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Conversations with Cataloguers in Wales: organising a mini-conference

In this guest post, Karen Pierce describes what was involved in organising a recent mini-conference, Conversations with Cataloguers in Wales, which she originally wrote a guest post about when it was in the planning stages. The Welsh event was very successful, anyone else inspired to hold a local event for cataloguers? We’d be happy to help with promotion here at High Visibility Cataloguers, we love to see cataloguers in conversation!

A few years ago I was travelling back from the annual WHELF/HEWIT conference in Gregynog (Newtown, Wales) with a (site librarian) colleague, we’d been on the organising committee and were returning on a high at our successful venture, and thus started bouncing lots of other ideas off one another. One of these ideas was to have an event for cataloguers in Wales as the Gregynog conference doesn’t tend to cover topics in the main that are directly relevant to cataloguers. Fired up with the idea I duly mentioned it at my annual appraisal, and my line manager was very supportive. Eighteen months later I was still just talking about it, but other work issues had got in the way (too busy!), then I embarked on cpd23. Whilst exploring and blogging about the various professional development tools and ideas covered by cpd23 I made a promise to myself, (and publicly on my blog), to actually get this conference organised once and for all. Fast forward seven or eight months, and the ‘Conversations with Cataloguers in Wales’ event became a reality on 6th March 2012.

Most cataloguers tend to be hidden away in the back office; where I work we are actually hidden away in an admin block nowhere near a library. Although there are plenty of librarianship conferences and seminars, aside from events organised by CILIP CIG, these events mostly don’t include a great deal that is directly relevant to cataloguers. I went to my first CIG conference in Exeter two years ago, and it was great to be in a room with lots of other cataloguers – these people were talking my language! I wanted to recreate that on a smaller scale, in Wales; give people locally the chance to get together to talk about ‘cataloguing stuff’.

For the most part I organised this conference on my own, I thought it would be small enough for me to keep a handle on it – which it was, but there were times when it would have been nice to have a team to help me out and take some of the tasks off me (though I did have plenty of help on the day).

Obviously I wanted speakers for the event, so I started by blogging about it, and then mentioning it on Twitter. My tweets were re-tweeted, and I think this was the way in which I got my first offer of a presentation. But not everyone is on Twitter – and certainly most cataloguers in Wales are not on Twitter. I sent emails out to any contacts I had, and someone picked up on my message and sent it out on various email lists. This was a great help and certainly spread the word further than I had managed so far on my own. Posts also went up on the CIG and HVCats blogs. I was curious at this point though, just how do you ensure you reach all your potential audience? (Still don’t have the answer, though a variety of mediums helps!)

I did end up with a list of speakers and potential attendees from all over Wales – predominantly South Wales which is where I was based and where the event took place, but we still had people come from Wrexham, Aberystwyth, Lampeter and Carmarthen, as well as closer to Cardiff. I am sure I did not reach all the cataloguers in Wales with my advertising, (and I’m guessing there are plenty in North Wales I didn’t get to) but as around 45 people signed up to the event I was more than pleased.

We had a variety of talks, three of which looked at reclassification projects and covered the whole range of ‘still in the planning stages’, ‘well under way, but a lot yet to do’ and ‘completed within the time scale’. For anyone planning a reclassification project these three presentations certainly gave a great oversight into the different stages and various procedures involved.

Other presentations looked at some more specialised collections; a Rare books collection, an art book collection at a museum, and Welsh government publications (at the Welsh Government Library). We also had a presentation from a terminologist – which led to plenty of thoughts about controlled vocabularies. [For a more detailed summary of the talks please see my own blog]

Whilst getting in contact with interested people a few of them mentioned that they would like the chance to talk about setting up some kind of all-Wales cataloguing group; thus I set aside a session at the end of the day to enable a discussion on this topic, and asked Stuart Hunt the chair of CIG if he would facilitate it. It was really good to have the opportunity to think about the creation of an all-Wales group, however, get a bunch of cataloguers in a room and ask them to join in a public discussion, and the majority of us do conform to stereotype and aren’t terribly vocal in front of others. It seems in general there is the desire for some kind of all-Wales group or forum, but pinning down the details (and getting people actively contributing) is another matter. I am hopeful that we will start small and grow proportionally as time goes by; and perhaps focus on organising some practical training sessions.

