Monday 10 December 2012

End of year update

It seems like a very long time since I wrote anything on this blog! The only excuse I can give is that I've been extremely busy starting a new job and trying to finish my dissertation. I'm pleased to say that the 'masterpiece' only needs a few more adjustments and it will be done - and I'll be very glad to see the back of it!
If anyone hasn't yet read Helen Murphy's brilliant series of blog posts about the Aberystwyth library course they can be found here - I highly recommend them to anyone who is doing or thinking about starting the course. I'm glad that I did it but happy that it's over and I can get my life back!
The next few months are going to involve some exciting projects and events to blog about. The biggest of these is Chartership which I plan on starting in the new year. Although I want to back-date some of my activities I hope that the process will give me lots of new things to talk about and explore. I intend to use the blog to keep a record and hopefully some of it will be useful to other people.

If anyone is still reading this then stop by in 2013 and find out more!

Sunday 16 September 2012

CIG 2012 - The Value of Cataloguing (Part Two)

This is my report on day two of the recent CIG conference. Part one can be found here.

New Challenges for Cataloguers

The first session of day two had the theme "new challenges for cataloguers", of which I'm sure we can agree there are many. Heather Jardine cut straight to the case by talking about the changes in the cataloguers role in 2012. She outlined three main changes:
  • changing rules and formats - I think we can all agree that we're about to go through a big period of change here with the introduction of RDA
  • changing materials - as cataloguers we're constantly being asked to keep pace with the latest materials. We're often faced with something new coming across our desks followed by the inevitable question: "how am I supposed to catalogue that?!" Heather showed us that this was nothing new since cataloguers have been dealing with new materials for decades and we have always managed to find a way to cope. Any future changes will be no different
  • changing roles - there has been a change in expectations over what it is we actually do. With the cuts across all library sectors everyone has found themselves taking on increased workloads.
I think that these changes have both positive and negative points. Whilst no one wants cuts they are happening. The changing role of the cataloguer can be seen as an opportunity as well as a threat. Maybe a very long time ago all cataloguers did was catalogue books day in day out but I think that this has been changing for some time now. Cataloguers are much more adaptable than people think (see the above two points) and the changes currently taking place in libraries can help to showcase this. If we can prove to our colleagues that we are adaptable and indispensable then we can help to ensure our professional futures. No one can be trained in just one skill and expect to get a job out of it for the rest of their lives and so the more feathers in our caps the better. Proving our worth to our colleagues is an important part of advocacy - something which I feel very strongly that every cataloguer should be involved in. The flip side of this, as Heather rightly pointed out, is that all this extra work leads to a decrease in the time that we have for actual cataloguing. There is a balance to be maintained and I think that the true challenge will be in making sure that we still keep our cataloguing skills strong whilst taking on these new challenges

The next paper wins the award for best title, Gary Green's "the incredible shrinking cataloguer meets the Spaghetti Junction automation robot". Gary reminded us of the importance of  keeping abreast of the latest library technology even if we aren't using it ourselves. This is something that I try to do but sometimes struggle with so I know how hard it can be sometimes to take on yet another thing. The main body of the talk was focused on Gary's recent project to automate cataloguing and classification processes at his library service. This was tricky since computers haven't yet reached the level of intelligence of the average cataloguer (thank God!). For this reason Gary has tried to map these processes as if it were a human working on the changes rather than a computer. The project has resulted in a reduction in the amount of in-house manual work and faster processing which in turn has saved money - something which managers are finding especially attractive in the current climate. There are also of course some issues with the process; the mapping process is complex and anything which gets broken can have consequences which are equally complicated. One of the main things that Gary cautioned us about was that changes are not made in isolation, it's all part of a larger process. Work on the project is continuing in order to address some of these issues.

Helen Williams talked about the challenges involved in transforming copy cataloguers into 'metadata creators'. During her work at LSE Helen and her team were tasked with adding metadata to items added to the institutional repository. Helen reported that the same workflows used with print material could be applied to the repository material and helped in adding to the teams skill set. Using our skills in this new way can help to showcase the value of the cataloguing department to the wider institution, echoing the points made in previous sessions. Future-proofing the department and its skills is as vital right now as it has ever been. One point that Helen did raise is that whilst having a multi-skilled team has many advantages, it's also possible to consider specialising in some areas. All of the staff in a department can have a working knowledge of these new processes but since everyone has different strengths they will naturally develop a specialism in a particular skill. This is something to be encouraged from both the individual and institutional point of view. Projects such as this one at LSE make the bibliographic services team the place to go to for information within the wider institution - a definite plus point.

The next session was 'the problems of cataloguing in higher education' which was a slightly altered version of a presentation given at a CIG even earlier in the year. I'e already written a blog post about this event which is here if anyone wants to read it.

Lightning Round Talks
Celine Carty presented the first lightening round talk of the day and focused on the work of the High Visibility Cataloguing initiative. She outlined a project to set up a 23things style programme for cataloguers - Cat23. The first phase of the programme involves interviews with cataloguers working in a variety of roles. More can be read about the programme here on the HVCats website but I will say that I am really looking forward to it. When I first heard about the project I did wonder how it would work in practice but I think that the authors have done a wonderful job of coming up with something new and creative (and I'm not just saying this because I work for one of them!). I'm really looking forward to taking part and will be encouraging my colleagues to do so.

Karen Pierce talked about ways of promoting the work of the cataloguing department both internally and externally. This was a strong theme at the conference which came up in many of the papers. Karen talked about the importance of maintaining a physical presence and actually being seen by colleagues. Cataloguers are often tucked away in offices and too often it's a case of out of sight and out of mind. Getting involved in wider institutional events and committees are two ways in which the department can maintain a presence and raise its profile. One popular initiative that Karen talked about was "Do something different day" which gives staff at her institution a chance to do what it says on the tin. The day allows the cataloguing department to give an in-depth look at what it really does on a day to day basis and hopefully this will help to correct some common misconceptions about the work that the department does. Karen also gave us several hints on external advocacy:
  • conferences - both attending and presenting. And don't think that you have to be limited to cataloguing conferences - get out of the echo chamber!
  • report back from events - show people that you do sometimes escape from your desk
  • have an online presence - this can be important in sharing your experiences with a wider audience
One of the key themes of Karen's presentation was to grab unexpected opportunities. The more widely you and your department get known the more chance that colleagues will approach you if they need something you can provide.

Rachel Playforth carried on the professional development theme by talking about her experience of changing her role from cataloguer to repository coordinator. Rachel pointed out that even if your job role changes you probably won't get training for your new role. I think this is something we can all relate to! She advised us to be strategic about taking on new responsibilities as it's important not to take on too much. We need to be selective and learn to say no occasionally. Consider how the change will benefit you in the long term - will it add a new skill? is it something that you've always wanted to try? Always be open to new opportunities but remember that you can't do everything at once.

