Tag Archives: Outsourcing

“Standards are like toothbrushes, a good idea but no one wants to use anyone elses”

So quoted Anita Golderba during her presentation at the Cataloguing session at IFLA.

My remaining session notes are posted below. I am extremely late in posting them, but there are so many good ideas and points that were made by the presenters, I wanted to make them available.

Classification and Indexing
Classification and indexing without language borders
Anila Angjeli, Biblilotheque nationale de France
  • Interoperable data between all countries
  • “Semantic interoperability”, especially between special and heritage collections
  • Goal – bibliographic records may be structured differently, but still interoperable because there is uniform metadata, vocabulary and subject indexing.
  • Ideal – When data is pulled up, institutions should share information and draw from subject words/cross references to pull up multilingual but uniform pages. This is done through building complex indexes (cataloguers are being used for this). This allows users to search multiple catalogues from different libraries/institutions

Problems with sharing data – different MARC records, fields, authorities, subject use, etc.

How to get past these problems?

  • Use of semantic web
  • Insist on using a standard/common format
  • Consider conceptual vocabularies and base them in XML or HTML
  • Semantic links, more search options
  • Scope notes
  • Links/definitions
  • Additional resources
  • Deeper search choices

This is done through use of algorithms and complex indexing. 

Philipp Mayr, GESIS Social Science Information Centre
Vocabulary that is controlled is great – but it usually only represents one catalogue. How do you handle multiple collections in different languages?

Translate – cross-walks = Terminology mapping

Difficulty comes when mapping

Classification vs. thesaurus
Change of disciplines

Do mappings inprove subject searches? – YES
Do mappings allow for free text searches? – YES

example of multilingual, mapped database

Michael Kreyche, Systems Librarian, Kent State University

  • Spanish/English Database – with a bilingual interface
  • Based on LCSH
  • Multilingual subject headings

Concern for multilingual catalogues:

  • Outsourcing
    Experts (cataloguers) aren’t controlling the terms. Vendors provide data that is incorrect, inappropriate and not uniform.
    You must have cataloguers to have a functioning and accurate bilingual catalogue.
    Most libraries, both public and academic, are moving in the direction of multilingual catalogues.

Example of bilingual database: lsch-es.org

Read article “The Changing Nature of the Catalog and its Integration with other Discovery Tools” by Karen Calhoun, 2006.


Knowledge Managements
Towards understanding in the multicultural world

Donna Scheeder, Law Library of Congress

Turning the world into a learning organization – World wide collaboration such as Wikipedia is an example of knowledge management beyond the walls of our organizations

Librarians are knowledge managers and cataloguers understand how to organize and disseminate this knowledge.

  • Factors that impact knowledge management:
    Many of our projects are too big for one organization
    Resources need to be shared
    Knowledge needs to be distributed across cultures and national boundaries

This is more than a database – information need to be put into a context. As a result, the demand for librarians, and especially cataloguers, is predicted to grow, if we put ourselves “out there”.

New technology has enabled us to create and share knowledge across boundaries. An example is GLIN (Global Legal Information Network). This is a global, collaborative legal database searchable in 13 languages.

  • Success for global sharing:
    Decision making structure emphasizing collaboration
    Agreement on quality and technical standards
    Taxonomy/thesaurus that provides a basis for understanding through linking languages for common concepts

**This goes far beyond Google and requires experts in cataloguing and indexing.

  • Success factors for finding/working on global sharing
    Risk assessment
    Anticipating problems
    Make sure leadership roles are shared

Book recommendation: The 5th Disciple: The Right and Practice of the Learning Organization (Peter Senge)

Q & As:

Q: Difference between knowledge management v. information management.

A: Don’t get so hung up on terminology

Overall theme: We must have a shared goal. Information is culturally and contextually sensitive that require various degrees of engagement. Information transcends time, space and format.

Linda Stoddart, United Nations

We should view ourselves at knowledge managers, with a goal to outreach and sharing information. We can no longer think in terms of libraries and librarians.