Overall the conference was a success, I had some great speakers, and numbers attending exceeded my expectations. Thanks to Twitter, people the other side of the country knew what was going on; although somehow my internal advertising slipped up, as in the weeks following the conference I had conversations with librarians at my institution who had been unaware of the event but would have otherwise come. I’m pretty sure they were all emailed about it – but whether they switched off at the first mention of ‘cataloguing’ I don’t know. Next time (if there is a next time) I will push things internally in a different way. That was one lesson learned.

I also learned that no matter how organised you are there will always be an unforeseen problem (or multiple problems!) that will crop up. However, if for the most part you have done all the preparation properly you should be able to cope. For example I had some IT problems, but had ensured I had an IT Support Assistant from the library up-stairs on call, so she was able to sort them for me.

Be nice to the porters/security guys – they will probably know the answers to lots of room/building related stuff (especially if you are operating in a room that isn’t where you usually work) – they also managed to give me a bin bag when the rather small bin was overflowing with lunchtime detritus. And don’t forget a Tupperware box to take home the leftovers!

As the stress fades into the background, I start to feel the urges to organise something similar again; maybe not annually but perhaps once every two years or so. It was great to have a room full of cataloguers, and I hope there were plenty of useful informal conversations at lunchtime – another reason for getting together, aside from the presentations, was just to meet each other. I now also have a great list of contacts, and am hoping some kind of all-Wales group or forum will emerge. In these uncertain times it’s encouraging to know who is out there, and what challenges they are facing, and to be able to share our experiences and knowledge, and hopefully help one another.

Shameless self-promotion

This guest post is by Heather Jardine, talking about the fabulous high visibility initiatives she and her colleagues have implemented for the Bibliographical Services Section of the City of London Libraries. I this these are inspiring ideas, we’d love to hear anything you have to add:

If you are going to do a job at all, you should do it properly. So now that we have decided it is time to promote ourselves and what we do, we have thrown caution to the winds and we are trying almost everything.

We started with tours of the Bib Services Section, what we call “The Journey of the Book”, initially for new staff colleagues but now also for members of the public and for colleagues from other libraries (so now we have three “flavours” of tour – Staff Journey of the Book, Public Journey of the Book and Professional Journey of the Book). The content is essentially the same for all three, but the level of detail varies according to the audience. Fellow professionals always seem most interested in workflow and management issues, members of the public are always fascinated by the processing – all that stickyback plastic takes them back to Blue Peter and their younger days. Yes, it is a faff setting it all up, but we learn as much as our visitors do and almost always people are interested, engaged and persuaded that what we do is valuable and useful, which is enormously satisfying. And, you never know who is going to come through the door on a tour. It might be someone with influence to help us, or someone who will bring us work and income. We all need friends at the moment. We are beginning to think that marketing it as a “behind-the scenes” tour might get more custom – everyone likes to see what goes on out of public view, as the National Trust and many other heritage organisations realised long ago when they started opening kitchens and other below-stairs areas.

One thing leads to another, and because we were doing tours, we decided that we needed a leaflet to hand out both as publicity and as a souvenir in goody-bags.

And we thought that a big, bright, well-designed poster on the wall outside our office would tell people who we were and what we did (it helps that our office is across the lobby from the public toilets, so there are always people about).

After a while, we thought that having a video version of our “Journey of the Book” might bring it to a wider audience, so we made a film and put it up on YouTube. It’s doing OK for views, but we’d probably get more if we had included a skateboarding cat. Oh well, there’s always next time. (That’s one of the things you find out quite quickly – whatever publicity material you produce, you have to review and revise it surprisingly often.)

We have started a blog, too, and made sure that it is picked up by Planet Cataloging, so it gets read as widely as possible.

And we have a page “about” us within our catalogue, and on our Intranet too, of course.

But there is still more to do. Only the other day I was introduced by a colleague as, “This is Heather – she works in the basement”, as if that was the only interesting thing about me. So – what next? My own gut feeling is that Facebook is passé, but we might give it a try nonetheless. Then there is Twitter. I’ve got mixed feelings about Twitter, but I am slowly being persuaded that it can be a useful tool. “Bib Services: the musical”? Probably not.

