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!


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