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Guest post: On Open Days : showing library staff what actually goes on in your cataloguing department! – Lynne Dyer, Bibliographic Services Manager.
We are pleased to host this post by Lynne Dyer about raising the profile of a cataloguing team through open days. Lynne was inspired to write this after reading Rachel Care’s post earlier this week. Please add your thoughts in the comments box below.
On Open Days – showing library staff what actually goes on in your cataloguing department!
Lynne Dyer, Bibliographic Services Manager, De Montfort University
Many years ago, the Cataloguing and Acquisitions teams were based in a different building from the rest of the library, across the road in a fairly basic office. Logistically, this posed several major problems; adding at least an extra 24 hours to the order to shelf time; increasing the time taken for staff to get from one building to another to undertake their library duties (like, counter, enquiry desk, shelving and shelf-checking sessions); rendering two senior staff unavailable to participate in the duty manager rota (as the duty manager deals with library security incidents and fire alarms / bomb alerts and needs to be on the spot), to name but a few.
Some of the advantages were that cataloguers were not disturbed by other library staff coming into the office to look at items in the backlog (!), but the corollary of this was that we were quite isolated from mainstream library activities, staff from the team were not always known by their colleagues in the library and few other library staff had any knowledge of the work processes in the acquisitions and cataloguing teams.
In order to address some of these issues, I organised a series of what I called Open Days. An invitation was issued to all members of the library staff to come and see what went on in the cataloguing team. It had been originally planned that the Open Day would cover both the work of Acquisitions and Cataloguing but this proved impractical to organise so was restricted to the work of Cataloguing. Within the team, a member of staff was assigned to demonstrate each process to the visitors, showing them what was done, how it was done and to answer any questions the visitors might have. Sessions were scheduled to last up to 15 minutes each, and were sequential, so visitors would start with the ordering process, move on to receipting, to cataloguing, to classification etc..
Publicising the Event
The whole event was marketed by a snail mail shot to all library staff which included a “personal” invitation (see Appendix A below). This invitation was also used as an A3 poster displayed on the various library staff noticeboards. No-one was chased or hounded to come, the sessions were in no way compulsory; it was assumed that anyone who didn’t reply would not be coming.
We were hugely surprised by the amount of take-up we had! So many people wanted to come and see what we did that we had to arrange three groups, the first starting at 9.30am, the second at 10am and the third at 10.30am, which would allow for any session running over time. Once we knew exactly who was attending we allocated them to a specific group and sent them a timetable. (see Appendix B and Appendix C)
Easing the Stress of the Staff
The majority of cataloguing and acquisitions staff had never taken part in any such event previously and were quite unsure and worried about how to present their work to colleagues. In truth, some were quite terrified. In order to help them feel more relaxed about it and better prepared, a briefing session was held at which staff could air their concerns and one or two pointers could be given to them:
- Know exactly what you’re going to say, even if you have it all written out on a crib sheet!
- Have all your examples sorted and ready to use
- Try out your presentation on a team colleague first
- Wear something you feel comfortable in – it will help you feel confident!
- If people ask questions, answer them as best you can. If you don’t know the answer, say you don’t and offer to find out the answer later, or refer them to someone else who might know the answer
- If you feel that questions or comments are being made that seem to criticise you or your working practices then say that this is not an appropriate time for such a discussion and suggest that the questioner addresses their queries to me, the team manager
- Remember that you know your job inside out, upside down and back-to-front, so you’re the one in control.
The Open Day
Generally, staff were well-prepared for their demonstrations, some had written notes, others had done a practice demo to a cataloguing or acquisitions colleague etc. so when the time came to share their tasks with other library staff they were very well able to do this.
On the day, naturally, some sessions overran, and some were a tad shorter than anticipated, but on the whole timings were kept to (see Appendix C). If I remember correctly, it did become necessary to take a couple of sessions out of turn, just so that the groups didn’t overlap. Also, as an organiser, I did notice that one or two people didn’t attend every demo they were scheduled to, but that was probably a good thing, as they could concentrate on the things that interested them most, or fitted in with some of what they themselves did. Doing the demos was a very intensive time, however, with each person doing three demos in quite a short space of time, so everyone was drained by the end.
Getting the Feedback
In order to gauge how successful the event had been, each attendee completed a feedback form, which asked them to comment on certain aspects of the day (see Appendix D). This feedback was to help us, when planning any subsequent event, to provide a better experience. Pleasingly, the response rate was 75%, and the majority of these comments indicated that people found the sessions useful, that the format was right, and that they were happy to see everything. The best things seemed to be:
- Seeing the whole process through and how it fitted together and where it fitted into the roles of the attendees
- The Open Day taking place!
- That each session was informative
- Group size was good
- The great reception received from the Cataloguing staff
Things that could have been done better included:
- The timings – some demos were too long
- The content – some demos were trying to convey complex ideas and processes in too short a time
- A tea break scheduled in
- More time for questions and answers
- More time for a general wander around the office
All these comments were useful and were taken on board when we ran our next set of Open Days.
Subsequent Open Days
The success of that first Cataloguing Team Open Day led other teams to try the same format, so very soon, nearly everyone in the library knew what went on in all parts of the library and such understanding led to better working relationships across the service.
