Monday, 21 January 2019


Ok, I admit, conversations over the last couple of months have been driving me a bit nuts! Well, lots nuts, if I'm honest!

A recent Tweet asked CILIP followers to say how long they'd been a member of the organisation, and I admit I was a bit shocked to realise I've been on the CILIP books since January 1979 - that's 40 years! How astonishing! And during that 40 years I've witnessed many changes to the profession - some good, some not so good. If you're really that interested you can read about my journey on an earlier blogpost

So, the realisation of the length of time I'd been in the profession, and some conscious changes in the workplace, along with some impromptu conversations led me to throw a bit of a wobbly!

I don't know about you, but over the years I've been aware of a myriad of job titles associated with librarians. Here are just a few examples:

  • Librarian
  • Assistant Librarian
  • Senior Assistant Librarian
  • Library Assistant
  • Subject Librarian
  • Information Librarian
  • Liaison Librarian
  • Faculty Librarian
  • Academic Librarian
  • Repository Librarian
  • Systems Librarian

And then there are other roles that don't include the term "librarian", like:

  • Resource Centre Manager
  • Library Director
  • Team Manager
  • Information Assistant
  • Information Professional
  • Knowledge Worker/Manager
  • Metadata Specialist

Oh, and not forgetting Cataloguers!

Now, what my recent conversations and discoveries have revealed is that if we don't have the word "Librarian" in our job title then other people do not consider us to be librarians. Hmmmm ...

Part of the role of a cataloguer is also to classify resources. The classification scheme I'm most familiar with is DDC (although I've certainly used UDC, LC, NLM and BLISS) which is an hierarchical scheme where the top-level topic is sub-divided into more specific topics. I'm probably not explaining this very well, but then since you, my readers, are likely to be cataloguers, I don't really need to explain!!!

Anyway, the point is that to exclude a group of people from the top-level description "librarian" because they do not include the word in their job title is to misunderstand the range and breadth of knowledge, skills and experience that comes with the job. Exclusions from the "club" can also lead to alienation, disenfranchisement and strained relationships. 

You might argue that the term "librarian" is a little out-dated, but in my experience this is still a term that is widely applied and understood by people outside the profession. That people within the profession are hazy about whether or not someone qualifies to be labelled (for that is what the term is, a label) as a librarian is a bit worrying.

I have in my head a hierarchy which begins with Librarian, and then subdivides into all those terms I've mentioned above. This, of course, might not suit, and might indeed upset those people who would not think of themselves as librarians, but I myself take umbrage at not being considered by others to be a librarian first and a specialist librarian second. 

For my part, I  consider myself a librarian, albeit a librarian with a specific set of skills honed over a long career. I joined the librarianship profession for many reasons, not least because I saw it as my way of helping people, of sharing with people, and an opportunity to carry on learning with people. The fact that I went down the cataloguing route makes me no less a librarian than any other person in the profession. I am proud to call myself a cataloguer and I am proud that alongside my specialism I have continued to develop my "readers advisory"/"reference interview" skills (20th century terms!), and my UX skills (21st century terms!), and have embraced the technology that comes with all areas of our work.

So the next time you meet new folk and they ask you what you do (when really what they want to ask is "Who are you?" "What makes you tick?") will you be a librarian or a cataloguer? 

I do hope in explaining how I see myself in the profession that I haven't offended anyone along the way!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

It started with a move ...

... never thought it would come to this!! A rare blog post on, ummmm, cataloguing, well, librarianship, and all things related!

Many years ago our cataloguing team were based in the library, until we were moved out to a nearby building: for the life of me I can't remember why, especially as I was on maternity leave at the time of the move. I do remember being told it was only for a year or so ...

9 years later we moved back into the library. It took us about 3 months of discussions, floor plans, moving desk / drawer / cupboard icons on bits of paper, before we came up with a workable office layout for our new office - in the basement of the library. What? Well, where else would you expect to find a cataloguing team?! Once we were installed, we made the space work or us and our processes. After a couple of years, we did some subtle move arounds when our "sister" team moved out. And it's stayed like this for quite some time. 

