Friday 23 September 2011

Why I love cataloguing

This post started as a response to Theresa Schutlz's controversial post on LISNPN. It seems to have stirred up quite a hornets nest and this is my two cents. It was getting ridiculously long so I decided to publish it as a stand alone post.

From personal experience I can see that cataloguing isn't taken very seriously in some places. We were advised not to even read the cat and class module on our library course until we absolutely had to for work. By the tutor! When I told people at various study schools that I worked in cataloguing they did tend to look at me with pity in their eyes, even when I told them how much I love my job.

I think the worst thing though is trying to convince other librarians of the need to enhance the image of cataloguing. I'm in the process of trying to set up a cataloguing related blog at work which is intended for outside readership by users. I know other places have done this, with varying degrees of success, but I am having a really hard time trying to sell it internally. The most popular question seems to be "who would want to read that?". Whilst it might not be everyone's cup of tea I think that there are people out there who would read it. I know I would (don't really know what that says about me though!).

I work in a legal deposit library which means that we get a lot of non-academic material which our users never get to see. We get everything from the silly to the outrageous and this is one of the reasons I love my job - yes, the actual action of cataloguing can be repetitive but you never know what kind of book you're going to get next. I can be cataloguing a tome on nuclear physics one minute and the autobiography of Jedward the next. One of the best recent examples was "Knit Your Own Royal Wedding" which featured in a lot of news coverage around the big day.

A lot of this fun material gets passed round the office since everyone wants to have a look, and we have FUN looking at them. I want to get some of this type of material on the blog, as well as some posts showcasing what we actually do in the department in the hope of dispelling the myth that cataloguers are all dusty, fusty old librarians who need to get out more.

Maybe I'm wrong in thinking that people would want to read a blog like this. Part of my current job involved posting on the Tower Project blog which focuses on early twentieth century material. We manage to make it really fun and entertaining and get a lot of positive feedback. Why can't we do this for modern material?

On the plus side, Schultz's post has stirred up a lot of debate and that's always a good thing. People wouldn't leap to the defence of cataloguing so much if they didn't have such strong feelings about it. Maybe there is hope after all!

Monday 19 September 2011


I've already covered Slideshare during Cam23 and my thoughts haven't really changed. They are contained in an earlier blog post.

I have seen a few presentations made using Prezzi recently, some good and some really bad! At worst they gave me motion sickness since people seem to think that because it has all of these fancy new features, they must be used.

Even the ones that were slightly calmer were still a little busy. I understand that it's a good tool for drawing parallels between points but people seem to take this to the extreme. I was watching a Prezzi presentation last week and the speaker had used multiple pictures to illustrate her points. I found myself more trying to work out what the pictures were trying to represent than listening to her presentation! Also, I find that if the equipment is a little outdated then the presentations run very slowly which makes them look a little clunky. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I think that the traditional PowerPoint presentations where you can look at something static on the screen at any point in the talk work better. I find too much of my time in Prezzi presentations is taken up following the text/images around on the screen rather than paying attention to what the speaker is saying. It seems to be designed for people with very short attention spans.

Having said this, there are some good examples of the technology out there. Some people have really got to grips with what it can do but I'm not sure it will ever win me over. I know the same was true of PowerPoint when it first came in. People used many special effects just because they could and the result was cluttered mess. Hopefully things will calm down with Prezzi but as of the moment, this isn't one for me.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Reflection: what have I liked so far?

I think the tool that I have found most useful so far (that I wasn't already using) has been Twitter. I have had an account for about eighteen months now but haven't really done much with it. I found it too hard to keep up with since I can't check it at work during the day. Everyone who uses it professionally has been telling me for ages that it's the one tool that they couldn't live without so I bit the bullet and made an effort to go on it at least once a day. I admit, there are still times where I feel a little out of my depth but I intend to keep going. I have even tried to talk to a few people that I don't actually 'know' but this has been met with mixed success. This is definitely one to keep up with though.

I have tried Evernote, again with mixed success. I might keep trying with this one but it also might be one that I let slide. I experimented with a few other citation tools but ultimately went back to Evernote since it's what I know. I did appreciate the chance to explore alternatives though. When someone asks me for help I might actually have an intelligent answer!

I think my favourite posts so far (apart from the stunner that was Thing 12 of course!) have been the ones that focus on career development. This is, for me, the best feature of this programme. I did Cam23 last year and went through most of the tools we are covering but I feel like I am getting something extra out of it this time round. At least where I work, there seems to be a huge gap when it comes to career advice and in these tough times I really appreciate some concrete help.

