want people to get together in a conducive atmosphere

Please contact me on or leave a comment on my blog post Feel free to disseminate this to anyone you think might be interested. Although I am focusing on people who work in Wales (because that is where I am based, and because I think a regional focus will be interesting), I am happy for people who live outside Wales to attend (the more the merrier).

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!


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.

Want to join the HV Cats team?

We’re looking for volunteers to help out behind the scenes at High Visibility Cataloguing. It’s not too taxing, but we’re keen to get more people involved. We’d really love more guest posts on the blog so if you can recommend anyone for that too, we’d be very happy to hear from you. And we’re always interested in new ideas. You can contact us via DM on Twitter or using our email address hvcats @ gmail dot com.

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.


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, 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!

Join the cataloguing book chat on Friday

**Quick update, March 23rd 2011**

Rather than do a whole new blog post, just a quick update to say we’ll be talking about Section II, Visions this Friday, March 25th, starting at 10am UK time and continuing all day so people in other time zones can join us along the way. The plan is to do things like we did with Section I so the info below still applies.

Look forward to #catbkchatting with some of you then**

Some more details about the Twitter book club #catbkchat and how it’s going to work (maybe… we’ve never tried it before so we don’t really know til it starts!).

We’re reading Conversations with catalogers in the 21st century, edited by Elaine R. Sanchez. To break it into manageable chunks and allow people to catch up with reading as books arrive on cataloguers’ desks all over the place, we are going to start with the first part: Introduction, Preface (by Michael Gorman) and Section I AACR2 and RDA. If you don’t have access to the book itself, then there is a full-text version freely available online of Elaine’s own article, RDA, AACR2 and you, so anyone can read at least this part (one of the three articles in Section I).

The first part of #catbkchat starts tomorrow, Friday March 18th. No strict timings as we have people taking part from several time zones so it’ll be hard to make sure we are all online at the same time but if we say we’ll start mid-morning (10am UK time) but expect to run all through the day as the US wakes up and gets online (I expect you’ll all be leaping out of bed to check Twitter and take part!). At the moment, the UK hasn’t changed the clocks forward, so the UK is 4 hours ahead of the US East Coast and 7 hours ahead of PST (just to give you some idea of when various people might get online to join in).

Just remember to use the hashtag #catbkchat. If you have more to say than you can fit into a tweet then feel free to add comments to this post or write posts on your own blog and we can then provide links on Twitter pointing people towards the full read. I have no idea right now how much there will be to say and how long discussion will go on so am deliberately being open-ended about timing. We can always keep talking on Monday if there’s still a lot to say. Otherwise, I envisage leaving it a few days and then starting again with the next section if that works for everyone. Am happy to take suggestions though (just on Twitter or in comments here).

For anyone taking part in #catbkchat, you might be interested to hear about a great idea that Anne Welsh (@Anne Welsh) is trying out with her Advanced Cat & Class students. Anne is a Lecturer in LIS at UCL (University College London). Her class meets on Monday, taking #catbkchat as their inspiration, they will be discussing the Sanchez article linked above and livetweeting their discussion using the hashtags #catbkchat and #UCLDIS, with Anne making the discussion available on a twitterfountain right in the classroom. This will be happening at 4pm UK time (12 noon East Coast, 9am West Coast) if anyone would like to follow along and maybe even say hello to the students.

I look forward to some chatting about the first section with you all tomorrow and remember we have a twapperkeeper archive for the hashtag if you want to follow there. Yesterday I read about Tweetchat so might have a look at using that for myself (I normally just use New Twitter rather than anything like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc).

Cataloguing book chat

For those cataloguers/catalogers who choose high visibility on Twitter, you may have already heard that we’re thinking of having a Twitter book club for cataloguing book chat. It started because quite a few of us were excited to be receiving our copy of Conversations with Catalogers in the 21st Century, edited by Elaine R. Sanchez. This isn’t exactly a High Visibility Cataloguing initiative, it just organically grew out of Twitter chat but it’s a great way to promote discussion about our profession and our futures so it seems a great fit for us here.

We would love to attract as many interested people as possible, so we’ll be tweeting our cataloguing book chat using the hashtag #catbkchat (Twapperkeeper archive thanks to Heather Pitts). If you’re not on Twitter, then please feel free to add to the comments here as part of the book discussion or to add links to posts about the book on your own blog (and with your permission we’ll tweet the links too, to reach the Twitter cataloguing people too).