During our time in the basement, and as a result of many other things (including, but not exclusively, the HVCats initiative, the preparation for the coming of RDA, the move from OPACs to discovery systems) it became [even more] apparent that few colleagues actually  knew or understood what happened in a cataloguing department, and for cataloguers themselves, it was felt that the role was changing somewhat. Even when we were based in that other building, we realised the importance of promoting ourselves and our work, and so we initiated the Open Morning series of events which are still on-going today.

Our first foray into Open Mornings was a huge learning curve. It attracted a huge audience, and we found that some of our work was so complex that it took far longer to explain and do it justice than we had allowed for. To overcome this issue, subsequent events were themed, and the topics reduced, or targetted. Participants on our Open Mornings are always treated to something different: so in 2013 everyone received a party bag and copies of the READ-ability Initiative and PIC Project leaflets, whilst at the last event attendees received a #delaytheonsetofdementia -related item and swanky updated versions of READ-ability and PIC. Not sure what will the next event will bring, yet!!!

Where am I going with this? Ah, yes, to another building! Yes, cataloguing are again moving to another building, but this time we are in the good company of many other library colleagues. Open Mornings will take a different approach as some of our operations are split over two floors of the new building, and also in the library. Interesting times, as they say!

Interesting times also, happening over at the CILIP Conference. I must admit, I've surprised myself by feeling a tinge of envy of those who are in attendance. In truth, I haven't been to a full CILIP conference since about 2001, in Manchester (not a particularly easy place to get to), and I had great fun. I have more recently been to a couple of CIG conference (which I have to admit, were even more fun!!!) and had a thoroughly great time, but in all honesty, I haven't actually done much cataloguing since those exciting days when we moved to RDA. 

When looking at this year's CILIP conference programme, I must admit, my out-of-work activities (gosh, that sounds awful!!! but what I mean is mostly my local history stuff - being on the committee of the Loughborough Archaeological and Historical Society, an Honorary Member of the Loughborough Library Local Studies Volunteers, a local tour guide, blogging weekly about Loughborough, writing a book - as well as trying to keep reasonably fit, etc., etc., etc.) seemed to be occupying much of my mind and my time, and I really thought I was feeling less committed to the profession than I had been, but on reflection, I've found this really isn't the case! 

Yes, the fact that we're moving to another building, changing our working practices (you'll be surprised to learn that we are finally going to go shelf-ready - and you'll be surprised we already aren't!), yes, we are finally doing away with bits of coloured paper, and we're taking on new services etc. have all been occupying my work time, as well as following discussions on RDA and other library-wide issues, so I am committed, and would probably still get a lot out of the CILIP conference, despite the slow, relentless crawl towards retirement! I still have much to learn (whoever stops learning??), but I hope I still have a little bit to offer the profession.

Talking of "little", according to my Twitter replies, a good boss is bossy and contrary, as well as being determined, wise and kind! I'm hoping this describes me, but feel I need to add the following little miss-tree:


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Librarians, cataloguers and stereotypes

Hello - again! Only a week after delivering my last post to you, I am here again. And, I have to admit, I am feeling passionate. "Eh?" I hear you cry! "Passionate? But you're a librarian, you're neither passionate nor energetic, but rather, retiring and quiet" - apparently.

"Ah", say I, "I think you have me confused with that stereotypical, nay, mythical librarian". For, there is no such thing as a stereotype, as we are all unique, and if you are still living with stereotypes then you are at best deluded, at worst guilty of discriminatory beliefs. 

So what's this all about, you might ask. Well, I'll tell you.

I've just read an article in the THES regarding careers advice to librarians, which is itself a review of a report produced by Sconul - "Leading Libraries". The subtitle (stay with me, I'm a cataloguer!) of this report is enlightening, if not significant: "The view from above", for the aim of this report is to illuminate the path to a senior management position within higher education for librarians, which it is expected is the holy grail for librarians, but in many cases remains elusive.

