Category Archives: Librarianship

Reflections on anniversaries

Today I worked through a cataloging procedure that my former director did nearly exactly one year ago. I know this because her initials and timestamp are on the records. She updated VTDNP MARC records last year on Feb. 14, 2014. Now here I am updating practically the same records on Feb. 12, 2015. What’s hitting me hard is that Birdie passed away nearly a month later on Mar. 10, 2014. I like to think that she worked on these records on Valentines Day because she loved newspapers so much.

I haven’t really shared my thoughts about how her passing has affected me, our department, our library. I know that’s why this blog┬áhas been silent for the past year. But with the first anniversary less than a month away, it’s hard not to think about how much has changed…and how much is still very much the same.

Special Collections purchased a book in honor of Birdie. I had the honor of cataloging it, and took some liberties with a local 590 note. I’m really thankful I got to do that.

I don’t really want to get into how Birdie was a great librarian, boss, person, etc…I’ve said all that at her funeral and memorial events. But for those of you who knew her, you know that she was great and it’s been a huge loss to the cataloging community. I am so thankful that ALCTS passed a memorial resolution.

Attending conferences for the past year has been awkward. People take one look at my badge, see where I’m from, and the look of sadness in their eyes just breaks me apart. I had one person think that I was Birdie’s replacement and said so to my face. That hurt. I want to thank @slmcdanold for the most real response at #ALAMW15 last month. Sometimes you just need a hug.

I’m thankful that she hired me, trained me, and I got to work with her for 2 short years. Perhaps you saw that we were hiring a Serials and Digital Access Metadata Librarian position? I got to chair the search committee and disappear into that work for 5 months. It nearly broke me. But I got through it and I’m stronger because of it.

As the anniversary date approaches I remind myself that it’s OK to be sad, but remember to be thankful for all the lessons I’ve learned this year. Just how much I’ve grown as a cataloger, manager, leader, and person. Her memory lives on through me, her colleagues, friends, and family. I hold on to that thought and breathe. just breathe.

Why you should and how you can help your library help itself

Lots of interesting materials come across my desk. Usually it’s miscellaneous Vermontiana or university publications, but today I cataloged a thin booklet produced by the Vermont Free Public Library Service from 1967! It’s called “Why you should and how you can help your library help itself.” This little resource outlines the primary functions of a library and ways librarians can improve their library! It’s amazing how little things have changed from our core mission:

“Besides providing a collection of books tailored specifically to the needs of the community or area it serves, a good library, even a small one, does much more.”–P. [2].

As technology becomes more and more a part of our lives and the library, it’s important to remember that while information carriers change, the purpose of the library does not.

The function of the public library is to assemble, organize, preserve, and make easily and freely available to all people the printed and non-printed materials that will assist them to:

  • Educate themselves continuously
  • Keep pace with progress in all fields of knowledge
  • Become better members of home and community
  • Discharge political and social obligations
  • Be more capable in their daily occupations
  • Develop their creative and spiritual capacities
  • Appreciate and enjoy works of art and literature
  • Use leisure time to promote personal and social well-being
  • Contribute to the grow of knowledge

It’s easy for a librarian to forget this. We’re so often busy negotiating licenses, learning new cataloging rules, planning programs, or simply trying to keep the doors open. So to remind us all of our core values with some simple suggestions, here is a link to the PDF: helpyourlibraryhelpitself

 

time on my side

My biggest priority at the library right now is to catch up on the backlog of items needing original cataloging. Currently we have approximately 15 linear feet of special collections materials, 2.5 linear feet of DVDs, and about 30 linear feet of LPs, scores, and other miscellaneous items. For the time being, I’ve decided to focus on the special collections materials and the DVDs.

I could just brainlessly catalog through the backlog one shelf at a time, but that wouldn’t be a very effective use of my time. So I assessed the situation and decided that work through the special collections materials by the oldest in the backlog (the items sitting on that shelf the longest), and cataloging the newest DVDs first. I determined my plan of backlog attack by weighing time based cataloging priorities – procedure with context.

Let’s look at the DVDs first. The items in this collection are mostly local recordings of guest lecturers and events around campus. Since they’re locally created, all the items require complex original cataloging. There is no copy and each video must be viewed to analyze its subject matter. Most of these recordings were create within the last 5 years, so the students or faculty who would be interested in viewing these items were probably around when the event actually took place. As time passes the memory of that event may fade, so it’s important to provide access to the most recently recorded items and work through the backlog to the oldest.

The opposite is true for the special collections backlog. All of these items were checked for copy in OCLC and no copy was found, so they were set aside for original cataloging. Over the years the backlog grew and grew to its current size. Many of the items have been waiting for cataloging for over 7 or 8 years, perhaps longer. In the years passed since the items were acquired and set aside, there is a very good chance that another local institution could have cataloged that item – providing excellent copy that I can use for my local catalog! So, by working through the “oldest” items in the special collections backlog, I have a higher chance of finding copy and saving myself time in in the long run.

The exception to these procedures is when something from the backlog is specifically requested. All items have provisional records with tombstone information, so they are at least somewhat searchable via the OPAC. If an item is requested by a user, it is treated like a rush and cataloged right away.

By cataloging in context I have a more efficient cataloging workflow, and therefore more a effective catalog for our users. Save the time of the cataloger and save the time of the user!

What’s in a name?

My official title is Catalog/Metadata Librarian. Yes, that’s catalogSLASHmetadata librarian. Since starting my job a few months ago that slash has become sort of a joke around the library. Folks asking how many slashes can I fit on my wall label and stuff like that. So that got me thinking about my slash and its meaning.

I’ve heard from other professionals to avoid jobs that hyphenate or slash titles since you are essentially being asked to perform two jobs – two jobs that the administration decided for some reason or another to merge into one job. This seems like often the case during recession times when cutbacks force employees to take on more responsibilities outside their singular job description. While understand this worry, I do not believe that is the case for my job. Cataloging is the kind of library work that constantly changes. As technology changes, so does the methods for creating bibliographic records. Rules change, hardware changes, software changes, and so do our titles. Catalog librarian. Catalog/Database Management Librarian. Electronic Resources librarian. Metadata librarian….

My slash reflects our profession in transition. As we move away from standards like MARC21 and Z39.50, and evolve toward newer technologies like linked data and RDF. Being versed in both traditional library cataloging and emerging metadata standards is essential for the “next generation” cataloger.

But is this shift generational? I supervise several paraprofessional cataloging staff whom have been working at the library for over 40 years. When I think about the ways their work has changed in that span of time, it boggles my mind! I literally joked with one of my employees about updating headings with electric erasers!

So I embrace my slash, because I’m more than a cataloger and more than a metadata-er. I fluidly created MARC records and edit XML based on whatever discover tool our collections require. And I’m sure both tools and titles will continue to change with time.