Karen Pierce returned to tell us about the benefits of regionality when it comes to professional development. Karen was part of the organising team for Conversations with Cataloguers in Wales, an event which brought together a group of cataloguers with a common region. There are many benefits to holding regional events such as this; people often find these events easier to get to and they can be identity forming. One interesting point raised was that conferences and events can create a great sense of community but this is often only temporary. We need to be looking at ways of carrying this on and local groups are one way to do this. Karen encouraged us to look into developing our own local groups - you never know what could come out of it!

The open mike session was a chance for delegates to discuss any issues which had been raised so far. Unsurprisingly the chief topic of conversation was RDA and its impact on cataloguing practice. One issue raised was that of training. Once an institution has made the decision to implement the new standard the staff have to be trained in its use. There is lots of training freely available on the Internet but we were warned to check the material for currency. RDA is a constantly updated standard and so web-based content can become dated very quickly. The cost of RDA was also mentioned. It is not a freely available standard and this has caused problems for some libraries who would like to implement it. It was pointed out that whilst there is a cost to moving there is also a cost to not moving and the consequences of either action need to be weighed carefully.

Developing Working Practices
The theme of the final full session was "developing working practices" and began with a talk from Elly Cope about reclassification at the University of Bath. The library used a number of classification systems which had led to negative feedback from students. The decision was made to implement a more consistent system and gradually switch from UDC to DDC which is a more widely known system. User feedback to the change has been positive and plans have been made to continue with the scheme. Elly made the point that although it's a lot of work, one of the added benefits of reclassification is that it provides an opportunity to work on the records and ultimately produce a better standard of cataloguing.

Neil Robinson talked about his experience of developing cataloguing and classification at Marylebone Cricket Club library. The library houses one of the biggest research libraries on the sport and so is an important resource. Neil was tasked with updating the original classification scheme used by the library since the 1940s. The scheme was unsurprisingly out of date and in need of serious attention. The key decision to be made was whether to adapt the current system or to start again with something new. Neil went with the decision to adapt the scheme and said that it has led to an increased knowledge of the collection. One top tip that he shared was not to be afraid of changing something that you have just changed if you think you can make it better - be constantly on the search for improvement.

Daphne Kouretas from OCLC gave the final full paper of the conference on managing metadata for ebooks. Libraries need to acknowledge that resource discovery is changing and we need to keep up with these changes. She talked about the importance of cataloguing as a public facing library service, something which I am very keen to promote. Cataloguing is one of the backbones of a successful library and I think that this is something that non-cataloguers forget and that cataloguers forget to shout about.

Lightning Round Talks

The final lightning round talk session opened with Katrina Clifford talking about harvesting repository data for use in an LMS. She explained how rich data for repository contributions was available but all too often this wasn't being linked to records in the catalogue. Research has been done into this problem and although I'm afraid the technology is beyond me, a way to export this data into the LMS has been developed. This has led to an enrichment of the cataloguing records which had aided user discoverability. Needless to say, this is proving very popular with library users!

Helen Garner talked about cataloguing media materials and its associated problems and benefits. The workflow for this at Sheffield Hallam University has been streamlined so that cataloguing staff now only need to view the first iteration of a program in order to catalogue it. Helen also raised the point that libraries need to maintain a consistent display across the catalogue so that users understand that they are looking at a media resource.

The final two sessions by Emily Bogie and Christina Claridge focused on the issue of shelf ready. Working in a library which uses its own classification system this isn't something that I've had to deal with personally but it is still an interesting development which needs to be monitored. Both sessions reported on the advantages and disadvantages of projects at the speakers' libraries. The scheme provides an important way to free up staff time but it is important that errors, however small, are spotted and corrected. This of course requires human intervention. Accurate records are even more important in today's catalogues with their faceted searching capabilities. The most important thing to check is if the records reflects the item that you have, obvious but still easy to miss in a busy environment.

I really enjoyed the conference and came away really energised and positive. To me this is one of the primary benefits of any event. I will take away several points and try to spend my time until the next conference focused on advocating my job and keeping the momentum going!

Friday 14 September 2012

CIG 2012 - The Value of Cataloguing (Part One)

I’ve just come back from an exhausting but enjoyable two days at the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group conference in Sheffield. This was my second CIG conference and I enjoyed it as much as my first experience. The theme of the conference was “the value of cataloguing” and all of the speakers more than met the challenge. I tend to blog quite full reports since I use this blog for my own records as much as anything else but I do realise that many people have better things to do than read 1500+ words on one day of a conference, so I’ve highlighted in bold what I feel are the key points.

The conference opened with a keynote speech by Dave Pattern focused on the need to measure the impact of the library. Since measuring impact is my dissertation topic, this session was close to my heart (and interests). Dave showed that there was a lot of data collected by libraries and that we should do something proactive with it. He has recently taken part in a project to try and establish a link between library use and grade amongst degree level students at the University of Huddersfield. Although he hasn’t as yet established a statistically significant link his results do indicate that there is some correlation between the number of library resources used and the final grade achieved. The study also indicated that there was a link between low library use and dropping out of courses. This could provide a useful early warning sign for both lecturers and tutors. There is still more work to be done but I look forward to reading the future results. 

Working with New Standards

The first theme of the conference was “working with new standards”. Anne Welsh and Katharine Whaite discussed the history of the catalogue. They showed that even though there is a lot of concern about the MARC/RDA hybrid catalogue this is unnecessary since modern catalogues are already comprised of multiple bibliographic standards. Changing standards and different workflows over the years mean that true consistency has never been achieved and all catalogues contain a mix of record formats. In the days of active information professionals on social media, new cataloguing standards can be discussed like never before but cataloguers shouldn’t agonise too much over rule changes – everything evolves and needs monitoring. Just because a rule has been around for a long time doesn’t mean that it is above question.

Lucy Bell from the UK Data Archive discussed her work curating digital data sets. She illustrated users’ preferences for simple, Google-style interfaces but showed that these still needed to maintain a high standard of academic use meaning that they needed to be powered by powerful metadata. She explained her work in mapping keyword search terms to a controlled vocabulary language in order to give users the best access to the data possible. These controlled search terms allow more accurate usage data to be kept which in turn makes it easier to prove the value of the system to those that fund it.

Simon Barron took a philosophical perspective when discussing the impact of networked knowledge systems on cataloguing practices. He showed that many library classification schemes are based on traditional, hierarchical systems which try to subdivide knowledge in a top-down fashion. Knowledge is much more complicated than this and networks are a much better way to demonstrate links. This sort of thinking is already present in FRBR and RDA, which aim to show the multiple links between items found in the library catalogue. Whilst the technology doesn’t yet exist to allow cataloguers to represent these connections as we would like, this is still an important area to think about and I'll be monitoring future developments.