The 62-page report makes for interesting reading, being almost like a collective 360 degree feedback on how librarians are perceived by those folk already in more senior positions in HE. I've no doubt the aims of the Sconul "Leadership Task and Finish Group" 
"to develop a range of initiatives to enhance the collective leadership capacity across SCONUL and to support individuals and groups of staff in member institutions in their leadership development"
are admirable, and perhaps I'm overreacting (having never had the opportunity to take part in a 360 degree process) but I find some of the comments provided to the Task and Finish Group by "senior members of the executive of a range of [UK] universities" a bit hard to swallow. 

As the THES report suggests:
"Rightly or wrongly, many senior managers seemed to buy into traditional stereotypes about librarians ..."
Too darn right this is "wrongly"! Senior members of UK universities suggest it's up to librarians themselves to disprove this stereotype, but I believe that in a 21st century society which advocates for equality, diversity and tolerance, the onus should be on the stereotype believer to operate more objectively, or at the very least a meeting of minds in the middle would be preferable. Hence my blogpost ...

Let's be clear here that the profession is somewhat female-dominated, at least in the hierarchy below senior management level, and there have traditionally been many barriers to such progression. Hazel Hall, in an article published on 9th May 2017, reports on the Chartered Institute of Libraries and Information Professionals (CILIP) and the Archives & Records Association (ARA) Workforce Mapping Project, reveals that:

* nearly 97% of library and information professionals are white, 
* over 78% are female, 
* men in the profession earn more than women, 
* there are more men in senior management roles,
* and 55% of the people in the profession are over 45 

So, given these figures, it is possible that the white, male, senior manager, aged 45+ might be able to crash through the library bookcases and launch themselves into a career as a senior manager in HE. However, should he be unfortunate enough to fit the perceived stereotype of a library and information professional then his chances of tearing up the covers and pages of the book, and turning them into something else are slim.

There is much in this Sconul report that is laudable, much that is common sense, much that is applicable to a person in any profession wishing to progress their career, and it is organised into helpful sections, supported by quotes from those senior executive members, and it's mostly good stuff. However, there are some things that are almost offensive.

In relation to ambition, here's one quote:
"Be able to show passion and energy rather than the stereotype retiring and quiet profile"
This raises a couple of eyebrows: one that says there is a place for the quiet and retiring profile in any organisation and at any level, for they are the ones whose words are most insightful because they [those words] are rare and well-considered; the other that says all librarians are retiring and quiet, which, in my experience is most certainly not true. 

So the stereotypical librarian is quiet and retiring, but as one quote from the section entitled: "The librarian within the institution", and suggesting that significant opportunities for reinvention were around, says, the lot of the cataloguer is that they are not only quiet and retiring, but also never "go with it" and never capitalise on opportunities. Which in my world of cataloguing is utter nonsense! I, as a cataloguer, am always looking for opportunities for myself, for my team, for the library and for our students. I simply don't understand the comment.

And in the same section, we [cataloguers] are encouraged to put ourselves out there and raise ourselves 'above the parapet' - like we hide behind the library shelves, or something! Coming up with creative and innovative solutions also requires the same parapet activity. Oh c'mon! Librarians, including cataloguers, are renowned for their creative and innovative solutions and interpretations - there are hundreds of examples of this out there on the internet, available for all to share including Clare Sewell on Research Data Management for postgrad students and other researchers, Kaye Towlson & Julia Reeve over at Writing Pad East Midlands aimed at engaging students and researchers with their assignments, and creative training methods for new cataloguers over at HVCats - ok, I'll give you that, that last one's a bit cataloguing-specific, but if such creativity works in this situation, it's likely to work in other areas of HE.  

Following these excellent examples, let's end on a really positive note: 
" ... some library-related skills and strengths ... [are] ... useful ... Analytical approaches are valuable ... " 
Fantastic!! A skill I particularly associate with cataloguers and others involved in operational processes. 

Having commented upon some of those things that I found difficult, I concede I am at least grateful that someone in a senior management position in HE knew that cataloguers actually existed!

