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!


Thursday, 27 February 2014

Getting used to a new catalogue interface

If you’ve been used to using the same catalogue interface for the last 10 years, the idea of learning the vagaries of searching a new catalogue interface could be quite daunting.

This was the position I recently found myself in. I wasn’t daunted, but I was conscious that our new catalogue didn’t quite operate in the way as our old one, and often didn’t produce the results I would have expected. So, I wondered how other library staff were getting on with it: Did they find what they were looking for? Did they find searching easy? Did they wonder about their unexpected results? Were they frustrated by anything? Did they like the new interface? Did they think our users would find it easy to use?

So many questions!! Wouldn’t it be good if we could pool our knowledge and share our searching hints and tips with each other, to minimise the re-inventing of wheels, and to give all staff access to the same knowledge. How would this best be done? A stand up and talk lecture? Booking a lecture theatre and allocating each member of staff a pc on which to try things out? Compiling a written list of hints and tips, and circulating this to everyone? Hmmm. And then it came to me!

The cataloguers had spent rather a lot of time using and getting used to the new interface in relation to the changing cataloguing standards (i.e. from MARC21 to RDA) and so perhaps we were the ones best placed to host a sharing event! So we did! And it worked really well!

This is what we did: We offered an open day with a difference!

We sent out an email invitation to all library staff:

Dear All,
On Tuesday 11th February, the Bibliographic Services Office will be hosting a
Catalogue interface familiarisation event
This event will take the form of an open house, between the hours of 10 and 4.
You are invited to come down to our office on Tuesday 11th Feb, anytime during the hours of 10 and 4, when you are not on front-facing duties, and bring your catalogue queries and questions, likes and gripes with you!
You will be able to share any worries and concerns, as well as any comments and questions you may have, with any member of the team. We will do our best to address any concerns and answer any questions on the spot, but in the event that we dont know the answer we will investigate and get back to you as soon as possible after the event as we can.  
If you are not at work on this day, or you work evenings/weekends, I will be available to answer your questions on the evenings of Monday 10th Feb (5-8) and Wednesday 12th Feb (4-6.30), in the LGF Office.
We look forward to seeing!

And followed this up with a reminder at 10am on the day of the event:
Just a quick reminder that this event opens today at 10am and continues throughout the day until 4pm. Everyone is very welcome!!

Each member of the Bib Services team was available between the hours of 10am and 4pm to answer any questions that anyone who came down brought with them. We also invited one of our colleagues from the library IT side of our operation to come down and help answer questions. Having an extended drop-in time meant that most people were able to come along, and could fit their visit around their scheduled front-of-house activities without having to excuse themselves from the rota, and likewise Bib Services staff could still undertake their own rota duties but there would still be some of our staff available throughout the event. Front-of-house duties can be a difficult obstacle to overcome when sessions are offered that are potentially of interest to all members of library staff – someone has to staff the desks/counters!

So, the idea was that when people arrived in the Bib Services office they could chose who from the Bib Services team they wanted to talk to, and they could chose if they wanted to do this on a one2one basis or as a small group (no more than three people to a group). This meant that people could choose to talk to people in the team who worked at a similar level (e.g. Information Assistant to Information Assistant), or to people they already had a good relationship with, or people who they thought might be better able to answer their questions. 

Also, when visitors arrived, they were greeted by a member of the team who gave them a sheet of hints and tips that had already been compiled, and offered them bribes, sorry, I mean sweets! Each member of the team also had a plate of biscuits or a bowl of sweets from which visitors could help themselves. In the event that no-one was immediately available to greet, there were also some games and things to do on the  “welcome desk” so that no-one needed to feel left out.

"Reception desk" - a couple more games were added later!
As well as the email publicity, we placed a poster on the staff noticeboard, and a poster on the office door, and a welcome poster above the “welcome desk”. One member of the Bib Services team very kindly offered to go around all the other offices and remind people that the event was taking place, and personally inviting them down to take advantage of our offering. This actually proved to be the most successful part of the advertising: Nothing quite like the personal touch!