The final full paper of the morning was delivered by Michael Emly who talked about the importance of preserving collections for the future using metadata. I work in a legal deposit library where preservation is a primary concern so this was of great interest to me. He outlined a COPAC project which aimed to show through metadata if a library was committed to keeping a copy of an item. Hopefully this would mean that there was at least one copy of an item available somewhere, preserving our national collections. The metadata can also be used to make collection management decisions easier – libraries will be able to see if an item was held anywhere else and what the long term plan for that item is. Even legal deposit libraries can’t hold everything (despite what most people think) so this would be a welcome way to help safeguard items in the future.

Lightning Round Talks

The first short lightning round talk was an RDA update by Celine Carty and was clearly what many attendees had been waiting for. Celine was fortunate enough to be able to attend ALA and brought back a lot of important news. This time RDA is really coming, with the implementation date being set for March 31st 2013. It won’t be a matter of simply switching to the new standard – we're going to be working with a mix of standards for a while yet but this is something that most cataloguers are already used to. The rules are currently being reworded in response to feedback from users and the Toolkit is also being changed in response to criticism from testers. Celine also outlined how CIG plans to help cataloguers to get to grips with the new standard. As well as its highly successful FRBR for the Terrified workshops, the group ran an eforum for RDA discussion that was very well attended. Having been to one of the workshops I can highly recommend it!

The second lightening talk continued the theme of RDA with Stuart Hunt talking about how libraries can implement the new standard into library systems that were designed to cope with MARC. He produced a useful checklist of potential problem areas:
  • loading: will RDA records load into your system in their entirety or will you start to see an increase in rejected records and error reports?
  • validation: validation tables within your LMS will need to be updated in order to cope with the new standard, including any local customisations
  • indexing: will the new RDA fields be included in your indexing? What will happen if you do/don't index the new subfields?
  • display: this needs to be considered for both the staff and user view of the system
  • discovery: if your discovery platform is supplied by a third part then will it be able to cope with the changes?
  • exporting: export tables will need to be changed in order to reflect RDA

Katharine Whaite’s interesting talk focused on using the library catalogue as a way to understand the history of the collection and the way in which thinking about it has changed over time. She showed that librarians need to maintain existing catalogue records as well as creating new ones so that this important aspect of library history could be preserved.

Working cooperatively

The theme for the second session was ‘working cooperatively’. Deborah Lee from the Courtauld Institute discussed the progress that she has made since CIG 2010 on setting up a UK NACO funnel. She argued that this was not only a cost saving measure but that it would have multiple benefits for the professional development of those involved. Training could be cascaded down through organisations, allowing cataloguers to add a valuable tool to their skill set. The funnel also gives libraries a chance to promote authors and organisations who are important to the library’s specialism, for example by establishing a heading for an artist who is not well known but has significance. I have just started my own training in the world of NACO and I think it’s an extremely valuable skill to have. I look forward to further reports about the projects progress.

Ian Fairclough closed proceedings on day one by talking about how email lists and other tools can be used to improve bibliographic data quality. I’m sure everyone has seen the ‘typo of the day’ section on Autocat and had a good laugh but it does actually have a serious purpose. By adjusting just the mistake that appears in the list libraries can carry out low-cost bibliographic maintenance and work towards a better standard of catalogue record. Mailing lists can get the message out to a lot of people all around the world and the only cost to the cataloguer is the time that it takes to correct the mistake (which hopefully you shouldn’t find many of anyway!)

Hopefully my write-up of day two will be posted in the next few days.

photo credit: sundaykofax via photopin cc

Thursday 13 September 2012

CIG Conference 2012 - The Round-Up

I'm still working on my write up of the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Conference but some other attendees have been much more organised than me! Below are some links to conference reports that I've seen, I'll try to add more as/when I see them. Hopefully at least part one of my version of events will be up sometime this weekend.

Sunday 1 July 2012

LIKE Ideas Conference - The Business of Social Media part 2

This post continues the previous post on LIKE Ideas

The first session after the break was a panel discussion with Virginia Henry, Richard Hare and Hank Malik on the subject of internal engagement. They started out by saying that we need to move away from talking about 'social media tools' and towards talking about 'collaborative working'. As highlighted in previous sessions, one of the most important uses of social media is to facilitate communication and help to solve problems. The group were asked for their opinion on the quickest way to ensure the failure of a social media project. Their answer was that there is always a danger of focusing on the technology without thinking of the need behind it. This was touched on in earlier presentations and it's sound advice that I'll take away from the conference. I think that too often there's pressure to try out the latest tool without too much thought as to why you're using it. If the latest 'it' product meets a need you have then great, keep using it. If not then get rid of it because there's certain to be something similar along soon.

Another point made by the panel was that the culture of the organisation is an important fact in the success or failure of social media tools. I know this to be true from personal experience. If the group that you work with is not 'into' social media then I find that there's very little you can do to convince them. I think that everyone has a right to make up his/her own mind about these tools but at the same time I do wish some people would be a little more open minded - at least try something before you dismiss it! The panel said that if something was tried and didn't work then it's best to confront the failure and use it as feedback rather than pretending that it didn't happen at all. In this way trying social media could be part of a valuable evaluation process. If trying to promote greater team interaction through social media didn't work then you may have to look beyond the tools to deeper problems within your organisational culture...

There was also some discussion about 'chatter' on social media sites. I know that this is one of the biggest problems that many managers have with social media use - they're afraid that people will waste time on it rather than doing anything productive. I'm not going to pretend for a moment that people won't take advantage of these tools to follow celebrities and discuss trivial things, but there's so much more to social media than this. Someone pointed out that the chatter is important since it can lead on to other things. People have to get to know you in order to be able to trust you and ask for your help. Having an actual conversation on social media, even if it is about something trivial, is a way to build your reputation so people know that they can turn to you. At the end of the day managers just have to have some trust in their staff when it comes to managing their time on these sites.

The next session was given by lawyers Andrew Soloman and Simon Halberstam and focused on legal guidance for using social media. Although I said in the previous post that it was important that people don't feel too constrained when it comes to using social media, it would be foolish not to have some guidelines in place. Social media impacts on all parts of the law but one of the key areas singled out in the presentation was defamation. It's important to remember that this can be done in any number of ways and can come back to haunt the company at any time. Just saying that something is your personal opinion in NOT enough to protect you in court! Andrew and Simon advocated having a clear social media policy in place as a matter of course - very sage advice.