Reisz, M. (2017) Career advice: librarians 'must defy stereotypes' to climb ladder. [Online] London: Times Higher Education. Available from: [Accessed: 6 November 2017]

Baker, D. & Allden, A. (2017) Leading Libraries: the view from above. [Online] London: SCONUL. Available from: [Accessed: 6 November 2017]

Hall, Hazel (2017) Diversity and Equality in libraries: as services, as workplaces. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 6 November 2017]

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Ethics and cataloguing

Application of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)
to metadata associated with items in library stock

In September 2014 I was lucky enough to attend the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group conference entitled: "Metadata: making an impact", at which Ruth Jenkins delivered a lightning talk "Improving subject-based metadata for LGBTQ related young adult books." At the time this was an interesting view on an area that, to my knowledge  had received little previous discussion [do let me know if you know otherwise], and was perhaps suggesting that young adults might benefit from being more easily able to discover resources that might reflect their own life experiences.  

In September 2017 the ALCTS ran an eforum entitled: “Power that is moral: cataloguing and ethics”, which was based on a session discussing cataloguing ethics at the ALA Annual Conference in June 2017. The ALA Code of Ethics was created in 1994, and ALCTS created a specific code for their members in the same year.

Up for discussion was the widespread use of LCSH in cataloguing records, how these terms are based on a Western code of ethics, and how appropriate, or otherwise, their usage is today, particularly in relation to equality.

Following up on this discussion I discovered an article about a small group of students in the US who felt that the use of the LCSH “Illegal aliens” was inappropriate. They got together with library and information professionals and were successful in persuading Library of Congress to withdraw the use of the term.

So, this term is no longer recognised in the up-to-date LC database, however, as with any changes to cataloguing and classification standards, there remains the problem of legacy records – records already in a system, which retain the use of out-of-date practices. The dilemma for most under-resourced cataloguing departments is, do we spend time amending our metadata retrospectively, and if so, how much time can we afford to divert from the cataloguing and classification of new stock. Certainly here at DMU, our previous approach has been to accept that there will always be a quantity of metadata that is outdated.

However, there are times when evidence of past practices need to be eradicated: this is one of those times.

With a view to improving our cataloguing and classification practices to better reflect current thinking and provide better access to our resources for our customers, a search was performed on the library catalogue using the term “Illegal aliens”. This search produced a disappointing 12 results, disappointing because the outcome was greater than zero.

Delving slightly deeper into the catalogue revealed that the term “Illegal aliens” was picked up by the search as it appeared as an LCSH, and as a result of these search results, cataloguers began to investigate and amend the use of this particular LCSH.

The consideration of this particular LCSH is the start of a bigger project to look at the application of subject headings more broadly, particularly in relation to equality, whilst at the same time allowing for those involved in the academic study of a discipline to still be able to identify relevant resources easily. 

Friday, 5 May 2017

Building trust

Well, here I am back at the blog posts again, and managing to make it back within the 18 months I mentioned on my previous post about communication!

During the past 15 months, there have been many blog posts written - mostly in my head, but one or two have made it to draft form on here, but none have actually seen the light of publication! I'm sorry about that! I'm sure you've not missed my ramblings, but I'm genuinely disappointed in myself for not making the time to share my cataloguing thoughts with you, although in reality there haven't been many thoughts about the act of cataloguing, nor about RDA, nor hardly about the future of cataloguing, as I've been distracted by so many other things recently!

So, I've just read a call for papers for a local conference, the topic of which is centred around that of trust. An interesting topic, which I believe is relevant to all of us, which made me think about my own approach to building trust. I don't think it's something I consciously do. It's a bit like my approach to communication I was telling you about in the last blog post - something that is such an integral part of me, and the way I think and operate, that I simply automatically live by these rules - if you want to call them rules!

I could not talk at a conference for 40 minutes on the subject of building trust, because I only have six golden rules that I try to live by, so that would probably only take about six seconds!!! For what it's worth, here they are:

Always put other people first

I suppose this is actually about supporting people, in whatever way I can. For me, life is about human relationships, and it's those relationships that build the world. There is simply enormous satisfaction to be had from supporting people to develop and achieve, to grow and to succeed, and being effective at supporting them helps to initiate and cement trust.