We also sent out a reminder at about 2.15pm:

Just a reminder that the catalogue familiarisation event finishes at 4pm today, but there’s still plenty of time to come down and share your likes and gripes with us!!
Hope to see you shortly if you haven’t already come down.

For the whole day there was a buzz in the office like I’ve never witnessed before! And, judging by the feedback forms we received after the event, it seems most people not only had their questions answered, and learned a bit more about the new catalogue interface, but they also seemed to enjoy the event!

Some of the strengths of the event, as evidenced by the feedback included:
  • one2one attention
  • the informality
  • convenience of drop-in
  • expert help and advice
  • ease of asking questions

We had about 25 visitors over the day, and received about 68% of feedback forms returned, and out of a possible score of 340 points we received a healthy 298.

At the end of the event we sent out a thank-you message, and a suggestion about what might happen next:

Dear All, 
Many thanks to those of you who came down to the LGF Office and took part in the catalogue familiarisation event. As I suspected, we in Bib Services learned a lot from you, and I hope you learned enough from us to make your visit worthwhile.
If you had any queries that we were unable to answer on the spot, these will have been passed to me and I am currently working my way through them, and at the same time using your questions as a basis for extending the FAQs we had already compiled. This may take me a little while though, so I hope you will bear with me.
If you came to visit us, I’d be ever so grateful for your feedback, and I have attached a feedback form in case you didn’t get one on your visit.
Many thanks for your support,

A couple of days later I was able to email out to all staff a list of questions and answers that had been received on the day of the event. Where there were unanswered questions, or questions that needed further investigation, these questions were included with suggested action points.

Following the familiarisation event, a number of further questions were received and answered via email. But, I wanted to go further! In our world, the world of cataloguing and technical services, we are used to taking part in e-forums, and this was what I wanted to do next, to give people another opportunity to find out more about the new library catalogue interface.

Unfortunately, the timescale was too tight to create an email group of which all library staff would be a member, although the advantages of such a group would be that the email list would include an archive accessible to all. In the end, I used my own email account, and advertised that I would be at the end of my email to answer any catalogue questions, during a two-hour period on a specific day. As you know, with the ALCST and CIG e-forums, these are structured around a specific set of questions, but I decided against any specific format, and simply accepted any questions that were posed of me.

The event was publicised on email:

Dear All,
As a follow-up to the library catalogue familiarisation event of last week I would like to offer you a different opportunity to share your comments and queries about the catalogue.
On Wednesday 19th February, between the hours of 10am and 12 noon, I will be at the end of my email to answer any questions you may have, and to take your comments on the new library catalogue interface. As these emails will be coming in along with all my other regular emails, please adopt the subject line “library catalogue comments” so I can easily identify your email and respond quickly.
If you are not able to participate tomorrow, please do send your comments to me at any time to suit you, but be aware that, although I will respond, it may not be immediately.
I look forward to hearing from you tomorrow,

In the event, we had about 5 different library staff emailing a total of about 8 different questions. I answered all the questions myself apart from one, which I referred to the only other cataloguer who was in the office at the time. Again, all questions and answers were recorded and issued to staff, like the results of the previous events.

As with the previous event, questions were received after the scheduled event, and these were also answered and included in the feedback. Again, staff seemed pleased to be offered the opportunity to ask their questions in the knowledge that someone was listening and likely to provide them with an answer.

As a result of all this activity, the Bib Services team is planning to create an extended FAQ for library staff in the use of the new catalogue interface, based on the questions and answers that were received at the various events. I am also going to suggest that we create a new library email list that can be used like an e-forum, for discussion about new services etc..

Overall, I think the two activities were quite successful, and I would hope to run similar events the next time we move to a new service.

PS The box labelled “Open me!” on the “welcome desk” contained loads of different quotes about libraries, catalogues, and cataloguers!