Blog Archives

Introducing… Cat23 Phase One (An announcement at CIG Conference)

This year’s CIG Conference is entitled “The Value of Cataloguing“, which sounds like a topic right up our street here at HVCats. On Tuesday September 11th, Celine Carty will be speaking at the CIG conference in Sheffield about the new HVCats initiative – phase one of the Cat23 idea. Helen Stein came up with this idea and has been doing amazing work in making it happen, but sadly could not attend CIG to present alongside Celine.

For over a year now, we’ve been pondering the idea of how to make a “23 Things for Cataloguers” work. There are lots of problems doing this kind of professional development programme along the same lines as the traditional library “23 Things”. So, in the end, we’ve taken a slightly different route.

Announcing Cat23

Cat23 will encompass a number of initiatives aimed at supporting continuing professional development for cataloguers and those interested in cataloguing.

We are delighted to introduce phase one: a series of interviews with cataloguing practitioners to find out more about the day-to-day realities of working as a cataloguer. We hope that this will provide a real insight into current cataloguing work and answer some questions about what cataloguing actually involves. The interviews aim to cover a range of type of material, type of library and give some idea of the diversity of cataloguing and metadata work. We hope to provide a rounded view of the practicalities of dealing with a specific typical item and the tools used by cataloguers to deal with problems and answer questions. We hope that the interviews will be of interest both to people who catalogue in their current post and to all the cataloguing-curious. The interviews will be a great way of starting out the cat23 project. Each interview will aim to outline the cataloguing context:

  • the types of materials commonly dealt with
  • the type of library/institution
  • the LMS used
  • the specific cataloguing rules & classification system(s) employed to guide practice
  • a look at any ‘local conditions’ that influence the cataloguing
  • the balance of tasks involved in the cataloguer’s daily work
  • the most common difficulties with the type of material being catalogued
  • the key help resources for the cataloguer when they come across a problem

To provide an insight into the realities of day-to-day cataloguing, each interview subject will select one item from their current cataloguing to examine in detail as the basis of the interview.

Several interviews have already been carried out, with more to come. Thanks to our generous interviewees in both the UK and the US who have kindly let us in to get a glimpse of their cataloguing work for this project. We hope to post the first of the interviews here on the blog shortly. Watch this space!

Advertisements

High Visibility Cataloguing at ALA Annual

Thanks to a conference bursary from the John Campbell Trust, HVCats (in the person of Céline Carty) is attending ALA Annual at Anaheim.

I have some HVCats goodies (very modest ones) and would love to meet any catalog(u)ers who are going to be at ALA. Do come and say hi if you see me at the conference. Feel free to get in touch with me via @HVCats on Twitter or come to the Networking Uncommons, where I’m planning to be from 12-1 on Monday (and possibly at other times too once I finalise my schedule). I’d love to hear about high visibility ideas, talk about our plans here at HVCats to do some new professional development projects as part of the cat23 idea and meet as many high visibility cataloguers as I can while I’m here. I’m the British, slightly jet lagged one if you want to look out for me!

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.

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.

Twitter chat on cataloguing & classification from #uklibchat

This guest post is by Joseph Norwood and the rest of the #uklibchat team,and we hope to see a few high visibility cataloguers at the chat on Thursday:

#uklibchat is a fortnightly discussion group for librarians and information professionals, and on Thursday 23rd February between 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM, we’re going to be talking about cataloguing and classification.

An agenda for the chat is available here and can be added to if you have any questions that you would like to raise during the discussion.

These chats are a great way for librarians to share their ideas about a subject and to find out more about things that they may not often come into direct contact with at work. I’m hoping that this discussion will give people outside of cataloguing a chance to learn more about the importance of cataloguing work, and I’m sure it will also be very interesting for people who work or want to work as cataloguers. Topics to be discussed on the day include the future of cataloguing, training, and how catalogues could be presented to users.

More information about the chat; and summaries of previous chats can be found on our blog (http://uklibchat.wordpress.com/).

The #uklibchat team can be contacted by Twitter through @uklibchat if there’s anything you’d like to ask us.

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).

Guest post: Cataloguing 23 Things, some thoughts from Helen Stein

We’re delighted to host this guest post from Helen Stein – @NunuThunder on Twitter – about the intriguing idea of a Cataloguing 23 Things. We’d love to hear your ideas, suggestions, thoughts on this in comments below!

****************

A few days ago I got together the courage to offer a little help to someone who had asked a cataloguing-related question on Twitter. I typed my answer in less than 140 characters and was breezily about to hit ‘send’ when it struck me that this would be my debut in helping anybody with a cataloguing question.

Big Moment! I didn’t want to get it wrong (publicly wrong – Twitter is a big public place). So I moved away from the return key, grabbed my AACR2 & MARC21 guidance and double checked what I was about to say out loud.

Happily for the person asking the question there are folks out there who know this stuff like the back of their hands and part of the reason for my anxious perusal of Chapter Six and then Chapter Three was that over the past year or so I have been watching them all swap ideas and suggestions about interpreting cataloguing rules and tag wrangling without feeling like I could join in.

I did however join in with a conversation about “metadata technology” and how people would like to learn about it, because apparently I found this less daunting…

Thus the idea of a cataloguing 23Things (Cat23) came about. 23Things is an approach which has been used to introduce people to using Web 2.0 platforms such as blogs, wikis and Twitter. It’s a way of breaking down barriers to understanding what such tools are, how they can be useful and so on. The original suggestion to build Cat23 was made because this approach seems to be an effective way for people to learn through practice.

Consequently a small group have been thinking about Cat23, identifying groups it might appeal to and what sorts of things it could cover. Early thoughts are that Cat23 could be useful to:

  • lone workers, who cannot easily mange time away from the workplace to undertake formal training
  • those who find themselves cataloguing by default with little or no experience in working with a variety of materials
  • distance learners (like myself!), who want to undertake further study
  • experienced cataloguers who need to use a different set of rules from normal, or who wish to pick up knowledge about new standards, and
  • those who wish to expand their professional skills but find workplace training budgets are not available to cover it.

As for coverage, there are many obvious inclusions – such as commonly used rules, data structures and classification systems, LMSs and OPACs, new rules and hybrid environments, linked data and XML, etc – but there has also been a strong emphasis on including worked examples so that Cat23 would accentuate practical learning. Obvious difficulties such as copyright implications for worked examples and the fact that many cataloguing tools require subscriptions are playing in our minds but it is encouraging that there seems to be a real appetite right now for a strong, mutually supportive learning community within cataloguing.

A recent initiative saw the Cataloguing & Index Group of CILIP hold a 2-day e-forum, moderated and excellently summarised by Celine Carty and Helen Williams. Enthusiasm for more was evident and certainly there are plenty of willing voices ready to lend help when it is sought. Cat23 may yet prove to be part of a broader picture in which cataloguers support one another’s continued learning.

And for anyone who questions the worth or impact of this sort of online support I’d like to point out that I did eventually hit ‘send’, letting my answer to the question someone asked on Twitter show up on people’s timelines ‘though I half expected the words to look wobbly, echoing in appearance the querulous sound of my voice in my own head as I read it back. This small step was made possible by all the cataloguers I’ve been following online, as well as by my reading and the workplace experience I’ve had of cataloguing. Thanks guys.