We haven’t tried this before, I think I’m right in saying it’ll be a first Twitter book club for most of the people taking part. We already have cataloguers from the US, Canada and the UK taking part. We’d love you to join in or, if you don’t have the book available, then hope you can follow the discussion and learn something from it or promote more discussion that way.

The book is in sections, so we’ll probably take a section at a time – more details to follow….

Guest post: The role of the cataloguer in the 21st century

Before Christmas, we received a document on the role of the cataloguer in the 21st century from Lynne Dyer, Bibliographic Services Team Manager, De Montfort University. We felt it spoke about many of the issues about the current state of the profession and the future for cataloguing and cataloguers, and so we are very pleased to post it on the High Visibility Cataloguing website. Thanks to Lynne for letting us publish it. We would love to hear any thoughts you have about the role of the cataloguer as it is likely to develop so please do add them in the comments.

Lynne wrote the piece a couple of years ago and so has added the following updating information (you might want to go and read the article and come back to this afterwards):

Since this article was written there has been much in the professional press about the changing role of cataloguers, particularly in these economically difficult times. Of especial relevance was the article by David Bennett (2009a), which tackled the idea of seeking new avenues for “back room” staff, and the follow-up blog article (2009b) which concentrated on the marketing of “back room” staff and their activities. In her article Kealy (2009) discusses the importance of identifying skills gaps in her library service with a view to ensuring that all library staff (not just cataloguers) have the skills needed for the future. Further enhancements of the cataloguer’s role are suggested by Meagher and Brown (2009).

The value of social tagging has been the subject of enormous debate, as has the development of new generation OPACs and resource discovery systems, all areas where the expertise of the cataloguers can be tapped into. Electronic resource management, usage statistics, digital preservation and the digitising of educational resources are also areas in which cataloguers can prove use their skills.

More recently, Harris and Carty (2010) have striven to improve the general awareness of what cataloguers can do and how they can help develop library services of the 21st century. Their joint High-Visibility Cataloguing blog (2010) is an attempt to both promote and raise the profile of the role of cataloguers to library staff in general and to encourage cataloguers to emerge from their “back rooms” to help provide a dynamic and valued library service.


1.     Bennett, David E. (2009) Where next for the back room? Gazette, 11-24 September, pp. 19

2.     Bennett, David E. (2009) Principles of assertive action: how to go about getting what you want. Philoslibris [WWW] David E. Bennett. Available from: [Accessed: 20 December 2010].

3.     Kealy, Karen (2009) Do library staff have what it takes to be a librarian of the future? Library Management, Vol. 30, No. 8/9, pp. 572-582

4.     Meagher, Elizabeth S. and Brown, Christopher C. (2009) Turned loose in the OPAC: URL selection, addition, and management process. Library Hi Tech, Vol. 28, Iss. 3, pp. 360 – 376

5.     Harris, Venessa and Carty, Celine (2010) Show and tell. Gazette, 2 December, pp. 15

6.     Harris, Venessa and Carty, Celine (2010) High visibility cataloguing [WWW] Venessa Harris and Celine Carty. Available from: [Accessed: 20 December 2010]

Cataloguer Day in the Life

Library Day in the Life Round6 begins tomorrow, Monday 24th January 2011 and runs all week (yes, it’s a day in the life but some people like to do a whole week, or don’t work on Mondays or… well, it’s up to you). I’ve been aware of this for at least a year but haven’t ever managed to actually take part. However, it took a prompt from Anne Welsh (@AnneWelsh) to make me realise what a fantastic opportunity this was for some High Visibility Cataloguing! Cataloguers and catalogers, metadata managers and knowledge information specialists everywhere should join in and describe what their work involves, what they do in a typical day/week. What better way to do exactly what we’ve been banging on about – show people what cataloguing work involves, how it contributes to the mission and performance of the library. It is a chance to show non-library people but, more importantly as a first step I think, it’s a project that is hugely popular and widely followed by other librarians so it’s a way to improve our visibility among our colleagues. So I urge you all to sign up for Library Day in the Life Round 6, full details here.

Glancing through the list of people already signed up for Round 6 or even previous Rounds, there are a few cataloguers but not many, so please anyone who can do it, do sign up.  If you don’t have a blog or don’t have time to blog, you can tweet with the hashtag #libday6, take photos for the Flickr page or just jot some notes – whatever you can. Anyone who would like to post their Cataloguer Day in the Life as a guest post here should just get in touch with us (contact details above).

This is a great opportunity to talk to our peers and our colleagues about what we do!