Monthly Archives: April 2009

Twitter meets the library catalogue

Roy Tennant’s article Twitter meets the library catalog is a great feature piece focussing on how one librarian is using new technology to promote and enhance the library catalogue. 

Emily Clasper, a Systems Operation Manager out of Suffolk, N.Y. has figured out a way to use Twitter to enhance the catalogue and I think she’s really on to something.  Like Ms. Clasper, I’ve been noticing more and more bloggers using Twitter feeds and it appears to be extremely successful. 

This is a great use of new technology and definitely something to consider for our own libraries.

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Filed under future of cataloguing, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Who is responsible for the quality of the information we catalogue?

If you’ve been following the RadCat listserv recently, you’ve been reading a lot about 9/11, conspiracy theories and whether or not we should be questioning the legitimacy of the material we catalogue.

Some cataloguers, simply put, say no. The quality of information and the items themselves that we catalogue are provided to us through collection development (aka. Acquisitions). It is their job to decide what the library will or will not collect. It is up to the cataloguer to provide access to it.

Other cataloguers believe we should question what we catalogue to a certain degree. To what degree should that be? Should we bring the item to the attention of our collection development department? Should we add a note in the record? What type of subject headings are we going to assign to it?

This idea of how far we should go in mindlessly cataloguing items without regard to quality sits on the edge, I believe, of information ethics. As professionals, how far does our professional obligation extend beyond just providing access? Should we be providing false material to the public while representing it as legitimate? What if we notice one collection or point of view becoming a bit too heavy or one-sided?

While we must catalogue objectively, I believe it is part of our professional responsibility to question what we catalogue. Of course we shouldn’t make a nuisance of ourselves and question every religious book that opposes our personal view or book about sex that we don’t agree with. We can, however, question the balance of our collection and speak with our colleagues about that balance.We want a diverse and varied collection that represents all points of views and opinions. In many libraries, the selectors of materials in the library system are not centralized. Meaning, although the purchasing of the materials goes through a central location, the choosing of those materials don’t. As a result, we are the only department that sees the collection as a whole because it must pass our way before making it out to the public.

Cataloguers are the last “check-stop” before an item reaches the public. Rather than working in our individual silos, we need to start collaborating between departments. Our colleagues question our cataloguing decisions daily. And, many times, their questions lead to better access or a clearer definition of why we do what we do. Do we not have a right to question their decisions as well? Will our questioning the collection not enhance what we collect and provide access to?

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Filed under Access Issues, The Cataloguer

Bridging the Gap between New Generation Librarians and Boomers

How do you view your new librarian? Would you have more faith in a librarian who is older but a recent graduate, or a younger librarian with a few years behind her?

Bridging the gap between the different generations of librarians is a difficult issue to tackle. No matter whom you ask, the finger tends to be pointed at the other party and often, the real problem is a lack of wanting to compromise on opinions and ideas. After all, the assumption is that “the problem certainly can’t be me!”

This concept of bridging the generational gap was first introduced to me at IFLA this past August. Since then, I have joined the New Professionals Special Interest group and have taken a considerable interest in this area of librarianship.

Are you a “boomer” or “new gener”? Where do your biases fall? Whether you’re a boomer or a new gener, biases work both ways. As a next gener, you don’t want to be looked at as a “wet-behind the ears you have so much to learn” librarian. But, as a boomer, you don’t want to be seen as a “washed-up, your career is over” librarian. So, how do we meet in the middle? And, how do these biases present themselves in the workplace?

I once heard a sermon where the priest reminded the older parishioners “that they weren’t born martyrs”. Basically, while you have lived a few more years and have life experience, you’ve had a chance to try out your ideas and to make your mistakes. It’s not up to you to judge the younger folks and their ideas. Obviously there was some sort of generational gap issues happening at that parish.

Personalities, perceptions, insecurities and experience all play a role in dealing with these situations. For myself, whenever I feel slighted or pushed-aside because of my age, I set out to achieve something. I’m kind of an “I’ll show you” type of person. I’ve achieved some of my best accomplishments due to someone’s offhanded comment about my skills, my age or their lack of faith in my abilities. You could say that’s my “RED” button – danger, do not go there!

However, other individuals withdraw, ceasing to take advantage of opportunities that are presented, severing professional relationships or declining to contribute new and innovative ideas. In some cases, these professionals might never recover or reach their full potential. That is a shame and a problem.

Here are some simple facts (as I see them) about generational gaps and bridging them:
Age. No one wants to be reminded how old they are and no one wants to be reminded how young they are.

Frequent reminder of age. While an occasional comment meant to lighten the mood regarding age might be regarded as funny once, continual comments about age serve as a reminder to that individual that they are either a.) Older and perhaps their knowledge and ideas are outdated or b.) Younger and their ideas are not developed or worthy of consideration. Either way, it’s a put down and it’s inappropriate.