For a couple of years, the Open Day became on annual event, although numbers dwindled, as the staff turnover here has never been high. After the initial Open Day the itinerary was tweaked a bit, timings were modified, a tea break included and some demos removed, in line with the suggestions we had received on the feedback forms.
Having let these sessions lapse, we reinstated them, with a slightly different focus, so people were invited to discover a specific aspect of the cataloguing and acquisitions role, e.g. following the trail of a book order, from order to shelf, following the trail of a serial through the team, and groupings of other, supplementary activities that the teams undertook, for example, the project to get exam papers digitised (see Appendix E). In addition to the revised “routes”, the reverse of the itinerary included a list of all members of the team, their telephone extension number, their email address, and a list of areas in which they were experts. This was headed:
Get the right person – get the right answer!
On the day, each section – e.g. Cat / Class, Serials, Local Inputting etc. – had a banner hanging over their work area to direct people to the sections they were interested in visiting.
Extending the Model
On a more local level, we have also used the same Open Day style to alert people in the team to how their role fits into the role of the team as a whole, so staff were invited to demonstrate their tasks to others in the team. This has led to a more flexible team; people became aware of what else was happening in the team, so they were able to identify areas where they could help out. But, more on this in a future post!
Lynne Dyer, June 2011
“Now what did I do with that book order?
Oh yes, I sent it over to the X building …”
From the black hole that is the X building,
home of the Acquisitions and Cataloguing teams,
we offer you the chance to find you exactly what
happened to your order and how it transmuted
into an entry on OPAC!
See ordering, cataloguing, processing and other
fascinating tasks in action during a fun-packed
O P E N D A Y
Day: [Day, Date]
Venue: Building X, Rm 2.12
Time: 9.30 onwards
Your personal invitation
Dear ………………………………………………. You are invited to our Open Day.
I am / am not * able to come to your Open Day
*Please delete as appropriate and return to Lynne Dyer
Cataloguing Team, X Building, Rm 2.12
Response to those expressing an interest
OPEN DAY – [Date]
Thank-you to all of you who said you would like to come to our open day. I have divided you into three groups and the following people are in each group.
Please come over to Building X, Room 2.12 and report to the reception desk in time to begin your tour at the appointed time!
Anyone who said they could only come for some of the time, if you still want to come, just join the people in the group that suits you best.
Please let me know if you have any problems with the timetable.
Many thanks. We hope you enjoy your visit!
OPEN DAY – [Date]
9.30 Introduction (staff initials)
9.45 Book orders onto the LMS (staff initials)
9.55 Role of the bookshop (staff initials)
10.05 Receipting (staff initials)
10.15 Dealing with duplicates etc. (staff initials)
10.25 Original works cat/class (staff initials)
10.35 Subject indexing (staff initials)
10.45 Inputting local information (staff initials)
10.55 Processing / jacketing / labelling (staff initials)
11.05 Checking / boxing up (staff initials)
11.15 Any questions (staff initials)
10.00 Introduction (staff initials)
10.15 Book orders onto the LMS (staff initials)
10.25 Role of the bookshop (staff initials)
10.35 Receipting (staff initials)
10.45 Dealing with duplicates etc. (staff initials)
10.55 Original works cat/class (staff initials)
11.05 Subject indexing (staff initials)
11.15 Inputting local information (staff initials)
11.25 Processing / jacketing / labelling (staff initials)
11.35 Checking / boxing up (staff initials)
11.45 Any questions (staff initials)
10.30 Introduction (staff initials)
10.45 Book orders onto the LMS (staff initials)
10.55 Role of the bookshop (staff initials)
11.05 Receipting (staff initials)
11.15 Dealing with duplicates etc. (staff initials)
11.25 Original works cat/class (staff initials)
11.35 Subject indexing (staff initials)
11.45 Inputting local information (staff initials)
11.55 Processing / jacketing / labelling (staff initials)
12.05 Checking / boxing up (staff initials)
12.15 Any questions (staff initials)
Cataloguing Team Open Day [Date]
Feedback form – in order to help us plan our next session. All replies will be kept confidential.
Did you find today’s sessions useful / helpful?
Was the format of the morning right for you?
Would you have preferred to choose which demos you came to?
What was the best thing about the morning?
What could have been done better?
Thank-you for your time.
Please hand this completed form in as you leave or send it to: Lynne D, Building X, Rm 2.12
Cataloguing Team Open Morning
The morning will begin with a tour of the department to see the progress of a book order from the time it is received in the team to the time the actual book leaves the office. You will then be able to pick which aspects of the team’s work you learn more about by choosing specific areas to visit. Below are some suggested combinations that will give you an overview of the team’s work.
The Basic Book Route
If you want to know more about the basic process for books, follow this suggested route:
¨ Local inputting
¨ Final checking
The Enhanced Book Route
Add-ons to the Basic Book Route could include:
¨ Duplicates, new editions, urgents and freebies
¨ Subject indexing
The Serials Route
If you want to know more about the cataloguing of journals try the following:
The Homemade Route
If you just want to see one or two aspects of our work feel free to make up your own route, or just come down and ask questions of anyone in the team – if they can’t answer your question, they will know someone who will be able to!
We hope you enjoy your visit.
PS The Exam Paper Route is unavailable for this session, but we hope to run something specifically on this once term has begun.