We are really pleased to bring you a new guest post by Kate Sebby – @kate80 – about ways of making high visibility work for you. Kate is a cataloging librarian at the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not presented as those of the Congressional Research Service or the Library of Congress.
Though it is a branch of the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) is not a traditional library. CRS is a think tank staffed mostly by analysts responding to the research requests of the U.S. Congress. Despite this, CRS does have some traditional library functions—such as acquisitions and cataloging—though those departments are very small.
While cataloging is already a fairly desk-bound job, being separated from other divisions by walls and cubicles and sprawling across several floors, makes reaching out to analysts and information professionals an even greater challenge to communication. So I spent my first year at CRS being a typical introverted cataloger; my work was always done competently and on time but I did very little to get away from my desk and interact with others.
With time came confidence and, in the past few months, I’ve been developing relationships with the reference librarians who support our research divisions. It started by responding to basic requests from a few of these librarians to update bibliographic records and holdings in the catalog. My rapid response to their concerns and repeated requests to send any mistakes or updates got their attention. After several months, one of the librarians approached me at a union coffee hour gathering. (I only attended because a more outgoing colleague asked me to attend with her. Still an introvert!) She stated that she had some ideas for working with me and wanted to gauge my interest. I immediately responded with a ‘YES!’ without even knowing what she had in mind.
We set up an arrangement that in return for my cataloging of some of their older, department-specific collections, they would train me in reference—answering requests, aiding analysts’ research, database familiarization, etc. Not only would I be solving a pertinent cataloging problem (getting my hands on all those uncataloged volumes), I would be gaining training and experience to enhance my skill set and resume. Though this is still early in the process, many people in the research division already know me personally and are excited that I can catalog and provide access to their personal office collections. After an email introduction sent to the division, several analysts immediately replied with cataloging requests. In addition, after my reference librarian colleagues provided me with information on a number of databases and introduced me to several training opportunities, I’m now working on my third Congressional request.
While the nature of my job specifically, and cataloging in general, can make it difficult to interact with colleagues frequently, there is still opportunity to do so. There are always ways to make your work more visible. It may start simply with exposure to a small group of people or with a minor project. Attending work events provides unique opportunities. Networking and introducing yourself (or having a more connected coworker introduce you) are great ways to get more exposure. Be quick and responsive when someone reaches out to you. Lastly, be prepared to create or suggest mutually beneficial relationships with others in your library or company.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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!
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
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!
The introduction of manholes to student orientation at the University of Warwick Library
I became involved in the “Check it Out!” student orientation programme when the Enquiries Support Officer gave a presentation on the project to other staff. Check It Out sessions were split into two parts: 1. a quick tour of the main facilities, including rules and regulations, lost and found, where to get help, how to use the self issue/return machines; and 2. a screen-based presentation on using the catalogue to find things. The previous year, the presentation was centred around the record for a book called Biochemistry, which was a good, comprehensive and rather dry example of a library record.
I offered to create a bespoke record that would fulfil all the requirements of the presentation (for example, multiple locations and multiple loan types) as well as highlighting the extra functionalities of the catalogue (such as book cover display and citation information, which previously were not demonstrated. This would allow us to create a fun, interesting record that could be introduced to science, arts and social science students, and we could add everything we wanted to talk about to this one record, which could then be suppressed when not needed. In the end, the record was crafted around a real book: Drainspotting: Japanese manhole covers, which provided great scope for humour and subject headings in equal measure. The title was also misleading, allowing opportunity to highlight to students that the title was not the only information contained in the record.
Also included in the session was a serial record, and a brief introduction to electronic resources. This section was based around the New Scientist journal, and was judged suitable for all students.
In support of this presentation, and the tour of facilities that preceded it, I was also involved in creating staff training materials in a variety of formats, so that all staff could present the information consistently, and would have detailed information to fall back on if required. Videos of mock presentations were loaded onto the staff intranet to show other staff members the general procedure (and that presentations did not have to be perfect!)
I also helped to train colleagues to give the presentation and tour to students. 32 members of staff from across all library teams volunteered to deliver sessions and came to the training. Many of the staff training sessions ended with an informal question and answer session that allowed staff to ask questions about the catalogue, staff comments later indicated that it was a great opportunity to hear about the catalogue from a different point of view.
Finally, in the hectic first weeks of term, I also presented to the students themselves. This was the only opportunity over the past year for specialist cataloguers to come into contact with large numbers of library users and it also allowed students to encounter staff they normally wouldn’t see. Feedback from those who attended Check It Out was over 90% positive.
Overall, it was an excellent opportunity to show both users and colleagues the things that we could do with the catalogue, and the huge range of information it contains. It was also a step towards raising the profile of the cataloguing team by getting involved in a large library-wide project.
Before Christmas, we received a document on the role of the cataloguer in the 21st century from Lynne Dyer, Bibliographic Services Team Manager, De Montfort University. We felt it spoke about many of the issues about the current state of the profession and the future for cataloguing and cataloguers, and so we are very pleased to post it on the High Visibility Cataloguing website. Thanks to Lynne for letting us publish it. We would love to hear any thoughts you have about the role of the cataloguer as it is likely to develop so please do add them in the comments.
Lynne wrote the piece a couple of years ago and so has added the following updating information (you might want to go and read the article and come back to this afterwards):
Since this article was written there has been much in the professional press about the changing role of cataloguers, particularly in these economically difficult times. Of especial relevance was the article by David Bennett (2009a), which tackled the idea of seeking new avenues for “back room” staff, and the follow-up blog article (2009b) which concentrated on the marketing of “back room” staff and their activities. In her article Kealy (2009) discusses the importance of identifying skills gaps in her library service with a view to ensuring that all library staff (not just cataloguers) have the skills needed for the future. Further enhancements of the cataloguer’s role are suggested by Meagher and Brown (2009).
The value of social tagging has been the subject of enormous debate, as has the development of new generation OPACs and resource discovery systems, all areas where the expertise of the cataloguers can be tapped into. Electronic resource management, usage statistics, digital preservation and the digitising of educational resources are also areas in which cataloguers can prove use their skills.
More recently, Harris and Carty (2010) have striven to improve the general awareness of what cataloguers can do and how they can help develop library services of the 21st century. Their joint High-Visibility Cataloguing blog (2010) is an attempt to both promote and raise the profile of the role of cataloguers to library staff in general and to encourage cataloguers to emerge from their “back rooms” to help provide a dynamic and valued library service.
1. Bennett, David E. (2009) Where next for the back room? Gazette, 11-24 September, pp. 19
2. Bennett, David E. (2009) Principles of assertive action: how to go about getting what you want. Philoslibris [WWW] David E. Bennett. Available from: http://philoslibris.wordpress.com/ [Accessed: 20 December 2010].
3. Kealy, Karen (2009) Do library staff have what it takes to be a librarian of the future? Library Management, Vol. 30, No. 8/9, pp. 572-582
4. Meagher, Elizabeth S. and Brown, Christopher C. (2009) Turned loose in the OPAC: URL selection, addition, and management process. Library Hi Tech, Vol. 28, Iss. 3, pp. 360 – 376
5. Harris, Venessa and Carty, Celine (2010) Show and tell. Gazette, 2 December, pp. 15
6. Harris, Venessa and Carty, Celine (2010) High visibility cataloguing [WWW] Venessa Harris and Celine Carty. Available from: https://highvisibilitycataloguing.wordpress.com/ [Accessed: 20 December 2010]