Acknowledge that a gap exists. This is not a new concept and can be found in workplaces, organizations, clubs, teams, social groups and so on.

Gaps occur in experience as well as age. There are new professionals who are 50 and more experienced professionals who are 40. Taking pains to point out levels of experience or exhibiting actions to create “barriers” is just as much of a gap as the age factor.

Perceptions and Insecurities. Believe it or not, your job can be done without you. You are replaceable. This goes for boomers and next geners. While there is only one you (and of course you’re special!) your job requires someone with a skill set – and we all learn this skill set when we go to library school. If you have the opportunity to work with a rising star, don’t feel threatened by their potential, nurture it. If you’re a next gener and you have the opportunity to work with a talented and energetic boomer, don’t make remarks about taking their job or stressing how you would do things differently if you were them. Learn from each other.

Arrogance, insecurity, self-preservation, jealousy and envy are all at play here. An off-handed comment, your own insecurity about your age or even doubt about your skills are all it takes to create a gap.

Respect and compromise. While there will always be a gap among the generations, there are ways to take advantage of it. Rely on boomers for their experience, knowledge and expertise. Rely on next geners for their enthusiasm, ideas, energy and drive. In essence, it is a great partnership because the gap provides qualities that complement each other.

One thing I’ve come to understand as a librarian working primarily with “boomers” is that a generation gap will always exist. I haven’t lived as long nor do I have the perceived life experience. I have my own experiences, perhaps more than some for my age, and a satisfactory list of professional accomplishments (with hopefully more to come!). I also do not apologize for my age any more than I expect my co-workers to apologize for theirs. I don’t want to be older, I don’t want to rush forward to get past this gap. And perhaps, this is where the gap is finally bridged – in an acceptance of where we are at in our careers and our lives. This comes from within and, as professionals it is our responsibility to attempt to achieve this.

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Filed under Our Profession

Seeking Your Advice: Physically Reorganizing Technical Services to Increase Workflow and Productivity

As many of you may know, the Library of Congress recently underwent a reorganization of their cataloguing and acquisition departments. From my understanding, they have also physically reorganized their departments so that cataloguers with similar expertise are sitting together (and perhaps with the acquisitions expert in that area?). In essence, they have broken into physical “teams” grouped together by expertise and collections.

This makes a lot of sense to me. What if we were able to do it all over again? How would we physically reorganize our technical services department? Would they be seated by an acquisitions staff member and be assigned their own processor? Should an individual from acquisitions and a cataloguer of the same area of collection expertise be seated in close proximity to help in developing the collection together? How can we lesson the amount of time items are spent being physically carted around? For example, items are received, carted over to cataloguing, carted over to processing and then carted over to delivery. Can we take out any of these steps?

I am very interested in this idea of increasing workflow and efficiency by physically reorganizing the technical services layout. I’m not only interested in the proximity of staff, but of the physically layout of such a work space (ie. Shelving issues, workspace solutions, and so on).

One post discussing the physical layout of technical services that is of interest is Karen Calhoun’s Continuous Improvement in Technical Services.

If any of you have recently moved into new spaces, have reorganized or have thoughts on reorganizing your departments, I am very interested in hearing you thoughts and ideas! If you don’t want to share them as comments, please send me an email tarulll@halifax.ca

Thank you to all!

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Filed under In the Cataloguing Department

The End-Of-The-Year Rush

March is the end of our library’s fiscal year and, the busiest time of year for our Collection Access department.  Where are we going to put all of these new items?  How are we going to fill the holds in a timely manner?  How did the holds list go from 100 to 1400 in a week for adult non-fiction items only?  Will this backlog ever get caught up?

Taking a step back, this is actually a great time to look at your department’s workflow and procedures.  Without sacrificing quality, how can we improve our turnaround time? 

Although tiring, I actually find this time refreshing.  While the sunshine and the sounds of the birds outside are putting everyone in a good mood, productivity increases to compensate for the additional work.  All of these positive elements give me the energy and drive to take a look at how effective our department is, and where we need to enhance or adjust procedures accordingly.  Staff are also likely to help with workflow feedback and frequently offer suggestions to improve overall productivity.

Encourage your staff to provide feedback during this busy time.  We’ve adjusted several procedures in the past two months and have noticed an increase in turnaround time and workflow.  Some of this including the sharing of responsibilities or shifting of what type of work was done on what day. 

If you are also facing the end-of-the-year crunch – try to keep a positive attitude (yes! It can be hard!).  Think outside the box and remember, we go through this every year and we always survive.  This year, try to use it as a time to enhance your already productive procedures and workflow.

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Filed under In the Cataloguing Department