The final presentation of the day was given by Stephen Dale who talked about the future of social media. He showed how in the future people will be interacting with devices in a much more intuitive way but warned that the quantity of social media content is growing at the expense of the quality. As information professionals, this gives us a key role to play. Stephen highlighted digital curation tools such as paperli and scoopit and showed how we can use our insight into our users needs to identify the best content out there. I think this is an important point to remember. Just because there is a wealth of content available on the Internet, it doesn't mean that information professionals are becoming redundant. Someone still has to be able to direct users towards the best quality content for their needs and information professionals come with the skill set to do this. If we can retain our reputation as a trusted source of information then we can still be the ones that users come to when they need advice about digital content. Of course this is dependent on us being able to use social media ourselves, yet another point I think we can make to reluctant managers!

Stephen finished by illustrating the rise of apps and showing how important they will be. Designers used to think about designing for the computer first and mobile devices second, but the computer is fast becoming an afterthought. In the next few years, sales of mobile internet devices are going to eclipse sales of the traditional computer and we have to be ready to meet this new challenge.

Overall LIKE Ideas was a really interesting day which left me with lots of food for thought and promoted many stimulating discussions. I'll be keeping a close eye on their calendar and I hope to attend many future events that they run. I advise you to do the same!

photo credit: nan palmero via photopin cc

Saturday 30 June 2012

LIKE Ideas Conference - The Business of Social Media part 1

Yesterday I went to what was apparently the first conference organised by LIKE. I would never have known that  since everything went so smoothly! It was a really enjoyable afternoon and I came away really enthusiastic to get started on some social media projects of my own. As some of you may know, I'm currently writing my dissertation on the impact of social media marketing and so the conference was a great place to pick up a few extra points for the literature review. There's too much to fit into one post so I'm going to spilt my thoughts in two. This first post will cover the first three conference sessions.

The conference opened with Bertie Bosredon talking about his experiences of managing the social media efforts of Breast Cancer Care. When the organisation came to review its web presence it noticed that people were talking to each other to get information as much as they were talking to the charity. Users stayed active on the site forums for a few months and then moved on, often taking their new online friends with them to their next discussion space. The organisation saw this as an opportunity and offered training to its staff in how to use social media tools. The audience were already familiar with these tools so the organisation went to the places that they frequent in order to maintain a presence. I think this is a very important point. All organisations, including libraries, need to go where their users are going to maintain a dialogue with them rather than relying on users to come to the organisation. This is an advantage of social media that I'm not sure all people pick up on (especially those who see it as a waste of time).

Breast Cancer Care actively tries to maintain a conversation with users on its social media sites which I think is so important. The whole point of social media is that it enables contact and if it's just used to push messages out there then it's no better than a traditional webpage. I think that too few organisations miss this about social media so it was nice to see it being brought up here. Bernie highlighted how all social media developments were made organically rather than being forced. Whilst having a social media guidance policy in place is definitely a good idea (as was shown later in the conference) it's important not to be too rigid with it. This can put people off contributing as much as anything else which defeats the whole point of social media. One of the main things that I took away from Bernie's presentation is how important it is to empower the people within your organisation to use social media. Give them training if they need it, let them experiment. Have some guidance in place but don't be too strict since this can damage the flow of the conversation you have with your users.

The next session was by Noleen Schenk on how to use social media to support research. Working in an academic library this was a very interesting topic for me. She outlined how collaboration and social interaction run through all aspects of the research process - making social media an ideal medium to use. Noleen talked a lot about how important social networking can be to the research process - it can strengthen existing networks and lead to the discovery of new information. One of the most important things that social media can be used for is giving researchers access to their networks network. I know from personal experience that asking a question on Twitter leads to no shortage of answers. Different social media tools can be used for different parts of the research process, such as those for which enable collaboration and tools which can be used to store citations (something which I personally couldn't do without!). The key point that Noleen stressed was social media is not the only tool that you can use in the research process, but it's something to have in your toolbox. You don't need to use all of the tools all of the time but find the one(s) that work for you in your research.

In the final session before the break James Mullan talked about how social media tools can be used internally to enable communication throughout the workforce. He talked about enterprise social networks which will enable employees to engage both with each other and with the company's networks. When 'selling' social media tools to other employees and especially supervisors who may be sceptical, James highlighted the importance of explaining how the tool can help them. By explaining how something can make someones life easier you are much more likely to get them on board.  This is especially helpful if you can find a tool which fulfils a specific need within your organisation. Another interesting point that James made about encouraging use of social media was to make the entry point low. People just don't have the time to learn lot's of new things, especially when they are already sceptical about them in the first place. Choosing a complicated bit of software which takes hours to master will only put people off, so it's important to experiment and find something fit for purpose which is simple to use. It's also important to remember that what works for one group or set of circumstances may not work for another. There are plenty of tools out there - experiment and find the right one for you!

That's the end of part one! Hopefully I will have the write up of part two up in a couple of days.

photo credit: nan palmero via photopin cc

Monday 11 June 2012

Can You Ever Be TOO Professionally Developed?

Last week I was asked by a colleague to make a list of any professional development activities that I had taken part in over the last few months so she could report them back at a divisional meeting. I got out the diary and made her a list, but even I was a little shocked at the length of it. I have something on most weeks but I didn't really add it all up until I saw the list in black and white and found that there were about twelve events/courses on there. This got me thinking (hence this blog post!)

I know that there has been discussion recently over why some librarians feel the need to get involved with so many things outside work - and become the so-called "uber librarian". I've seen arguments both for and against and I think a lot of it depends on your personality or work situation. Personally, I have had to really fight to get the job I'm in now and I think this has influenced the amount of 'extra-curricular' activities that I take part in. When I was working part-time I needed something to fill those spare hours which made me feel like I was still connected to the profession, and I was also preparing for job interviews. I've lost count of the number of times I was told I was unsuccessful because the other candidates were doing library courses or taking part in conferences, rather than that they had specific job related skills that I didn't. There has been a lot of speculation recently over whether extra activities have any bearing on whether you get the job or not. I think it depends a lot on the organisation you are applying to, the role you are applying for and the mindset of the people conducting the interview. If there are two candidates with a similar skill set then I would like to think that being professionally involved gives you a little bit of an edge but I could be wrong. My main question is this - how much involvement is too much?

What worries me about taking part in any or all of these activities is whether a future employer will see my participation as a good thing or as something which takes me away from the job that they are actually paying me to do. Personally I think that a professional interest is very important. Why spend most of your waking time doing a job if you are not going to be 100% committed to it? I am well aware of the fact that sometimes I need to learn to say no, but there just happen to be many things that interest me just now. I'm lucky enough to be able to attend many of the events that I would like to, so I feel that I would be missing out on an opportunity if I didn't. I also think that both my professional involvement and my library course have given me more confidence - both inside and outside my job. Surely this can only be a good thing?