Make time to listen to people

People are invariably most interesting to listen to. Each of us is unique, we've all had different experiences, and we all have so much to share and to learn from each other, that to not listen to others would mean missing out on so much. Listening to others, and being interested in them helps to develop trust - both ways.

Never promise more than you know you can deliver

Bit of a customer service mantra, this one, really, but I think it applies in many situations where people are involved! I guess it's about managing people's expectations, so they are not left disappointed, angry or sad, as such negative emotions can lead to a breaking down of any trust that has been built up - and it sure is a difficult hill to re-climb.

Always deliver what you say you will

Yes, agreed, this one sounds rather like the previous one, but it is subtly different in emphasis. So, you've not promised things that are not within your gift, but equally, you won't let anything get in the way of the things you have agreed to deliver, so you can keep that promise.

Never bitch or gossip

Eek, I didn't much like writing either of those two words, but it is so very important not to be drawn into the grapevine, the rumour machine, the office politics. It would be easy to do, but quite catastrophic for a relationship with work colleagues. If people tell you something in confidence, don't be the one to break that confidence by sharing with others - at least, not unless there are lives at stake - and never let yourself be drawn into judgmental conversations about colleagues.

Show people you're human

The place for being the real you is at home, with your loved ones, who accept you for exactly who you are, warts and all, as a friend of mine used to say! But, there is absolutely no harm done, and probably lots to be gained, by showing yourself to be human at work, now and again. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that one should show one's vulnerability at every opportunity (if indeed one was that vulnerable), but occasionally it's good for people to understand that we're all people, and we're all in this together, and a little bit of trust and support goes a long way.

So, that's my thoughts on building trust. As ever I'd be pleased to hear your views, and what you do to build trust between yourself and others, after all, we're all different and all have our unique ways of doing things.
See you next time!

Thursday, 11 February 2016


I don't know about you, but I often engage in distraction activities!! Today I have been trying to focus my thinking on project management, ahead of the CIG e-forum tomorrow, but I find I've been side-tracked into thinking about communication in general. 

So, realising I hadn't blogged for well over a year (well, that's not true, I have blogged weekly over at lynneaboutloughborough, I just haven't blogged here recently), I thought I'd share my thoughts about communication with you. And then, whilst looking through my list of blogs, trying to find bloggingcataloguing, I found one of my others (threebooksinalibrary) and got engrossed in reading some of the posts on that, and realised that that particular blog was probably the one to use for sharing aspects of my life unrelated to my cataloguing work and my tour guiding (à la findingursula).

But, back to communication ...

For me, life is all about relationships with others. In order for those relationships to work properly, I need to communicate, regularly and in different ways. I suppose, thinking about it, I have a number of, well, rules I guess, that I try and live by, particularly when I'm engaged in face2face communication with people. As I said, these are my rules, and are very personal to me, but you might be interested to know what they are:

Never make assumptions about anything - don't assume that people know what you're talking about, why you're talking about it, why you're talking about it now, why you're talking to them about it, nor that they will feel the same way as you do about it ...

Never talk in riddles - for me, this includes colloquialisms, adages, idioms, metaphors, abbreviations, acronyms, management-speak etc.. Obviously, there are some exceptions I would apply, so, for example, I would use RDA in conversation with my cataloguers because I know they know what this means, but in conversation with other library colleagues I might simply say "the standard that governs the way we catalogue". Of course, by applying this idea to my own communication, it often turns into "Lynne-speak" which is probably off-putting for others, and can mean that I will go into minute detail, giving far too much background information! My personal experience of hearing phrases that seem to be in regular use is usually one of embarrassment because I might have a vague idea of what it means, but not a complete idea, which means I have to ask. While for me it might be mildly embarrassing, for someone with less confidence (gosh, are there really such people out there?!) asking for clarification would not be an option, and as a result, the meaning of the communication could be lost. 