Sharing standards: cooperation with other actors

Pat Riva, Bibliotheques et Archives nationale du Quebec
  • Reasons for cooperation:
    Cultural heritage
    Serve common users
    Facilitate exchange of information

FRBRoo focusses on process and models concepts in FRBR

Go to the IFLA FRBR website for the working group’s reports

Elizabeth O’Keefe, Morgan Library and Museum

Sharing standards and expertise in the 21st century

Moving toward a collaborative, cross-community model for metadata creation

Musems like the Morgan are continually seeking the expertise of cataloguers. They are creating cross-domain catalogues. Objects in local art galleries or museums are being included in the local library catalogue.
Curators and librarians share a common goal. Historically, curators have catalogues all non-book items in museums. This has led to databases with differing standards.

What did the Morgan do about this?
Adopt the cataloguing standard used in libraries. The standards are better as well as the controlled vocabulary and metadata standard.

  • Cataloguers are responsible for:
    Data mapping
    System implementation
    Selection of controlled vocabulary
    Final say on records
    Curators provide content

“Many hands make light work – especially when cataloguers do the work they’re trained for”

Anita Golderba, National Library of Latvia

“Standards are like toothbrushes, a good idea but no one wants to use anyone elses” – Burca.

Everyone agrees library records are the most structured and accurate due to our standards.

However, we practice such rigid standards that we’re missing some of the great content and ideas that other instutitions use (but lack our skill to make it accessible)

Negativity towards cataloguers stems from the design and limitations of OPACS, not the lack of expertise or ingenuity of cataloguers. Unforutanely, many times it is easier to blame the cataloguers.

FRBR – the whole point is to bring interoperability and collaboration bewteen libraries, organizations and other information institutions.

Comment from audience:

Barbara Tillet – Bibliographic records are dynamic. They are always changing. Authorities need to be altered frequently, as do access points (think government names and geographic locations, the invention of new terms and technology, etc). Library records aren’t static.

National bibliography agencies without borders – experiences on collaboration with other producers of bibliographic data

Philippe Cantie and Anne-Celine Lambotte, Bibliotheque nationale de France

With web 2.0, the user has a more active role

How can we bring the users in for participation in bibliographies? – in this case, users are libraries, galleries, museums, etc.

Creating searchable bibliographies based on Dewey, with web 2.0 features

Ability to add comments and tags

Goal is to add an open, collaborative bibliography housed on the web.

Liz McKeen, LAC

Web harvesting
LAC has a cataloguing policy for digital publications

Basic acces: full text searching
Supplementary access via metadata
Metadata supplied by others
Generated by existing descriptive metadata
Automatically generated by the digital information itself

Traditional cataloguing:
Full cataloguing criteria is set out
Is it important to Canada?
Is it important to research?

Digital requires a single record approach

If government publication was in print, add digital link and information to existing record.

Stresses the importance of maintaining traditional cataloguing and access while bringing in digital materials that also need attention for access.

Maha Zumer, University of Ljubljana

Cataloguing, the “new” definition: Describing to promote access, not describing an object for the sake of describing it.

  • You can’t outsource a bilingual catalogue or anything you collect that’s local:
    Government documents/websites
    Local CDs, Books, Videos
    Heritage items
    Local headings
    User needs
    Customized needs for staff
    Reading lists
    Cultural needs

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Filed under future of cataloguing, Our Profession

What comes after IFLA…

As I’m getting ready to leave for IFLA, I’m already thinking ahead to future blog posts.  There’s one area of cataloguing that has really grabbed my attention:  the debate between outsourcing and in-house cataloguing.  In addition to what I come across at IFLA, I’d like to explore this idea of outsourcing.   Why do libraries decide to do it?  What are the pros and cons?  What do libraries lose when they decide to outsource?  Is there a future for cataloguers in libraries?

I’ve been gathering and reading the literature on this topic.  One of the most disturbing themes I’ve come across is that cataloguing is NOT considered a core library function.  What?!!

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Quality v. Quantity

I had an appointment with my doctor the other day.  When I arrived several minutes before my scheduled appointment, I checked in and was told to take a seat.  I ended up waiting about a half an hour before the doctor was able to see me.

She was running late, but I didn’t mind.  I usually expect to wait at any doctor’s office.  However, the doctor seemed to be very aware of the time.  In addition to apologizing for the delay, she rushed through our appointment.  I attempted to explain some symptoms I was having, at which point she began examining me, cutting me off and asking additional questions.