Another issue that has arisen recently is whether I should be using my annual leave to take part in some of these activities. I have been told more than once recently by various people that I shouldn't be taking leave to attend events etc. since professional development is part of my career. I can understand where they're coming from but when you're doing something every week, and sometimes more than once a week, when does it become unprofessional to keep asking for time off? My personal philosophy is that if it's directly related to my job, organised by the university that I work for or I've been asked to go then I should ask for time off. If it is something that I've found out about and want to attend, then why should my employers have to give me time off when I could take it from my leave?

I really just wanted to canvass some opinion on the topic of professional development. What do other people do? Does anyone feel the same as me or am I just being over cautious? I think what it will come down to is a balancing act, but I just need a little help on where to hold the pole (or in the case of the picture, the fan)! All opinions gratefully received...

Photo credits:
Google calendar: Spinstah
Tightrope walker:

Monday 21 May 2012

Penumbra visit to Homerton Library

My second Penumbra placement was at Homerton College library. Although the college started out as a teacher training college it is now a full member of the University of Cambridge and is not to be confused with the Education Faculty.

My day started out with a tour of the library. Set in a light and airy building, it makes an attractive study space and is well used. The library is open 24 hours and the current exam term means it's very popular with revising students. I learnt that there are plans to refurbish the library over the coming months in order to keep it up to date, for example installing tables with integrated power sockets for laptops. One of the most interesting things about the library is its extensive children's literature collection. The library tries to keep up with the latest trends in children's and young adult literature and preserve these for future study. This struck a chord with me since it is similar to my work with the Tower Project. When material was received on legal deposit in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was put in the tower if it was considered to have little or no academic value. Today these items are valued for those studying literature, children's literature and social history to name a few. By building a collection of today's children's literature, Homerton library is helping to ensure access to these resources for future generations. This collection isn't weeded meaning that it can be preserved for the future.

Next up was a session on blogging. The library maintains a successful blog which functions as a way to share news and general announcements with users. As well as the main news page, the blog contains a number of sub-pages with FAQs and a guide to the library. One of the things which most impressed me about the blog was its resources page. Not only does this provide links to commonly used library and information resources, it also provides guides to the local area and transport. This is an extremely handy thing to have on a library website, especially one with so many visiting scholars who may not know the local area. The library is the knowledge base of the university but it is all too often forgotten that this extends beyond teaching and research needs. If the library can provide information which people find useful then they are more likely to see it as a useful source of information. For example, if the library can give a student clear information on bus routes into town then they will see the library as a good source of information. The next time they need to do research for an essay, they are more likely to use the library since it provided them with valuable information before (albeit of a different sort!).

This was followed by a session on book selection. Homerton is independent in its books selection. Although it receives recommendations from staff and students, which it accommodates, it is able to chose the items which it thinks will best fit its remit. The system used for these items allows books to be bound etc. at the point of order which is an added bonus. At the UL we have an in-house bindery but I do appreciate that not everyone is lucky enough to have this facility! The staff at Homerton were very patient when explaining the book ordering process to me. I had never realised that it was this complex and it's given me a new appreciation for colleagues who do this as part of their jobs. Items are instantly available on the catalogue after ordering so that users can see exactly what the library holds. These basic records are updated as needed but this instant availability important for both the user and the library. If an item is on order this is shown on the record to prevent holds being placed on items which are not actually in stock yet.

My morning at Homerton was very informative and enjoyable and I want to say a huge thank you to the team for sharing their time with me. I apologise if this post doesn't go into as much detail as some of my others (I've left my notes at home and want to get the post out, so this is being done from memory!). I would encourage anyone in University of Cambridge libraries who is thinking about taking part in the Penumbra scheme to do it - it's a very worthwhile and rewarding experience. I've had a few people ask me questions about the scheme in the last week or so which is a really encouraging sign. I would also encourage any libraries thinking about offering a placement to do so, you can get as much out of it as the participants!

Picture credits: treyerice (Homerton College), Paul Watson (books)

Wednesday 16 May 2012

'Making CILIP Work for You' - a CILIP East of England Event

Last weekend I attended the CILIP East of England event 'Making CILIP Work for You' which was held in Cambridge. The afternoon featured talks on CILIP and social media by CILIP president Phil Bradley, feedback from the recent survey of CILIP East of England members and group discussions.

After outlining the structure of CILIP and his duties as president, Phil went on to talk about new developments within CILIP. He highlighted the need to make CILIP seem like less of a London centric organisation, a decision which is reflected in the fact that this years AGM will be held in Newcastle. This is something I hadn't really considered before. I live in Cambridge so it isn't that much of a hassle for me to get down to CILIP HQ in London, but I do appreciate that this would be difficult for others who live further away. There was general acknowledgement from around the room that this was a positive step.

The point was made that although at times CILIP is an organisation, it is made up of people and these people are the key to its success. The organisation is there to represent its members so it is vital for us to tell them how they could best do this. This is the aim of events such as this one and all members are encouraged to have their say. If people don't, then they can hardly complain that they aren't getting what they want! Events like this enable Phil to find out what members are doing in their libraries and then share this knowledge with other librarians who may find it useful, as well as putting it out into the wider world.

The second part of Phil's talk focused on social media in libraries. Since this is my current research topic my ears pricked up! Phil made an excellent point which I've seen mentioned a lot on Twitter lately. He argued that although there is resistance in some places to social media use in the workplace, as information professionals we should be able to argue that social media IS an information resource and therefore it's part of our job to know about it. This really stuck a chord with me and is an argument that I intend to pursue in the future. In addition to this, using social media shows that the library is involved and proactive when it comes to their users. Social media is where users are so this is where the library should be to. If not, then we're missing out something huge!

Phil is adamant that CILIP should be well represented on social media for these very reasons. His philosophy is "it's not a question of IF we get involved in social media but HOW we get involved" and he recommends that libraries think very carefully before deciding not to use it. Libraries have traditionally been the 'keepers' of information but we all know that this has changed. We still need to be the people that users come to for information and if social media is where the most useful information for their needs is then we need to know about it. Librarians and other information professionals need to aid users in finding quality content amongst the sheer amount of information available today. The goalposts haven't really changed, they have just moved a little bit to include new formats. With so much information present, someone needs to tell users which is the 'best' information to use - librarians.

The power of the individual on social media was also discussed. Phil pointed out that users often don't go to the webpage of the company anymore, they look at the social media of the individual who works for them. The company can actaully get authority from the individual instead of the other way around, which is an interesting shift. It also means that I might have to dust off my slightly neglected LinkedIn profile...

The main focus of the afternoon was small discussion groups which were held on various topics. I took part in the groups on advocacy and training. Live blogs from these groups and the others can be found on the CILIP East of England blog so I won't cover the same ground here. One issue that came up again and again in our advocacy group was the issue of volunteers in libraries and what is seen as the consequent 'de-skilling' of the profession. Whilst people praised the work that volunteers had contributed to libraries that they had worked in, there was a definite air of caution. This is something which seems to have been echoed on Twitter in recent days and I'll be interested to see what feedback comes from this. Another issue that was discussed was how CILIP could aid in small scale advocacy. The example used was social media and it was suggested that a sort of 'fact sheet' of reasons why libraries should be using it should be put together in order to aid individuals in putting their cases forward to their managers. This would be really useful and would certainly be applicable in many other similar situations.

