Wednesday 29 February 2012
Sunday 26 February 2012
Saturday 11 February 2012
The first question asked to the forum focused on a definition of advocacy. Many good definitions were proposed but the one that stuck out for me was submitted by Cynthia Whitacre of OCLC. She highlighted how important it was to advocate not just to the outside world but also to others within our institutions. She says: we need our colleagues within the library to understand the crucial role that we play in making sure the library is a smoothly functioning organism.
This was a call that was echoed by a lot of other posts such as Kristin Martin’s observation that before one can begin advocating for the department, one needs to be working and demonstrating expertise to colleagues throughout the library. This was something that struck a chord with me. I’m currently trying to get a blog started in order to promote the work of the Cataloguing Department, and the rest of the division, to the outside world. I’ve had a lot of encouragement from librarians outside my library but I have to say that I’ve been disappointed with the reaction of some of my colleagues. No one has been actively hostile towards it but the most common response has been: who would want to read that? Well actually, quite a lot of people! I also worry about how many people will want to contribute to the blog. It’s meant to be a division wide project but at this point I can see it being run by only a dedicated few. If people in my own department can’t see the point of this sort of advocacy, then will anyone outside the department? If anyone has any advice on how to inspire others to get involved in projects like this then please let me know!
Heather Jardine, from City of London libraries, called for everyone who works in technical services to promote their work at any opportunity. She encouraged us to never be apologetic about our roles. I know too many cataloguers who do this, including myself on occasion. I actually really enjoy my job but sometimes I feel that cataloguers are seen as the poor relation in the library world. This is a misconception that advocacy can help to change.
Another excellent point was made by David Moody, Cataloguing Librarian at the University of Detroit Mercy. David pointed out that just because cataloguing is not a user facing service, this doesn't mean that it doesn't serve users. He makes the point that we might be serving the public indirectly, but that's still the motivation for what we do. This point was echoed by many others on the forum. Cataloguing is at its heart a user service. If the books are not catalogued then they cannot be found by users. End of story. Lauren Noel made the point that cataloguing is the first step in the reference process. If the book is not properly catalogued and indexed then how is the reference librarian supposed to know that it's there? Others pointed out that so-called ‘technical services’ help to provide the infrastructure of the library and make it possible for people to find the resources that they need. I think that this is a point that sometimes gets lost. Cataloguers tend to be perceived as stuck in a back room somewhere far away from human interaction. Whilst this might be true to some extent, I don’t think this makes what we do any less valuable. Without us the library would be a lovely building filled with resources that no one would have a hope of actually finding!
Duncan Stewart said that my experience is that most administrators are very much aware of the COSTS of tech services, but not always the benefits. This also rang true with a lot of other people on the forum and is a major reason why advocacy of cataloguing has become even more of a pressing issue. Unless cataloguers can prove their worth I'm afraid that we will be amongst the first in the firing line. The time for assuming that everyone understands the importance of what we do is long over and we need to compete with other departments to show our value.
Following on from this, several contributors talked about how to demonstrate the value of cataloguing. I'm currently researching impact (although not of cataloguing) for my MSc dissertation so this was interesting to me. I know through my own research that impact is an EXTREMELY hard concept to measure. Suggestions made by the group included a lot of statistical references that I'm afraid went way over my head, but it was an interesting concept which merits further discussion.
The parting shot of the eforum was: LIVE LONG AND ADVOCATE! The forum gave me lots of ideas which I hope to be able to feed back to the advocacy group that I work with. I think that this discussion highlighted many reasons why advocacy is now a vital part of any librarians role rather than an added extra. Whilst some of the stories of woe in technical services departments didn’t make for very cheery reading, it was reassuring to know that we all seem to be facing the same problems. Hopefully now we can work together to solve them!
Friday 3 February 2012
Thursday 2 February 2012
Wednesday 1 February 2012
Welcome to day three of my Library Day in the Life!
Since today is another English Cataloguing day I started off with some reshelving. Thankfully there wasn't too much today and only one reader query so I was back to my desk fairly soon. The next task was to finish off the work that was left unfinished as a result of the computer problems yesterday. This involved updating the records of the books that I had fetched and passing the entered books to the catalogue before taking them to the Labelling Department.
Another job of the fast-track cycle is to upgrade the basic BNB records that we download at the time of the books receipt. These basic records are on our system with the expectation that they will be overwritten by the full level record as soon as it becomes available. This happens in almost all cases but there are always a few that get missed for one reason or another and require some cataloguer intervention. Usually this is because the book is a reprint or a new edition and the system is not one hundred per cent sure that it matches. These records only require minimal editing so the job didn't take too long. There were a lot of sports books in this batch though - not really my favourite area!
My next task of the day was to work through some series queries. Cataloguers on the fast track team get periodic reports of records that have entries which claim to be series titles and need manual checking. This is a really straightforward process since almost all of the time the problem is that there's a slight difference between the series form as it appears on the book and its authorised form. For any non-cataloguers out there here is an example: an edition of Pride and Prejudice by Penguin may have the series "Modern classics" on the title page. The authorised version is actually "Penguin modern classics" and so this would need to be reflected in the record. Again, this is just a quick job which can be done with one click of the mouse but requires human eyes to make sure that everything goes where it belongs!
For anyone still with me (and not yet in a coma from my description of cataloguing!) I'll describe my final couple of jobs for the day. I did some copy cataloguing of a batch of bought material (see my day two post for a description) and finished off the day by cataloguing some audio-visual material. This was mostly CD-ROMs which come with the books and require a little extra attention.
And that was pretty much it! One small extra that I did at lunchtime was to read a couple more libday8 posts by fellow cataloguers. There is an list on the excellent HV Cats blog for anyone who wants to read a far more interesting account than this has been!