Wikis and Cataloguers: Success for the First Step

Our new wiki was installed in the beginning of December. I was both nervous and excited. This is the first “big” project that could have a huge impact not only in the cataloguing department, but also throughout the rest of the library. If this pilot project works, I can write a report that recommends wikis for other departments throughout the library system, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses that I have encountered, as well as the learning curves, training challenges and staff participation.

The First Step
Although not fully implemented, my first step with our Wiki was to introduce the cataloguers to its possible functions and uses. I put up many of our cataloguing “cheat sheets”, links to relevant cataloguing sites, department announcements and recent cataloguing decisions from LC and LAC. Sending them the link to the Wiki, I asked them to have a look around, get use to the navigating aspects and layouts. Upon reviewing the site, I asked for their feedback: What did they like? Dislike? Ideas for adding new content?

With my excitement in this project and by taking the time to answer questions and explain the possibilities of the Wiki, all of the cataloguers began suggesting ideas or providing me with feedback. One of the most rewarding moments was when one of the cataloguers suggested we put our “working” New Lists on the Wiki.

Collaborative Lists
New Lists are created as we catalogue items. Like most cataloguing departments, each cataloguer is in charge of cataloguing specific materials (DVDs, CD, Fiction, Talking books, Non-fiction, Children’s Non-fiction, etc). As we catalogue, items published or released within the last two years are added to “New” lists which are provided to the public and are constantly being edited and updated. Each cataloguer is responsible for their list, which reflects the items they catalogue. However, when backlogs occur, several cataloguers may be assigned to a specific collection to reduce the backlog.

With several cataloguers contributing to these New lists, it was becoming difficult for the main cataloguer in charge of the list to keep track of the item, how long they had been on the list, and when they should be removed. In addition, many cataloguers have their own system for keeping track of the lists (I.e. Word documents, Excel Charts, Handwritten notes). The time to organize these lists when multiple cataloguers were contributing was becoming a concern.

Our solution was to place the New lists on the Wiki. Presently, we are actively contributing to the New! Latest CDs list. This is an internal list that can be seen and edited by all cataloguers.

Because of the backlog, there can be up to four cataloguers contributing to this list at once. Because of the Wiki, there is one master list for each collection and the items are sorted by date. The cataloguer in charge of the list can then see when the item was added, how long it has been on the list and who added the item. This makes editing the live list in the cataloguer much easier. The amount of time that this has saved is equivalent to a couple of hours a week. As a result of the hours being saved organizing and editing the lists, more time can be spent cataloguing and reducing backlogs in other areas.

This is the first of many steps that I hope to take in the department. My next step is to set up a tutorial to allow cataloguers to create a group page and to collaborate on a project, using the features a Wiki has to offer. Once they have completed this tutorial, they should have the skills and knowledge to jump in to using the Wiki on a regular basis.

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2 Comments

Filed under In the Cataloguing Department, The Cataloguer

2 responses to “Wikis and Cataloguers: Success for the First Step

  1. Sally Sorensen

    Inspiring project! What wiki software are you using?

  2. Laurel Tarulli

    Hi Sally,
    I’m using MediaWiki. One thing thing that is always an issue in public libraries is money. I didn’t want the cost of software to become a factor. As a result, I explored the different wiki software available for free. Although there are many good options, MediaWiki is very user friendly, and looks exactly like Wikipedia. This familiar interface assists staff in overcoming the first potential hurdle – new and unfamiliar software. I think that having a wiki that looks the same as Wikipedia makes staff feel as if they are building on their existing knowledge, rather than learning new software. As a result, everyone has been very positive and eager.

    Are you considering a wiki for your department?

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