Never use, and certainly never accept, "you know" - for me, this is like the "um ..." in a presentation - a simple expression that might tell the listener a lot (or, at least, can lead the listener to jump to conclusions and make certain assumptions). If people use this phrase when talking to me, they're likely to hear "hang on a minute, no, I don't know: have you got time to explain it to me in more detail so I can understand more" - or something similar!

Always communicate more than you think you need to, whilst at the same time avoiding overload - there are times when it's really important to communicate regularly for a while, for example, at a time of change (err, so that's all the time then!), or during the lifespan of a project. Other regular communications could be a staff newsletter, or updating service, and, in my opinion, such communications should appear on same day/time each week/month etc. so that people will come to expect it receive it and look forward to it. And, there absolutely those times when communication needn't be regular, and can probably be more effective because they are unexpected.

Hope you have enjoyed my very personal, unofficial, probably wacky ideas on communication!

See you back here soon - well sooner than 18 months, I hope!       

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Metadata - Making an Impact, CILIP CIG conference

CILIP Cataloguing & Indexing Group Conference 2014

Metadata - making an impact

Certainly made an impression on me!
I am very conscious that I haven’t blogged about cataloguing for over 6 months now, which does disappoint me somewhat. My only excuse is that I’ve been rather busy blogging weekly over at lynneaboutloughborough, and since the beginning of April I’ve added the role of part-time Team Manager for Service Development and Delivery (User Experience) to my existing part-time Team Manager of Bib Services role, and as we know, two halves make more than a whole, so time to blog has been in short supply.

However, the Cataloguing and Indexing Group conferences are always so inspirational – and this year’s (2014) is no exception – so it’s well worth me taking the time to blog about it, so here goes …

This was my fourth CIG conference: I dipped my toe in the waters way back in 2000 when the conference was held in Hereford, but found the lure of small children (aged 8, 6 and 3 at that time) was too great for me to take in much of the conference content. Time, as they say, flies, and it wasn’t until 2010 that I was able to make it to another conference, but I sure am glad I did! It was inspiring: It was beyond inspiring!! The people, the conference content, even the location was inspiring and eye-opening, even though being away from home for the first time in yonks was rather daunting (and, if I’m honest, I’m still not hugely keen on being away from my family). The 2012 conference was no less inspiring, and despite RDA looming overhead (and the knowledge that our OPAC would not be able to cope with changes to fields) I managed to take away such a lot from that conference, so much so that I ended up with a huge “to do” list, and am still, today, working towards achieving some of those things!

To 2014! As ever, the conference was well-attended, the programme interesting and varied and the location excellent! More than 70 cataloguers, librarians and a variety of other information professionals gathered at the University of Canterbury for three days of intense debate and discussion around the cataloguing and related issues of the day.
The university library extension

If there was ever any doubt about the contribution and impact that cataloguers, metadata specialists, or whatever you wish to call people who work in this area of our profession, make to the overall experience of the library user, then this doubt was completed expunged by the talks that were presented and the discussion that were had at this CIG conference, entitled: “Metadata – Making an Impact”. This three-day event, taking place on the beautiful campus of Canterbury University, was divided into four themes:
1.      Impact of Metadata Standards

2.      Impact on the Organisation

3.      Impact of Metadata on Users

4.      Impact of Metadata Professionals

and the presentations within these themes were a mixture of full-length papers, and shorter, lightning talks, with a selection of poster sessions on the afternoon of the 2nd day. The hard work of participating in the conference was punctuated by the fun quiz on the first night, the conference dinner on the second, and a choice of activities on the final afternoon, including a demo of RIMMF, a visit to the University Archive to see the British Cartoon Archive, and a visit to Canterbury Cathedral Library.

Attendees came from all walks of library life – academic libraries, National libraries, public libraries and special libraries – and also included suppliers of services to libraries. This meant that there were opportunities to network with colleagues from many backgrounds during the breaks – and boy, did we network, well, I certainly did, having chatted with almost exactly half of the people who came along!

