Library Day in the Life

Library Day in the Life is a fantastic project, now in its 8th round collecting information about librarians’ daily work through blogs, tweets and photos.

We’d love to see more posts about cataloguing and related matters this time – please let us know if you’re signing up and have cataloguing / metadata / systems duties, and we’ll post a round up at the end of the week.

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Attitude versus skills

Happy 2012 to all the high visibility cataloguers out there! Here at HVCats HQ, we have great plans for this year, starting with a post hoping to generate some debate.

This guest post is from Robin Armstrong-Viner, Head of Collection Management at the University of Kent. It’s an interesting look at how to go about recruiting in a time of almost continuous change, with a bonus job advert at the bottom if anyone’s jobhunting at the moment.  What do you think? What is most important now, specific defined skills or the attitude of the person recruited in the face of changing times? How do you describe what you’re looking for to make sure you get the right candidates? And what skills and attitudes should cataloguers be looking to in their professional development (#catcoders, I’m looking at you – post to follow about that!). Over to Robin…

Like many (if not all) HE institutions the University of Kent is experiencing a period of rapid change. The most obvious driver is the increase in tuition fees for new entrants later this year but there are a number of reasons for this. The need for the University to offer an inspiring student experience and produce innovative world-leading research while operating in an effective, efficient, sustainable and professional manner (three of the key messages from the University’s Plan for 2009-12) creates significant challenges for Information Services including Library Collections.

During 2012-13 we expect to see transformational change within Library Collections as we review each of our core processes including the selection, acquisition, cataloguing, classification, processing, delivery, preservation and disposal of learning and research materials in all formats. We are fortunate in being able to recruit a Project Manager to help lead and support these projects working with the teams involved but there has been much discussion about what should be included in the person specification for that role.

Most of the discussion has been around how to find someone with the right attitude. Naturally job descriptions tend to focus on specific tasks and skills, but is this the best approach in a period of uncertainty and change? What are the skills associated with innovation? Can you write a job description around attitudes such as being keen to explore new ideas and develop new skills? Is it appropriate to demand that candidates are not only comfortable with technology but eager to exploit it to achieve its maximum potential? How do you attract advocates and champions?

And where does this leave traditional library skills? Should a formal qualification in librarianship be an essential criterion? By making it one would we risk creating a barrier to those outside the profession (or even those within it but who haven’t ever taken that final step) who could bring the very attitudes and approaches we need? An understanding of library processes, MARC, etc would help, but could someone who has been involved in process improvement and the transformation and repurposing of data in other contexts use that experience to benefit us?

I don’t know that we’ve found the answer (yet!) but we’ve had a go in the job description we’ve created at http://tinyurl.com/8yrpzgp. And if you’re a High Visibility Cataloguer who is looking for a challenge we’d love to receive an application from you!

#catbkchat 2012?

Last year we had a successful twitter-based cataloguing book club chat (#catbkchat) about the newly-published Conversations with catalogers in the 21st century (Libraries Unlimited, 2011).

It was an interesting initiative, and we all had the best of intentions to follow it up, perhaps with a free publication.

Life got in the way, and it’s 2012 already, with no more cataloguing book club discussions. New year, new resolutions and all that. I’m working on a review of Michael Gorman’s autobiography, Broken pieces: a library life, 1941-1978 (ALA, 2011). It’s not free, but it’s bound to be in libraries on both sides of the Atlantic, and Gorman is, of course, both an iconic cataloguer (editor of AACR) and a writer who has been unafraid to spark debate throughout his long and distinguished career.

If we were to plan a new #catbkchat, would people be interested? Would this be a good (and accessible) title to choose? When would be a good time to do it? February? March? The book is 207 pages long, and, like all Gorman’s work, an easy read.

Perhaps leave a comment here if you would be interested, with an idea of whether you would prefer a day in February or March and which day of the week. Friday, perhaps?

Six amazing, and possibly unexpected, things about life as a cataloguer

Last week on Twitter, Deborah Lee of the Courtauld Institute of Art listed the “six amazing things” about being a cataloguer, taken from a presentation she had written to give to library school students. Here at HVCats, we loved these six amazing things and thought they deserved a wider audience.

What would your six amazing things be? And how do you describe being a cataloguer when training a new member of staff or talking to students and others new to the library world?

Six amazing things about life as a cataloguer

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 PierceKF@Cardiff.ac.uk or leave a comment on my blog post http://darksideofthecatalogue.wordpress.com/ 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).

High Visibility cataloguers on Twitter

We recently put a call out on Twitter for cataloguers and metadata practitioners that were willing to be included in a comprehensive list, and got a great response.

Screenshot of cataloguing-metadata list

The list provides a simple and quick way to find cataloguing Tweeps to follow, and can be found here. Follow it (and @HVCats) to keep up to date with what is being discussed in the metadata world and hopefully get some high visibility ideas too. Most of you who already use Twitter will be aware of the Magical Metadata Fairies Twitter list (formerly called Troublesome Catalogers) maintained by Becky Yoose (@yo_bj) which is also a great source of twitter cataloguing discussion. Our list probably has more of a UK bias at the moment (though we’re hoping that will change over time) and also only includes people who have specifically requested to be added.

If you’d like to be included on the list please message @HVCats.

Guest page: Professionalism in challenging times by Susie Kay

We are very pleased to be able to incorporate the knowledge and experience of Susie Kay in our guest page which you can read here.

Susie Kay is Founder of The Professionalism Group, offering advice and consultancy to individuals, students, businesses and professional institutes, focusing on the benefits of professionalism and personal effectiveness. (www.theprofessionalismgroup.co.uk).

She is a speaker and writer as well as offering 1:1 support and workshops.  Do get in touch if you have issues which you would like to discuss (susiekay@theprofessionalismgroup.co.uk).

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.

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On Open Days – showing library staff what actually goes on in your cataloguing department!

Lynne Dyer, Bibliographic Services Manager, De Montfort University

 Background

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.

The Solution

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:

  1. Know exactly what you’re going to say, even if you have it all written out on a crib sheet!
  2. Have all your examples sorted and ready to use
  3. Try out your presentation on a team colleague first
  4. Wear something you feel comfortable in – it will help you feel confident!
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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

Appendix A

“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.

RSVP

“—————————————————————————————————————————-

Dear Lynne

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

From…………………………………………………………….

Appendix B

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!

Lynne

Appendix C

OPEN DAY – [Date]

Timetable

Group 1

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)

Group 2

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)

Group 3

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)

Appendix D

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

Appendix E

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:

¨   Ordering

¨   Receipting

¨   Cat/Class

¨   Local inputting

¨   Processing

¨   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:

¨   Serials

¨   e-Journals

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.