We then moved on to discussing training and there was a definite discrepancy in training budgets across the libraries represented. Some had the freedom to attend pretty much what they wanted whilst others had to fight to attend even one training course. Whilst CILIP can't do much about the policies of individual employers, the East of England group are intending to try to fill a little of the gap left by the closure of the official CILIP training programme. It was pointed out that just because the event is for East of England members, this doesn't mean that it has to be held here. If it easier for everyone to get to London then why not hold it there? Other points raised included the cost of training. There seemed to be equal numbers of people who would be happy to pay and those who wanted free training and events. I would personally be happy to pay an affordable amount for training and events, but I did raise the point that travel costs need to be taken into consideration when setting the budgets. Another topic discussed was the possibility of a virtual learning environment which is apparently something that CILIP are actively working on. I'll be interested to see what they come up with. Having an online learning environment would certainly solve the problem of securing time off work to attend training sessions! 

Overall it was a really interesting and stimulating day. I came away feeling positive and inspired about the profession in general and eagerly looking forward to the next CILIP East of England event.

Photo credit: joeyanne

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Penumbra visit to Selwyn Library

Last week I went on my first work shadowing visit as part of the Penumbra programme run by Cambridge University. This first visit was to Selwyn College Library and I was very lucky to have the wonderful Sarah Stamford and her team show me round.
My day started with a quick tour of the college. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived in Cambridge all my life and barely know which college is which, never mind visited many of them. This was my first time inside Selwyn and it’s a lovely looking place. Our first stop was a trip to the archives and a quick chat with the archivist Elizabeth Stratton, who was putting the finishing touches to an exhibition of college history. I was surprised to see artifacts alongside the traditional documents and photographs but Elizabeth explained to me that items like this helped to set the more traditional items in context and it made sense to house them both together.  We also discussed how Selwyn are encouraging today’s students to contribute to the archives of the future, a very important point that often gets forgotten. Even recent students are asking to see photographs and documents from their time at the university, but this is largely dependent on the donations that the archives receive.
Next I was given a tour of the library. Despite being somewhat smaller than the library I’m used to, it was a very warm and welcoming space. I especially liked the silent study room where not even computers are allowed. I was impressed that this was an idea which came from the students themselves. I think that the idea of the library as a space to study in peace is often overlooked. I know that I've been in to the library on my days off just because I know that I can get some peace to get some work done. There is a lot of emphasis right now on how libraries need to adapt to accommodate changing study patterns such as group work and whilst this is important, I think that the need for a quiet place shouldn’t be overlooked. There are precious few places that people can go to get true peace anymore and I’m pleased that the students (and the library) recognise this.
The remit of the library is to support undergraduate teaching and it relies on reading lists and recommendations when selecting stock. Since I work in a legal deposit library, it was nice to see how books are selected rather than the way they just seem to magically appear at the UL! With a stock of c.40,000 items the point was made that the staff could look and see what is being used. Purchasing decisions could then be made based on this. This would be somewhat difficult in a massive library like the UL but it was very educational to see how things happen in a more traditional college library. Another part of the remit of the library is to foster a good relationship with students. By working with the students to provide them with what they want and need the library is setting a good grounding for students future relationship with the college.
Sarah also took me through some basic classification, which is an area I am very keen to get more experience in. I have to say, she explained it a lot more clearly than any of the books have been able to! One interesting point that Sarah made was that the book should be placed in the section where it will be of most use to users, regardless of where the ‘politics’ dictates it should be placed. The library uses a Dewey system which is different from the in-house system that I’m used to but the session provided a lot of useful theory for me to think about. Hopefully one day I will have a chance to put what I’ve learnt into practice...
We also talked a little bit about the library’s social media presence. This was of particular interest to me since my dissertation research is in this area. The library’s Facebook page is targeted at students rather than other librarians and aims to be an informal way of sharing news and events. The staff tries to keep the page people focused and light-hearted. Official communication is still done via email meaning that the Facebook page is a supplement to communication rather than a replacement. Based on my research this is the best way to go since not all users respond to social media. It is a good way of enhancing relations but it shouldn’t be relied on.
I really enjoyed my visit to Selwyn and would like to extend a massive thank you to the team there. I only wish the library (and librarians) had been this wonderful when I was at university!

Photo credit: qatsi.

Friday 6 April 2012

CIG eforum - Social media in the cataloguing community

This was the first CIG eforum that I’ve taken part in. I usually struggle to fit eforums into my day but I couldn't resist this topic, which is near and dear to my heart (and my dissertation research).

The opening topic focused on personal use of social media, and Twitter in particular. Many people said that they found it an invaluable tool for learning about new developments and opportunities. I agree with those that said it made them feel very much part of a community. I set up my own Twitter account a couple of years ago but I've only really been an active user for the last year or so. I could never really see the point when I started, but since then I've found it an invaluable tool for professional development. I've found out about conferences and training opportunities but also just the day to day "news" of the cataloguing world and it's something that I think I would struggle to be without now. Other people echoed this view, saying that without Twitter they would have been out of the loop and missed out on events and opportunities.

There was a lot of discussion over whether to keep Twitter accounts private or not. Personally I keep my account open because I think that it misses the point of a social network if you don't. Some people pointed out that it can be hard to follow the conversation if someone has a locked account since you can’t see all the tweets. I know that this has happened to me when trying to follow a conversation and it’s frustrating. Having said that, I’ve been getting more and more spam followers in the last few months so I can understand why people lock their accounts. Someone suggested that those just starting out begin with a locked account and then see how they go – sound advice.

There was also discussion of Twitter and other social media tools for work purposes. Some people used social media for their jobs but others had restrictions that meant that this wasn't an option. Popular tools used for work purposes included blogs and Facebook pages. Some people are using social media to keep colleagues up to date internally. Some institutions do this already and I know that I find it really useful. Ours is used to store information about cataloguing procedure that used to be sent out via email. This often meant that people knew they had received an email about something but couldn't find it when they needed it. Now, we can just search the blog and the information is there!

It was pointed out that one of the main benefits of any form of social media for cataloguers is that it can bring them together. I’m lucky enough to work in a large cataloguing department with lots of people on hand to offer advice and support but not everyone is that fortunate. For solo cataloguers in particular, social media can be a lifeline. Some cataloguers use Twitter to ask work questions and the speed at which these are answered never fails to amaze me. Cataloguers on Twitter are always so eager to help (much like in real life!).