At the end of the visit, the doctor indicated that she would be referring me to several specialists.  Not indicating when or how these appointments were to be made, or if I could take the time off to attend them, she again apologized for running behind and began calling out the next patient’s name.

I felt rushed, unsatisfied and brushed off.  I did not feel that the visit that I had just experienced was professional or patient focussed.  Instead, I felt that the amount of patients that revolved through the doors and at the scheduled time was more important the the individual patients’ needs and at the expense of proper medical care.

In reality, my doctor did nothing wrong.  When complaining of certain symptoms, she performed a brief exam and, not noticing anything immediate, decided to send me to a specialist. That is the way to avoid litigation and medical negligence.  However, I don’t believe this visit was up to the standard that I expect of a professional.  When I visit a professional, any professional, I don’t want to feel like a number.  I want to feel as if the service I am being provided is of the highest quality.

Having had this experience, I began thinking about our own profession and the services we are providing our patrons.

Crunching the numbers
We hear statements like “It takes too long”, “What’s the delay, the book has been ‘in cataloguing’ for a week”, and so on, all the time.  There are articles, presentations and professionals who are always expressing concern over the turnaround time for getting the items out and on the library shelves. Many times, the solutions for increasing turnaround time involve harvesting other libraries’ records, or cutting corners and creating smaller records while ignoring cataloguing rules.

Stats are important, I will never argue that point.  Stats keep us employed and give us factual information to point to when budget time rolls around (in addition to many other things).  However, as cataloguing stats are climbing, are we sacrificing quality?  As professionals, our obligation is to our patrons and the service we provide them.  We have a professional responsibility to provide accurate records with proper punctuation and spelling.  If the name of a book is spelled wrong and we just “trust” the copy, how will that item ever be found?  What if it is a downloadable book and there is no physical item?

In my library, while we try to copy catalogue whenever possible, it is essential that we review the records when cataloguing the item.  I have never found a record that is perfect when imported.  There are misspellings, punctuation errors and, at times, terms or phrases that we either don’t use in our library or do not apply in Canada.  An example of this goes back to my Indigenous Peoples v. Indians subject headings posting.

In the end, even if the book is on the shelf, are we doing any favours to patrons who exclusively use the catalogue?  Aren’t we setting an example that we are not capable of handling the digitalization of information but can only provide proper service through a physical visit to the library?  Statistics show that visits to the catalogue are continuously increasing, while physical visits are down.  Isn’t that a good argument as to why we should be maintaining our professional standards?

While numbers become increasingly more important to justify our existance, we continue to have a responsibility to our patrons.  That responsibility includes providing an exceptional service.  This exceptional service is reflected in the accuracy of our catalogue, the ability to properly find information in our catalogue and the continuous updating of reading lists and new items.

I don’t believe in the saying “good enough”.  If you are aware that your standards are dropping to increase productivity, a review of procedures must take place.  We are professionals, we do not work on an assembly line where the only thing that matters is how much we produced that day.

While stats are good and helpful, I worry that the same squeeky wheels who complain the loudest about our turnaround will soon begin to complain about our poor, inaccurate records.  These records, created at their request, will further add fuel to the fire when questioning the role of the cataloguer.  If the turnaround is too long, sacrifice quality.  If the quality is poor and no longer adheres to any standard practice, what do we need cataloguers for?  It is a never-ending cycle.

What do we do?
Market, market, market.  It’s not easy, but it can be done. Besides cataloguers, who knows what we do all day?  Do they understand that we create electronic reading lists?  Make decisions regarding terminology?  Develop search tutorials? Create new restrictions and settings to make searching the catalogue easier (for both staff and patrons)?  Catalogue DVDs, CDs, Books on tape, Electronic documents, Reference materials, Books and Magazines?  And, by the way, where do you find copy for local publications?

In the end, we cannot compromise our professional responsibility to suit the needs of front-line staff or whomever our critics are.  Justify the time it takes to catalogue to management and make them aware of all of the factors that are involved in cataloguing an item so that it can be found. Electronically.


Filed under Professional Ethics, The Cataloguer