Monday, 31 January 2011

Cataloguing backlogs!

As promised, a discussion on cataloguing backlogs - and what cataloguing department can say they haven't got one, or they've never had one?!

And, what's in a name? What is a "backlog"? Does it change its spots if it's called a "throughput", or a "work in progress"?

What is definite is that if you have one you're sure to know about it, and if you don't acknowledge it, public services / reader services staff will be sure to let you know! The other certainty is that if you don't take positive action, your backlog will never diminsh! If you want some courage to grab the bull by the horns, give this true life story a read!

Hoping this helps you and your backlog!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Yes, we use coloured slips of paper!

Below is an explanation of our use of coloured slips!

Check back on Monday for discussion of "backlogs"!

In our cataloguing processes we are guilty of using coloured "progress" slips in each of our incoming new titles! Numerous reasons, but whether or not they're justified, I'm not sure!

Each month's incoming stock is allocated a different coloured slip. These are produced from a word processed template and literally take seconds to print out and guillotine (3 slips per A4 page). At the point of receipt, each title is given a slip. Each slip includes space for ISBN, date of receipt, date of cat/class, date of input, date of processing, date of tagging, and date of departure from the office.

Here's the main reasons for using slips:

Easy retrieval
  • If there is a backlog, it is easier to find requested items if you know what coloured slip you are looking for, and can then pin down the item through its receipt date - which is always at the very top of the slip
  • The exact stage in the process an item has reached can be easily identified
Recording information

  • Because the team is quite large, the receipt/cat/class/processing is split up into its component part. So, the cataloguer (who deals only with bib records and doesn't input local information into the LMS) uses the slip to list possible classification numbers and to record their final choice of number so the library assistants know what number and filing suffix to put into the libaray management system
Quality checking
  • At the checking stage before the items are dispatched to the library a visual check of the slip can identify any processes that may have been missed
  • Any problems identified in the last check are noted on the back of the slip and an analysis made, so that problems can be nipped in the bud before they become regular errors
Are we using our time to the best advantage? How better could we execute our processes?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Day in the life of a librarian - 6

Day in the life of a librarian – 6

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Car parking space got – not in main car park but better than the long walk!

Immediate discussions on processing of donations going into special collections. Emails checked and answered, but still awaiting some replies. Twitter checked – yet another new follower!

Just checking out some detail for a meeting in early Feb. Agenda now arrived so can book train tickets. Also reading up the notes for our discovery system so I can ask some sensible questions when the supplier comes to visit later today.

More discussions on staffing for vacancies and organising our special collections area.

Off to a meeting to discuss resource discovery – could be gone a while!

Very good meeting, lots of questions and surprisingly quite a few answers! Need to keep an eye on the staff and the workflow – can’t have people stressing out about stuff.

Off for a lunchtime walk.

Sad to read whilst out at lunchtime, about the closure of local museums

Final ADR signed off, and copied for the staff files. More leave cards signed! Staff development session for a member of the team agreed and signed. Highlighted a email from UKBIBS about ISNI to read later whilst on the enquiry desk. Of course, Murphy’s law says that I will be inundated with enquiries and there will be no time to catch up on reading!

Brief foray (well, 45 minutes – I don’t know of that’s brief or not really) into the library to do some safety sampling. Thrown up some interesting things to report back to our safety co-ordinator.

Just making a cup of tea before going upstairs to do 2 hours on the enquiry desk.

Seems fairly quiet up here. Yup, just one or two enquiries, nothing too taxing. Writing up the notes from the safety sampling. Taken 45 minutes (is that just a coincidence?) Oops, can’t save it, need my USB! A quick run downstairs for my pink heart-shaped USB. Document now saved and emailed to the safety co-ordinator – and to my boss just in case he wonders what I’ve been up to!

Tricky enquiry heading this way! Oh goody, evening desk person has just arrived, so he can have this one!

Off for tea now.

Refreshed and raring to go again! Lots more updating of the cataloguers’ wiki and email to boss about making use of stuff learned at the various mashlibs there have been!

Now contemplating the merger of two of our faculties. Hoping that hole left by our senior assistant librarian (acquisitions) will be filled quickly so I don’t have to think too much about fund codes and budget allocations!

Now wondering if you can add hyperlinks to words in an email message like you can with blogs and wikis – off to have a look!

Ah ha, it seems you can, although it’s not quite so simple. Anyway, that does mean I can now stop adding all these long blue lines, and make real text into hyperlinks instead! Odd why I never seem to receive any in this format …

Final thought for the day: Am I really a cataloguer since I seem to have done no cataloguing whatsoever so far this year!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Day in the life of a librarian - 6

Week in the life of a librarian – 6

Tuesday 25 January 2010

Didn’t bother trying to park in the uni car park, so went straight to the nearest street. Thrilled to get into work on time (9.30) – well actually, a few minutes early.