There was also discussion over whether to have separate Twitter accounts for personal and professional use. My Twitter account (like most of my social media presence) is meant to be strictly business but there are the times when it lapses into more personal territory! I think that letting your personality show through in tweets or other social media will help to engage your followers, whether your account is personal or professional. I’m researching users opinions of library 2.0 at the moment and the comments so far all seem to suggest that they like the more ‘human’ face that social media puts on the library and its staff. I think constant ‘business’ tweets would seem a bit inhuman and undermine this benefit.

One of the issues raised was how to fit all of these tools into the day, especially if your access if restricted. I admit that I struggle with this. I think the best thing to do is to try a variety of tools and then pick the one(s) that work best for you and devote your time to them. I use Twitter everyday and I find that this leads me on to blogs and other posts which I find useful. Sometimes the last thing that people want to do after staring at a computer screen all day is spend the evening reading blogs and Twitter feeds. Twitter was compared to a river – you just have to go with the flow and read a snapshot of the tweets available at the time you are reading it. Otherwise I think people who follow more than about five people would go mad!

Social media training was also discussed. Whilst some had formal training, most people seemed self-taught and others came to use social media through various 23 Things programmes. I would recommend these programmes for anyone who wants an introduction to social media tools. Cam23 and cpd23 are just two of the recent programmes that I know of and although they are over, the how-to posts remain up. I think that these tools are best explored rather than taught, but that’s just my opinion.

The use of social media in catalogues was another topic. I have no experience with this so it was really interesting for me to see what others do. Tagging seemed to be the most talked about tool but there was a debate over how popular this was with users. I've read research which seems to suggest that users find it useful but don’t value it as much as controlled language subject headings. I work in a legal deposit library and get all sorts of material across my desk. Sometimes I think that it would help to have some outside input, especially with something mathematical and complicated, but I think that user based tagging has a LONG way to go before it can compete with the established subject headings systems.

One question asked was how people feel about social media and conferences. I know that I find conference blogs and tweets invaluable when I can’t get to an event, but some were worried that it would be anti-social to tweet from a conference. I think that although it can be annoying for some it's becoming more and more the norm nowadays and the advantages of being able to keep in touch far outweigh the disadvantages.

Some people raised concerns over the ownership of social media content and issues surrounding privacy. I think that this is an interesting area which deserves more thought. Most people are aware of privacy issues but I must admit that ownership isn’t something I had given much thought to. I’d like to think that since I created the so-called intellectual content of this site that it belongs to me but maybe not? Something worth looking into/thinking about.

Many useful suggestions were made about using social media for work as well as personal purposes. A Twitter marathon for cataloguers was suggested to highlight the variety of material that gets catalogued in a single day. I think this is a brilliant suggestion and I hope that it’s one that gets taken up – I know I’d love to be involved!

Overall the discussions raised some really interesting points and ideas that hopefully will get taken forward in the future. There were even some non-Twitterers who may have been converted which is possibly the best outcome of all!

One last thing I want to mention that was posted on the forum is this website for cataloguers to share pictures of what they are working on. It’s an excellent distraction when stuck on subject headings ;o)

photo credit: Matt Hamm via photopin cc

Friday 30 March 2012

Essential Library of Congress Subject Headings

I recently wrote a review of Essential Library of Congress Subject Headings by Vanda Broughton for the CILIP CIG newsletter. The newsletter was published today and current members can read the latest issue here.

For anyone that doesn't have access to the newsletter I just want to recommend this book. It belongs with the two already well known books in the series on cataloguing and classification and is a worthy addition. The book makes the subject interesting when it could have been very dull indeed! I think it's definitely worth borrowing from the library or even buying whether you are new to subject headings or need a quick refresher.

November 2013: Edited to add that anyone can now read the review here.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Problems of Cataloguing in Higher Education - a CIG/ARLG event

Last night I attended the CIG/ARLG joint seminar in London. The topic was "The Problems of Cataloguing in Higher Education", which immediately appealed to me since it's relevant to my everyday job as a cataloguer in a university library. Robin Armstrong-Viner from the University of Kent gave the main presentation.

The current economic situation isn't news for anyone, but it has brought a lot of issues to a head. Everyone is under pressure to perform and libraries are by no means excluded from this. Cataloguing departments are sadly amongst some of the first areas targeted for cuts in organisations looking for ways to save money. One of the first questions that Robin asked was what level of value does cataloguing add for our users? He has calculated that, depending on the grade of the staff involved, each item costs between £5-£11 to catalogue. The crucial question is, does this reflect value for money? I think I (and plenty of others) would argue that it does. As Robin later pointed out, cataloguing is a core service of the library. Without it, libraries would not be able to provide almost all of their services for the basic reason that they wouldn't be able to find anything! I think that this is well worth the investment of £5-£11, but then I'm more than a little biased! It's an interesting concept and hopefully one that someone will take further one day. If someone could come up with a way to measure the impact of a catalogued book in £s and then compare this to the above figure we could be looking at some evidence that it would be hard for our managers to ignore.

Robin also touched on the now infamous amongst cataloguers blog post on LISNPN by Theresa Schultz. He argued that this sort of post shows the reason why cataloguers need to work to change the way that they are perceived. Again, this is nothing new to cataloguers but Robin managed to turn the words of the post and comments on their head. Instead of classing cataloguers as nitpicky and accurate to the point of pain he showed us to be a business critical and precise bunch. I especially liked the point about cataloguing being 'business critical' since it seems like the kind of phrase that would impress the management. Cataloguing is vital to the library and a core service, as touched on above and we need to work hard to promote this image to our colleagues and users.

We were also urged to remember that we have a choice in what we do from here. We can aim for more of the same, consolidate our professional knowledge and focus on the traditional expertise of cataloguing. Although this sounds tempting we then run the risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant. Our other option is to change. We can build on the core skills that cataloguers have and demonstrate other ways in which we can add value to the work of the library. With this second option the danger is that we risk losing our professional identity. Personally I sit on the fence with this one in that I think that we need a little bit of both. We need to work towards maintaining our high levels of professional knowledge whilst working to demonstrate how we add value outside of our departments. Maybe this is a touch idealistic but I sometimes think that people spend so much time thinking of ways in which they could change that they don't always stop to think if they should. I don't doubt that cataloguing needs to adapt but I do strongly believe that it has been considered a core skill for a reason - it's very much needed.

Also on the subject of perceptions, Robin pointed out that we need to go from expecting respect automatically to earning it. Users don't really care how material gets to the shelf, only that it is there when they need it. Cataloguers need to keep on demonstrating the value that they can bring to both library services and the wider community. We need to be on the ball responding to changing user needs and expectations as well as supporting the wider university and world. Cataloguers also need to think about sharing information in ways that allow it to be re-purposed, possibly for uses that we can't imagine right now.