To review each of the presentations in this blogpost would be too ambitious: It would make for a very long read, and my time is limited. So, I shall try and pick out what were the highlights of the conference for me: These may well be different from your own highlights, so I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences too! I believe presenters’ own write-ups of their presentations will be appearing in an issue of Catalogue & Index, later this year.

1.      Impact of Metadata Standards

So, we were worried about the impact of RDA on our work. We spent many hours reading and learning about it, discussing it and being trained in it, and now we’ve adopted it. So just when you thought it was safe to come look out from your RDA bib record, along comes something else to scare you: BIBFRAME (and just in case you thought I was shouting, I’m not really, this is how the phrase appears on LoC website (amongst others)).

Thomas Meehan, from UCL went out of his way to explain to us exactly what BIBFRAME is and to put our minds at rest and reassure us that it really isn’t as complicated as we might have thought! I love the idea of triplets, for it appeals to my musical inclination, but I also love the idea of linked data and all the opportunities that this brings to our world. It was announced at the conference that Thomas was the well-deserved recipient of the Alan Jeffreys Award for his fantastic work on demystifying linked data. Follow these links for a very basic description of BIBFRAME and for a more detailed introduction to the concept and its applications.

Chris Biggs from the OU talked to us about the challenges that were faced when trying to combine metadata from many different sources to create the OU Digital Archive (OUDA). His description of adding various fields to MARC records struck a chord with me, and it was somehow a relief to know that I am not alone!

The focus of the next two talks was on RDA: Great to hear that there are moves afoot to simplify the standard!!!

2.      Impact on the Organisation 

Gosh, who’d ever have believed all the work that goes on behind the scenes of television screens! Listening to Laura Williams, we learned that the metadata managers at the BBC certainly have their work cut out in making sure that every little bit of filming is easily retrievable, because you just never know when someone might want it! And the very idea of persuading other, non-metadata, staff to provide good quality metadata in the first instance is simply admirable!

Your library service may well contribute your serials holdings to SUNCAT, but did you realise how much work goes on to get your data into a suitable format for sharing?! I know I certainly didn’t, and, if I’m honest, I’m somewhat ashamed, listening to Natasha Aburrow-Jones, of what little attention our serial records actually get. They deserve more: Metadata matters. Food for thought for me.

As cataloguers we all want to get it just right, but I’m sure none of us are under such pressure as Arwen Caddy to get it right first time: As soon as she and her team have created a record it is locked down, and can never be edited!  I don’t know about you, but in my cataloguing team there is a certain degree of checking of work that goes on: Hopefully, there is not (and I’m sure there isn’t!) a culture of “it’s ok to make mistakes as they’ll be picked up later” but rather a desire to ensure we also get it right first time! 

Before the start of sessions pertaining to the third theme of the conference, there was a panel discussion on e-book metadata. As you might imagine, there were many chestnuts here, old and new, including use of ISBNs and eISBNs, overwriting of records, de-duping, the repeated 020 field and $z, and the use of 035, 040 and 590! The overall messages were: Analyse feedback from users; and we need to shout louder!!

3.      Impact of Metadata on Users

In a fit of pique I recently deleted my own Pinterest account, but learning from Claire Sewell about the use Cambridge libraries make of Pinterest, I now wish I hadn’t. Well, actually, maybe now would be a good time to create an account for my own library, or even hook into our institutional account?  Claire has also produced a Storify of the conference.

Ruth Jenkins gave us an absolutely fascinating talk on her analysis of the use of LCSH and social tagging to help in the retrieval of sources based around LGBTQ issues – so, perhaps novels aimed at the teenage market, where the central character is lesbian. There is so much that can be learned from reading about people’s experiences, but this can only be done if the reading material can be easily retrieved in the first place. C’mon cataloguers: We have a responsibility here, to be inclusive!