Am Duty Manager on a Tuesday morning so managed to pick up the pager early from the person who has it until I get here! Have a meeting 10.30-12 so hope it doesn’t go off!

Brief discussion with boss about invoice payments. Double-checked that I really had completed all my ADRs – which I have, so I can stop worrying about it. Rather nice, reassuring email arrived from on high to say I was not on their hit-list for being tardy with ADRs.

Email in-box checked for overnight messages – mostly from peanut butter to say the librarian’s day 6 wiki had changed! There were one or two real ones that required action though.

Just checking Twitter now, before meeting at 10.30. Ah, Laurel Tarulli has just reminded me about Yammer; although I found it rather useful when it first came out, I find I rarely use it these days. Made one or two unrelated to #libday6 tweets, now thinking about imminent meeting to discuss resource discovery. Looked at this again last night before I went home. Throws up some interesting questions.

Gosh, 11.50 already! Meeting done and dusted, morphed into discussion on staffing levels etc.. Tea time now.

Sent out a few emails and replied to some others. Interested to see that CILIP is targeting me for a moving on in MARC course; if I get a chance to do any cataloguing these days it’s a miracle – either that or our backlog has returned!

Being indecisive about what to tackle next! Looking at Yahoo Pipes (been meaning to since the very first mashlib ages ago) but it looks a bit beyond me at the moment. Just investigating netvibes (yes, I know I’m behind the times!) Seems to be rather similar to iGoogle which I confess I’ve been using for many years! Do I want to create yet another place for me to look for things of interest, considering I’m already overwhelmed?!

Someone’s brought in some lovely homemade cakes for their birthday. Usually we have a lethal bread knife lying around on the processing table for the day, but today the cakes have already been sliced, so I can stop worrying about health and safety! Oh, well, actually, that’s reminded me, as safety manager for most of the lower ground floor I am supposed to start safety sampling this month. Now, where’s the checklist? Hmmmm. Check shelves are safe; check staff are lifting correctly; check fire escapes are clear of inspections; are there any trailing cables; and the list goes on … Can’t really do it now as still have the duty manager pager, and the list is so long I don’t think it’ll get done today as I finish at 2pm. One for tomorrow then, otherwise it’ll be Feb and the next one will be due!

A thought just popped into my head – gosh, it must have been lonely! I should go on a typing course; I wonder how many words I actually spell wrongly (mostly because my fingers don’t work in the right order) and my computer automatically puts them right?

Oh, my 6 book reading challenge diary has just come through the internal post! Can I read 6 books in the 5 months that have been allocated? I’m not a great reader, and certainly not a reader of the great authors, but last year’s reading average was about 3 books a month, so I should achieve this. Will have to fit it in around the big cross stitching project I have on the go for Mother’s 70th birthday, and the course I’m doing for work (although I’ve paid for that myself and am doing it in my own time)!

Another discussion, this time about the progress of the cataloguing, classification and processing of a large collection of donated material going into our newly formed special collections area. Balance between getting these done and accessible to users, and maintaining the flow of new stock coming in, as well as ensuring that colleagues who are carrying vacancies are also being helped out. What with new services to develop as well, things are quite busy here!

Oh, I just got some thoughts on Pity I didn’t manage to get my referencing right though! Librarian? Not A-Z? what was I thinking? Well, it was the run up to Christmas and I have to say I was absolutely shattered – too many children’s Christmas concerts, illnesses, work stresses etc.. Still, no excuse really. Humble apologies to all.

Humble apologies accompanied by rumbling tummies – off to get my lunch.

Yesterday’s stats were gratefully received by our facilities officer. We have a big move around coming in the summer, including the assimilation of a collection from a site which is closing, so figures on which class number areas are growing the most quickly could be handy to know.

Tomorrow looks like being a busy day – meeting with resource discovery supplier, enquiry desk session and loads of links to add to the cataloguers’ wiki! See you then!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Week in the life of a librarian - 6

Day 1 – Monday 24 January 2011

Not a good night, very little sleep. Taking a headache to work with me.

Arrived late to work as no room in the university car park for me, and as a result of a conversation with another member of staff, drove around looking for somewhere closer to park than my usual default. Restrictions everywhere so ended up miles away again, and with heavy bag to boot! I wouldn’t mind but the frustration causes a rise in my stress levels, and the walk doesn’t seem to be having any positive impact on my weight loss or fitness levels either.

However, things improved when I got to the staffroom and was complemented on my top and the stripy tights – a Christmas present from my youngest son. And, while making my restorative cup of tea, this is when work truly began …

Picked up a tweet at the end of last week about being able to download MARC records from IMDB; I knew about the Amazon MARC records, but as yet haven’t really found a use for those, but the IMDB ones could be useful, so I had told a member of my team about this and we discussed it while I was making my tea. Will have to do something about the fact that only one of the team has access to the MARC import manager programme.