My next goal is to spend a bit more time on my LinkedIn profile. I took some of the tips from that weeks Thing and spruced up my profile a bit but I'm still not as active as I feel I could be. Probably because I now spend too much time on Twitter......

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Not completely convinced yet...

Jing. Podcasting. In theory I think that tools like this are quite fun. They make librarians looks hip and trendy since we know how to use the latest fad. Jing could be used to make some great instructional videos and would save a lot of staff and users time rather than explaining the same thing again and again. I have often wanted to do a podcast tour of the UL which users could listen to themselves as they wandered round.

Part of me wonders though, do users actually pay any attention to things like this? Would they actually take the time to watch an instructional video or take a podcasted tour?

I'm not sure that podcasting is even that hip any more. I know that when I first got my ipod I downloaded lots of podcasts and I fully intended to listen to them all. I listened to one. The others just gathered virtual dust on the virtual shelf before I deleted them. Maybe podcasting has moved on since then but I found that it was all too easy to forget to find time to listen to then. I'm not sure that most users (who, let's face it, just want to get the book they want fast and leave) would be that bothered about it to be honest. I'm just not sure it is the best use of time/technology from a user point of view.

From a cpd perspective I'm slightly more into these tools. Conference sessions could be recorded and then played back for those who couldn't attend. The same goes for talks/training sessions. Doing a distance learning course I think that these technologies could have come in handy to deliver lectures long distance. Both screen and podcasting could be useful in this way and I know that some universities offer this sort of thing already, I'm just not sure what the uptake is. I would be happy to be proved wrong and find that students and users all love these tools but I suppose time will tell.

I haven't used these tools in my work and I can't see any need for them in the near future. Although they have their advantages, I think I would miss the interaction part of talks etc. and I think that this is an important element of any kind of educational training session. This might be one to file away in the 'maybe in the future' box.

Sunday 4 September 2011

On my soapbox...

Advocacy is something I've been thinking about a lot recently. I work in cataloguing and people have been prophesying the doom of my particular area of the profession for years. I naturally think that this is a huge mistake. I can see libraries all over the world getting rid of their cataloguing departments and downloading records from a central agency. There are too many things wrong with this to go into but I also believe that libraries will live to regret it and bring the departments back. Unfortunately by this time the skills may have been damaged, if not completely lost. Even in my library course, which has an entire module devoted to cataloguing and classification, it seems as though people treat it as more of a chore than a core element of the profession. For anyone who is interested in this I recommend that you read the High Visibility Cataloguing blog.

I have also recently been involved in some attempted advocacy for the department at work but it's not going well. It seems to be only the preserve of the few rather than the many, surely this should be the other way around? Still, I will keep trying since I am nothing if not persistent!

Publishing is a definite future goal for me but right now I just don't have the time/energy. I am about to start work on my MSc dissertation and I've been told by more than one person that it has some potential. I have published some smaller work, see my previous post, but hope to do something bigger in the future. For the moment though I have to prioritise and that means the dreaded dissertation!

Getting over my fear of conferences!

I have attended a couple of 'real world' conferences since I joined CILIP a year ago. I've found them to be really worthwhile experiences where I have learnt a lot. I know from experience that some people only see them as a free day off work and not a learning experience and this always makes me feel sad for those that would have loved a place but couldn't go.

So far, as well as the Libraries @ Cambridge conference that I have been to for the past few years I have been lucky enough to get sponsorship from CILIP to attend the CIG conference last September and more recently the Umbrella conference in July. I got a lot out of these events, learning about new thing and meeting new people. Meeting new people is the best thing to come out of these conferences for me but it doesn't come naturally. I'm naturally a very shy person and talking to strangers is not that easy for me. I would say that a conference is a good place to practice this skill though, since everyone there at least shares one common interest!

This does mean of course that there is no way that I can see myself speaking at a conference any time in the near future. Maybe this isn't the right thing to admit but I know I just couldn't get up in front of an audience and speak! When I went to Umbrella I presented a poster for cpd23 and I would encourage anyone else who has a similar fear but wants to conquer it to try this route. You only have to talk to a few people at a time, and often individually, meaning that some of the pressure is off. It's a way to get your message across at conferences without having to stand up in front of everyone and an excellent way to meet people.

I'm also going to echo the point made in the cpd post that you will never get any funding unless you ask for it. Remember - the worst that anyone can say is no, and at least you will know that you tried. Yes, funding bodies generally want you to do something in return. For example, I had to guest blog from the CIG conference and write an article about Umbrella but these are good examples of professional development in their own right and will hopefully look good on the CV. So my final advice would be: ASK! You will never know unless you try!