Category Archives: Skills promotion stories

Challenging Cataloguing processes

As part of my role in this initiative I have reviewed some literature surrounding the ongoing debate between the implementation of RDA and a much bigger leap into the future by the cataloguing world. Read the article here and all comments would be added value to HVCats.

Venessa Harris

Christina Claridge

The introduction of manholes to student orientation at the University of Warwick Library

I became involved in the “Check it Out!” student orientation programme when the Enquiries Support Officer gave a presentation on the project to other staff.  Check It Out sessions were split into two parts: 1. a quick tour of the main facilities, including rules and regulations, lost and found, where to get help, how to use the self issue/return machines; and 2. a screen-based presentation on using the catalogue to find things. The previous year, the presentation was centred around the record for a book called Biochemistry, which was a good, comprehensive and rather dry example of a library record.

I offered to create a bespoke record that would fulfil all the requirements of the presentation (for example, multiple locations and multiple loan types) as well as highlighting the extra functionalities of the catalogue (such as book cover display and citation information, which previously were not demonstrated.  This would allow us to create a fun, interesting record that could be introduced to science, arts and social science students, and we could add everything we wanted to talk about to this one record, which could then be suppressed when not needed.  In the end, the record was crafted around a real book: Drainspotting: Japanese manhole covers, which provided great scope for humour and subject headings in equal measure.  The title was also misleading, allowing opportunity to highlight to students that the title was not the only information contained in the record.

Also included in the session was a serial record, and a brief introduction to electronic resources.  This section was based around the New Scientist journal, and was judged suitable for all students.

In support of this presentation, and the tour of facilities that preceded it, I was also involved in creating staff training materials in a variety of formats, so that all staff could present the information consistently, and would have detailed information to fall back on if required.  Videos of mock presentations were loaded onto the staff intranet to show other staff members the general procedure (and that presentations did not have to be perfect!)

I also helped to train colleagues to give the presentation and tour to students. 32 members of staff from across all library teams volunteered to deliver sessions and came to the training.  Many of the staff training sessions ended with an informal question and answer session that allowed staff to ask questions about the catalogue, staff comments later indicated that it was a great opportunity to hear about the catalogue from a different point of view.

Finally, in the hectic first weeks of term, I also presented to the students themselves.  This was the only opportunity over the past year for specialist cataloguers to come into contact with large numbers of library users and it also allowed students to encounter staff they normally wouldn’t see. Feedback from those who attended Check It Out was over 90% positive.

Overall, it was an excellent opportunity to show both users and colleagues the things that we could do with the catalogue, and the huge range of information it contains.  It was also a step towards raising the profile of the cataloguing team by getting involved in a large library-wide project.

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!

Penny Robertson

I’m a fellow cataloguer aka metadata dark arts magician aka taxonomy temperer. I’ve been involved in the mystic arts of cataloguing since I qualified(’99) and it has been the most intellectually stimulating part of being a librarian. I’ve recently moved jobs and have been given the title, Information Architecture Manager, that didn’t quite sit with me to begin with but the more I think about it it does make sense. Cataloguers are the architects of an information landscape within the traditional sense of a library catalogue and now must evolve these fine skills to encompass enterprise content management, data exchange and the navigation, structure and management of digital assets. A soupcon of communication skills and a a dash of openness to what the customer wants should see our profession flourish in the future. So don’t let new fangled job titles put you off, we do have the skills that are important, we only need to wow them with our potential!!

Esther Arens

According to the job description my current post is of somewhat narrow remit, i.e. more traditional cat & class. But with previous experience in LMS I’ve extended my contribution to the organisation’s aims by becoming involved with IT (data conversions, new OPAC design, analysing faults if affecting bibliographic or authority records). Fortunately, my line manager let me!

Especially with the new OPAC (which makes – sadly or luckily – poor bibliographic data and  inconsistencies much more transparent) I think I’ve managed to convey to at least IT that we can only make use of all those marvellous new features if our data is good enough. I’ve got many ideas to improve these but being parttime I barely come round to it (e.g. writing a proper business case for some data “cleaning”.) Neither have I set up an internal wiki to further best practice (because I rarely see/speak to the other two colleagues who catalogue) but that’s high on my agenda.

Something I’ve done to break out of the echo-chamber: Writing a guest blog post for “Voices for the library” about the need for cataloguers (

I know this is not an impressive record but small steps might help too.