Only me in my group of 4 desks work on a Monday morning so it should be a good day for getting things done without interruption! Famous last words …

No sooner had I turned my computer on than another member of the team rushed over to ask me if I was going to the debate because they didn’t want to go on their own! Said I’d read the email and check my availability and let her know. Once my machine was logged in I discovered that the VC has set up a debate for staff on whether or not universities are a public good. Checked diary – free, so will be going, especially as I have recently discovered myself that I don’t just work in HE because that’s where I have a job, I actually work in HE because I believe in it, so this debate seems timely. Slot booked!

Another email to action – cover for someone who’s going to be off for 3 weeks. And a pre-meeting to arrange to look at a discovery service prior to the supplier coming in to demo it.

Now, shall I check my emails (I only work Mon-Weds, so there will be quite a few!) or sneak a peek at Twitter and see what’s been going on in the wider world?!

Oh dear, colleague at haggisandmash, so tweets will be numerous today!

Office too hot, fan blasting air around, need another tea and paracetamol. And the VC has just emailed reminding staff that expressions of interest in the voluntary severance scheme ends on 28th January – just in case we were interested! Oooops, here comes the boss – tea had better wait!

Long discussion about coverage of roles during times of vacancies! Ok, coverage for holidays sorted, which should lead to a permanent arrangement soon (but not necessarily the same staff involvement).

Signed a few leave cards, and completed my own. Replied to request for meeting dates, amongst other things. It’s 11.45 and I’ve only just thought to check the rota for the enquiry desks! Luckily, I usually do 3.30 on a Wednesday so I haven’t missed it!

Apparently our VC is forging links with the local community. One of my team members has recently become a volunteer with the local hospice and is enjoying the work, and has discovered they have a medical library which is catalogued and classified by the local hospital.

It’s now noon. Hubby has just emailed to say he can’t have lunch with me today.

Finally finished going through last week’s and toady’s emails. As a result of one of them I took part in a quick survey. Earmarked some links for inclusion in the cataloguers’ wiki. Interested in the Unison 6 book reading challenge, but no time to guarantee reading 6 books! Our collection of novels to borrow in the staffroom has been updated.

Meanwhile, 13 new tweets to check out. Tweet from the VC reminding us about the new book club he’s starting up next week.

Now, what was I doing last week that I need to continue this week?

Lunch first methinks! Noticed payslip in the pigeon hole – whooppeee! Sandwich on the run. Important letter posted. Browsed around the upstairs sale in the bookshop, and drank coffee in the nearest department store – what treats! 5 degrees outside, 25 degrees in the office; my poor body can’t cope with such fluctuations. Cleared headache now making an unwelcome return.

Anyway, back to last week’s work …

Ok, well I was going to finish off some stats, but got side-tracked sorting visit to Aston in early Feb!

Right, some headway made into the stats. 3.30 and a cup of tea beckons – again!

More stats! Now done 7 months worth and starting to get careless. Must be time for tea!

Refreshed and raring to go. Checking email first; couple to follow up, then back to stats!

Finally, stats finished – and still an hour of work to go! Wonder if it’s just my incompetence that means I can’t get these figures out of the management info system?

Hey ho, more fun and games tomorrow!

Monday, 17 January 2011

We are now into the second decade of the 21st century!

So, what of cataloguers in this new decade? What are we doing? What should we be doing? What will we be doing? The link will take you to some ideas that have been put forward over the last 10 years, and the comments below will indicate some fresh ideas since these suggestions were commited to paper!

The role of the cataloguer in 21st century – update below

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.


Bennett, David E. (2009) Principles of assertive action: how to go about getting what you want. Philoslibris [WWW] David E. Bennett. Available from: [Accessed: 20 December 2010].

Bennett, David E. (2009) Where next for the back room? Gazette, 11-24 September, pp. 19

Harris, Venessa and Carty, Celine (2010) High visibility cataloguing [WWW] Venessa Harris and Celine Carty. Available from: [Accessed: 20 December 2010]

Harris, Venessa and Carty, Celine (2010) Show and tell. Gazette, 2 December, pp. 15

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

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

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Is it 2011 yet?

Well, here I am, still enjoying my Christmas break while the cataloguing world moves on apace! News of a new book published at the end of last year to really get us out of our safety zone and leading where other librarians fear to lead!

What has 2011 got in store for us, I wonder? A changed CILIP? A new cataloguing standard? A push towards open source interfaces?

Can't wait to get back to work and start on the new-look cataloguer in the new-look world of cataloguing!

Happy New Year to you all!