Perhaps the most important thing to say, is that we started without any special skills or knowledge. We are not marketing professionals, or graphic designers. It’s been a huge learning curve. Maybe when we look back, we think of ways we could have done it better – but there is always next time. Meanwhile, we’ve got something out there. And if we can do it, so can you.

We’d like to hear what you think of what we’ve been doing and to learn from your experience too.

Check out:

The video: An introduction to the Bibliographical Services Section of the City of London Libraries

The blog: Work and expression

About us: The Bibliographical Services Section

Higher visibility at Eton College Library – guest post

Our new guest post is by Louise Anderson @LibrarianLCA about her work as Catalogue Librarian working to make the fascinating collections of Eton College Library more visible.

A new year at Eton College Library hopefully means a new (the first!) OPAC. This is very exciting for us after several years building up to the event. Electronic cataloguing started on the main library, housing pre-1800 materials, at the turn of the century and these are still being catalogued now. I was brought in just over three years ago to catalogue the 19th and 20th century printed materials and am still working on these. With this frenzied activity we have a respectable number of items catalogued with which to launch the OPAC.

This would have happened sooner but we seized the opportunity to piggy-back on the rest of the college collections’ change of management system. We have moved from Mikromarc to SSL (System Simulation Ltd.) and, not before time, from UKMARC to MARC 21. We have been working with other SSL users including the Royal Academy of Arts, for whom the system was devised, to optimise the usability and features and have
been able to tweak it in significant ways. When we are up and running, users will be able to search across the collections, many museum items will have images (hopefully this will be extended to books, mss., and archives), and within our records we can add links to webpages.

A letter and airgraphs from Glen Byam Shaw to Angela Baddeley, MS 442. Reproduced by permission of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College.

This has coincided with a drive to catalogue our literary archives and after researching embryonic GLAM guidelines and looking at records of literary archive holdings in other institutions – including the John Rylands University Library – we have decided to do this in the archival rather than the MARC cataloguing system, allowing us to add levels of detail when time and funding allows. We will still have MARC records with links to finding aids for archives that have already been listed, but this will be easy to copy into an archive system record if we wish to in the future. The decision was not straight forward; we may have to iron out issues with the separate authority files and the format of the data within, and if we ever want to put all library items on a different system the mapping would be difficult, however, the college should always have an archives system.

We have made the decision to continue to catalogue our individual literary mss. in MARC 21, including small groups of letters, drafts, etc., although there was much debate about when a group of mss. become an archive. Is it when they are by the same person in the same period of time, or when the letters are to the same person? Is it when the documents exceed a certain number even if there is not necessarily a subject shared? Or does it matter when in their history they were gathered together in one place? We decided there would be an element of cataloguer’s discretion, influenced by factors such as shared subject, place of production, volume, and if they had been collected together before they came to us. However, this is not yet set in stone and any suggestions would be very welcome!

Now for the fun bit. Our priorities regarding what to catalogue have been influenced mainly by use, retaining institutional knowledge, and what we wish to display in the public arena. Our literary archives have been, and are increasingly most likely to be, our high use items. Archives of Glen Byam Shaw, Wilfrid Blunt, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Thesiger, and David Horner/Osbert Sitwell fall into this category. Our individual literary mss. are also likely to be well used, and the knowledge about most of these rests with our Modern Collections Curator, which we need to capture electronically. I will hopefully be moving on to these very soon and I can’t wait to get my hands on mss. by Coleridge, Byron, Dickens, Browning, Bridges, and Fleming to name but a few. The same motivation will lead on to cataloguing the WWI materials that have been collected in addition to
those forming the original collection of the Macnaghten Library of WWI materials, given to Eton as a memorial in 1938. We will also need to know exactly what we have when we start curating our 2014 WWI exhibition. However, before all of this we need to finish cataloguing the items in our soon to be published “100 books and manuscripts” (working title) publication, which is a roundup of some of the stunning acquisitions of Eton College Library in the last 40 years, including a King James Bible, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s annotated Sophocles, and journals of Anne Thackeray Ritchie – just to whet the appetite.

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).

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.

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!