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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.

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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.

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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.

Guest post: Rachel Care, Metadata Librarian

We’re delighted to host this inspiring guest post from Rachel Care. We’d love to hear your ideas, suggestions,  and thoughts on this in comments below!

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High Visibility Cataloguing: Join a Committee!

Rachel Care, Metadata Librarian, University of Warwick

The cataloguing department at the University of Warwick – aka Data Services – wasn’t feeling very visible. At the beginning of this year all Library teams were asked to present a review of the Library structure, and how they felt they were engaging with other teams. However, not many teams referred to Data Services in their presentations, and when we were mentioned, it was to suggest that another department would like to move into our offices! And then, all our stationery suddenly disappeared – it was believed we no longer had any need for it. An emergency meeting was called. It was time to take action.

The team had various ideas as to how we could make ourselves more visible within the Library. It was suggested we could wander round the different floors occasionally. We decided to try and submit a piece of news to the weekly staff e-bulletin as often as we could. And we decided that we needed a member of the team on every committee in the Library.

My contribution was to join the Staff Liaison Group. A key committee within the Library, the group acts as an intermediary between staff and senior management, as well as a sounding board for ideas, comments and questions from Library staff. Joining the committee has presented some excellent opportunities to get Data Services known.

First of all, I helped with a project to create an online staff photo board. I presented at the all-staff open meeting, and then liaised with managers in the Library, in order to get all members of staff to write a sentence describing their job. This meant Library staff, particularly managers, became aware of me, and aware that I do more than just
catalogue.

Then, directly because of this work getting myself known, Data Services were one of a few teams asked to prepare a display board to be erected at the next staff open day. This is a really excellent opportunity for us to explain what we do, and how vital our work is to the running of the Library. We’re planning to have statistics showing just how many books and e-resources we catalogue every week; to display the differences we are going to have to deal with when we come to use RDA; to have a section showing a badly constructed record, and how that would affect a student’s ability to find a book on the catalogue; and to describe some of the complexities of the numerous classification schemes we use at Warwick.

Getting away from my everyday cataloguing once in a while, and throwing myself into wider library life, has helped my confidence, it’s made me feel much more a part of the library in which I work, and, I hope, has gone a little way towards getting Data Services more known and appreciated. I heartily recommend it!

Catch Rachel @metadatamonkey on Twitter!

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.

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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 http://tinyurl.com/ManchurianCataloger, 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!