We may think all our library systems work just fine together, but what does a real researcher make of them? Anne Welsh described the many frustrations she found, particularly with output from our catalogue to our referencing software, whilst she was researching for her PhD. Words I would use to describe Anne’s experience are: Gobsmacking; Shocking; Probably preventable! Anne questioned the validity of feedback from users: How do we know how representative those views are? [And I’d add, particularly when those views come from a tiny proportion of our users.] She asks, do we know what users are actually doing or trying to achieve when they sit staring at a screen? Probably not, but shouldn’t we?

Anne’s presentation was a hard act to follow - brilliant content, fantastic use of pictures: I thought I’d blogged about our PIC Project, but on looking for the link I find I have made reference to it, but never actually written the post! How disgraceful! So, very briefly, our Protecting the Integrity of the Catalogue Project was about ensuring that our catalogue accurately reflected what was on our library shelves, and what we had access to. Activities undertaken that helped to PIC included stockchecking, physical re-classification, withdrawing, binding, repairs, relocations etc..

There followed the poster session. This was held just outside the lecture room, and quite frankly, I was staggered and so envious of the creations, which were just soooo visual. I’m afraid I didn’t take any photos, so I’ll just list the titles of the posters from the conference programme:

o       Using metadata from the Institutional Repository for the REF submissions

o       Metadata quality checking: Integration of workflows in relation to reading list software

o       The impact of reclassification

o       Changing positions: New roles making an impact

o       The impact of RDA in Cambridge

4.      Impact of Metadata Professionals

If you’re using RDA at the moment it’s likely that you learned this after having been trained to use AACR. But what of those folk new to cataloguing who are starting their cataloguing careers, and RDA is their first encounter with a cataloguing standard – digital RDAers, perhaps? Deborah Lee set about analysing results from her experience of training of two, new cataloguers in using RDA: How much training was needed? How did this training differ from training that had previously been offered? Some useful conclusions shared, and definitely something to think about when embarking on training for new cataloguers.

My best attempt at being visual!
So, mentions of the READ-ability Initiative abound on my blog, but I realise I never got round to sharing the whole thing! Record Enhancement to Aid Discoverability was about improving LCSH, authorising name headings, re-classifying, separating e-books from their hard copy records, submitting bib records to the institutional repository, and acting upon Typos of the Day!

I have written phrases in my notebook like: “rigorous application of project management methodology”; “appetite for appropriately managed risk”, but I can’t do justice, in this short blogpost, to the talk given by the Chair of CIG, Robin Armstrong-Viner, in which he wowed us all with his complete turnaround of backlogs of incoming stock, changing the way this was handled. With the systematic introduction and application of project management skills (and a generous supply of money) the work of the metadata department has become a shining example of what can be achieved.

The theme of project management was continued by Celine Carty, who explained how she had applied the principles of project management at Cambridge. She stressed the importance of communication , especially with staff involved in doing work towards the project, particularly if they were unsure of the benefits.

The final speakers of the conference were from the university of Canterbury. Josie Caplehorne and Clair Waller who explained how they had come from different library backgrounds to work at the university and how their new role as metadata assistants was both challenging and rewarding.  For me, this was a very uplifting and positive end to the conference.

It would be totally out of character for me not to apologise, so, having avoided the temptation at the beginning of this article, I will do so now: Please accept my apologies if you feel I have not done justice to your presentation: This is entirely my own failing, partly because my capacity for actually writing notes for the duration of the conference was not as great as in previous years, and the delay in me writing up those notes has meant that some hieroglyphics that made perfect sense at the time, are now completely unfathomable!

My final activity of the conference was a visit to Canterbury Cathedral Library where we were treated to some really choice items! Look, but don’t touch was very much the order of the day, and we did! We peered through the glass with awe at the collections of material the librarian had kindly unearthed for us: And were thrilled to be able to touch some of the bookcases that so very, very old! Many thank to CIG for organising this visit, and to the cathedral librarian for taking the trouble to show such a large group of us around!

As I stepped out of the cathedral into the busy town of Canterbury, a plan formed in my mind: A cataloguing plan? Well, yes, but also a plan to re-visit Canterbury as a tourist rather than a conference-goer!

Looking forward to CIG16 – wherever that may be!