I think for me one of the most interesting points of the seminar was the analogy between libraries and hospitals. It takes many different kinds of doctors, nurses and non-medical personnel to make a hospital function correctly. Their jobs may be small or large but they are all essential to the smooth running of the hospital. Libraries work in much the same way. Cataloguers may be only one part but they are vital in the smooth running of the library's functions. We need to interact more with our colleagues, both to promote ourselves and our role and to work together to help make the library the best that it possibly can be. I thought that this was an excellent analogy and one that I hope to be introducing to both my managers and my colleagues in the near future!

photo credit: Christopher Chan via photopin cc

Wednesday 29 February 2012

CILIP membership - why I'm going to continue

Today my CILIP membership renewal form arrived. When I first joined a couple of years ago as a student member I fully intended to give up my membership when I finished my degree since I didn't think I could justify the fees.

Over the last few months however I've changed my mind on this. I'm renewing my membership, with the intention of going for Chartership when I've finished my degree. I honestly believe that this will be worth the money even though I don't expect to get a new job or a pay rise out of it (although I wouldn't say no if the boss is reading!). The reason I'm doing it is that I feel that I get a lot out of being a member.

I've been lucky enough to win grants to attend two CILIP organised conferences. These conferences have given me confidence in myself and helped me enormously with my dissertation research. I've also been involved in writing for a couple of CILIP publications and have attended some events. These activities have all helped me to increase my professional knowledge, which I think adds a lot to my day-to-day job. Being a member has also led, indirectly, to my participation in the CPD23 programme which has been invaluable to me in many ways.

The most important thing that I feel I've gotten from my membership is contact with a lot of wonderful people. This has been both in person and online. I've been having quite a tough couple of years, both personally and professionally and talking with like minded people has really helped. CILIP members are a friendly and welcoming bunch and are working really hard to stand up for their profession in tough times. The bottom line is that I think CILIP really does offer a great chance for both professional and personal development.

I know that circumstances are different for everyone and some people have been quite vocal over their desire to leave CILIP or never get involved in the first place. I used to be one of them. I would say, don't let the fees alone put you off. Although I do think they are high for what is not generally a well paid profession, I think it's worth looking at what you could potentially get out of membership. Try it for a year and if you don't think it's worth it then there's no pressure to continue.

The important thing to remember is that you will get as much out of membership as you are prepared to put in. It takes work to make professional bodies a success and this includes all members. If you get involved in any way, no matter how small, then you will start to see the benefits. I think a lot of people just join professional bodies expecting all the work to be done for them and this isn't the case. Something as simple as following CILIP and/or its various groups on Twitter can lead to a wealth of information about ways to participate. It doesn't have to be big and it doesn't have to be scary.

I don't really know why I am writing this (probably something to do with avoiding the half finished dissertation that is crying out to be completed). It's just something that I felt I had to say, which is part of the joy of blogging I suppose! So, for better or worse I'm hitting the publish button. Thanks for reading to anyone who has made it to the end of this long and slightly rambling blog post!

Sunday 26 February 2012

#uklibchat - Cataloguing and Classification

Last Thursday I took part in the uklibchat on cataloguing and classification. For anyone who doesn't know, uklibchat is a Twitter chat which is held once a fortnight and discusses a wide range of library topics. Information about the chat, future topics and agendas can be found here.

Probably the question that caused most discussion was do you think that library schools should teach cataloguing and classification or is it best learnt on the job? There were a mixture of answers to this but the general consensus was that library schools should certainly teach at least the basics. More in depth knowledge could be learnt whilst in post but several people mentioned the idea that cataloguing is a fundamental part of our professional identity as librarians. This means that it needs to be an integral part of the library school curriculum.

I agree with these statements. When I took my cataloguing and classification module at library school I was already an experienced cataloguer and so there wasn't that much that was new to me. I have to say though that I sympathised with others who struggled with the module, having had little or no prior experience of cataloguing. Cataloguing is a very difficult subject to teach 'dry' without any practical experience. It is definitely a skill that needs to be practiced to be appreciated. Having said this I am aware that there are fewer cataloguing posts available than there used to be, with a lot of the work now outsourced. This makes studying the topic in library school even more important since it may be the only introduction that many people get. This also highlights the need for enthusiastic cataloguing teachers. I was lucky that my lecturer was able to make what could have been quite a dry topic very interesting due to her enthusiasm, but I appreciate that this might not be the case for everyone. This is especially true if people are learning on the job with a line manager who already has their hands full!

An interesting question was how can catalogues and their content be made more social? My suggestion was maybe the introduction of more user tagging. I think though that this may be more a case of libraries doing what they think their users want rather than what they actually want. There are too many inconsistencies for them to be the basis of information retrieval but they could provide an added extra. I know that in my job I am sometimes cataloguing books (such as complex maths or science books) that I have problems coming up with subject headings for. A user who is actually a specialist in the subject would have more of an idea what others in the field would be looking for and so could provide valuable subject ideas. I still think that traditional subject terms should remain the main way of indexing works.

Another question asked was what is the best way to get into cataloguing? The most popular methods seemed to be volunteering or asking to shadow someone who actually works in a cataloguing department. I think this is good advice, even to those of us already in cataloguing posts. There is always more to learn and new ways of doing things. Visiting others in the profession is a great way to update your own skills and I hope to be doing some of this myself in the near future. Just not sure where/how I am going to fit it in!

The issue of how to help people who have the desire to learn cataloguing but no opportunities to do so was raised. I'm fortunate enough to have the option of visiting others but I know that for many this isn't practical. There were many suggestions for some kind of online training and it sounds like CILIP CIG is on the case. Hopefully this will lead to more opportunities for people to learn cataloguing and classification.

What developments do you expect in how library catalogues are presented to users? Most people thought that Google style interfaces would become more the norm and I think that we are starting to see this in more and more libraries. It's what users are used to and what they expect and I think that this is one trend that librarians are going to have to accept.

A question which got me thinking was what is the best classification scheme for an academic library? Many different suggestions were put forward on the best scheme and I don't think a consensus was reached. Cambridge has its own unique system and it's the only one I've ever used (as a cataloguer). The question did get me thinking about the pitfalls of a library having its own system and multiple systems being used in libraries in general. Does this prepare users for finding information? Students at Cambridge have to use multiple schemes across different college and faculty libraries and I'm undecided about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, if they only had to use one system this may make it easier for them to find resources across the libraries. On the other hand, having different systems can encourage them to actually use subject indexing to look for the resources. I'm sure there is no one perfect answer and the best method is something which makes it as easy as possible for users to find what they need.

There were other topics covered but I feel that I have gone on long enough! ukclibchat posts excellent summaries of their chats so I advise anyone interested to have a look there for a more thorough discussion of the issues.