Tag Archives: Wiki

Our wiki celebrates it 1st anniversary

We celebrated the passing of our wiki’s  first anniversary by making it available to all Halifax Public Library staff.  We call the “public” side of our wiki, CataWiki. 

This has been a work in progress for over 8 months.  It began to take shape in my mind when our department continually received the same questions about the catalogue.  So, I began soliciting questions for a FAQ for our catalogue and our department.  For example, what constitutes a 3 day v. 7 day loan for feature DVDs? Why is there no item information in the public display of the catalogue but the staff side has the item information?  What items get what stickers? What do I do if I accidently delete an item from the catalogue? and so on. Rather than preparing a static document that would become outdated within weeks, I wanted a live document that could continue be used as a resource and always be in a constant state of improvement and growth.  And, as Oprah would say, that was my “Ahah” moment.  Why not put this FAQ on the wiki, where staff can bookmark it and refer to it.  They can even subscribe to an RSS feed on the wiki (this feature is forthcoming).

Of course, my immediate concern was security.  I have experience with a wiki on a public domain which was spammed beyond repair.  My concerns in that regard were put to rest at the inception of our wiki – which is housed on our local server and only available through the library’s intranet.  But what about keeping department information private and inaccessible to branch staff?  What about editing privileges?

So began my collaboration with our IT manager.  Brainstorming, we came up with the idea of two wikis – linked by providing a URL on each wiki.  The wiki with our department information, which includes minutes to meetings, project proposals and in-depth information on cataloguing practices, procedures and decisions was protected by a login page.  The login page prevents access to anyone who doesn’t have an approved account.  As the system operator of the wiki, I have final approval of the users and am able to block unwanted users or accounts from being created.  As a result, no one outside of our department can view or edit our department information. 

Once that security was in place and URLS were provided on each wiki for easy navigation between the two (for ease in editing for our department), I began protecting the “public” side of our wiki.  Again, while I wanted to make this information accessible to the branch staff, I didn’t want them to have editing privileges.  At this point, some of you may groan and say I’ve missed the point of the wiki.  Not at all.  I understanding the concept of collaborating and user-generated information.  But there are specific purposes for everything and in this case, our wiki is, in a way, a marketing tool to help us come out of the backroom.  It is a window into the cataloguing department which, I hope, will remove some of the mystique and negative attitudes often directed our way. 

Allowing all of the library staff access to our latest fiction genre headings, changes in subject heading usages and FAQ will provide staff with a glimpse into what cataloguers do.  It will also assist in providing staff with the knowledge to better use our catalogue, and as a result, better serve our patrons.  We’re also including access to lists that may be “hidden” in the catalogue when off season or if they’ve been popular in the past.  For instance, Best of lists, holiday lists or topical lists that we just don’t have room to feature on our catalogue will shortly become available for staff to view.  This will become an incredible resource for patrons because staff will be aware of lists that are generally forgotten about.  Each list will have a link directly into the catalogue so that staff can work directly with patrons to help them find items to borrow. 

Given that this launch only occured this past Monday, I’ll have more to report down the road.  However, the initial feedback has been incredibly positive.  I know there is still a long road (and perhaps a steep hill or two) to travel before this idea really takes off and the wiki is used to its full potential but, we have to start somewhere.


Filed under In the Cataloguing Department, The Cataloguer

Cataloguers’ Picks Reading Lists

We’re trying a new project here at Halifax Public Libraries.  The cataloguers are creating booklists based on set criteria, set out and reviewed by myself or my supervisor, for placement on our catalogue’s main page.  The topics tend to be timely, reflect the collection as they experience it through cataloguing, and largely reflect the items being suggested by patrons.

In my view, cataloguers are intimate with their library’s collection, so why aren’t we creating more booklists?  We experience first-hand the items that are the most popular and in the highest demand.  We are also aware of the excellent books and other materials that pass through the system unnoticed.

This project was started in October and I’m already seeing a positive change in our department.  The cataloguers are taking on a role that forces them to think about what patrons want, and in what format.  They are also paying even closer attention to our collection, and the Readers Advisory aspect of cataloguing.  Should we judge a book by its cover? recommend new materials discussing the economy? the election?  Given our ability to search the catalogue, this is also allowing us to pull up older materials that remain staples in our collection, but may be under circulated.  It also allows us to flush out records that are poor regarding access points and assign our newer, narrative non-fiction genres when applicable.

On a technical side, we’ve also implemented the use of our wiki in this project.  As lists are proposed and titles are added, they are stored and contributed to on the wiki.  This allows the cataloguers to see what has already been chosen and to fill in the gaps.  It has also created an excitement in that cataloguers are interacting with the patrons.


Filed under Access Issues, In the Cataloguing Department, The Cataloguer, The Library Catalogue

Using our in-house Wiki to keep cataloguers aware of subject heading changes

We recently received our hard copy of the Cataloging Service Bulletin from the Library of Congress. Our usual practice is to circulate this bulletin among all of the cataloguers so that they can make changes or add new subject headings in our own catalogue. In addition to the new subject headings that may or may not be adopted, there are subject headings that we alter or change. It is important to let all of the cataloguers know about these changes so that we maintain uniformity in our catalogue. Our practice in the past has been to send out group emails to advise everyone about these changes once all the decisions have been made.

Earlier this week, I had some great suggestions from two of my cataloguers. Rather than having a meeting to discuss the changes or additions, as we have in the past, one of the cataloguers suggested we add this information to the wiki. As each cataloguer has a chance to read the bulletin, they can add to the list of new, changed or old subject headings. Another cataloguer also suggested linking the pdfs of the Bulletin to the wiki. This will allow everyone to revisit decision made by LC, and in essence, everyone will then have a copy of the bulletin at their fingertips for reference.

Both of these are excellent ideas. Because of the format of the wiki, the entire department can also enter into discussions, or read the comments from the other cataloguers regarding any changes.

I’m looking forward to implementing these ideas.

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Filed under Authority Work, In the Cataloguing Department, Subject Headings

A Wiki in our cataloguing department

You won’t find any Star Wars characters in our department, but you will soon find a Wiki.

When you enter your cataloguing department every day, you bring with you information that cannot be found in AACR2 or MARC. In addition to the many tools we use such as DDC, Bookwhere, Cutter tables, Validator, LC and so on, there are internal cataloguing rules that many of us have not bothered to write down because we just “know it”. But, when I first started my position, I didn’t “know it” because I was new to the system.

After creating two handwritten binders full of notes and collecting “cheat sheets” from all of my cataloguers, I began to think that there had to be an easier way to organize this information. There are rules based on rules that were based on a meeting three years ago. This is the type of information that only exists as long as there is no turnover or retirement within the department. However, this information is vital to retain when people leave the department because we will no longer have them as our resource.

Having experienced this “cataloguer’s knowledge” firsthand, I began exploring different options to organize and retain this information. How can we have a shared space where the department can access “cheat sheets” and other resources? Can I create a space where we can collaborate as well? At first I considered creating a simple database. Then, I thought about having all of the documents typed up and creating one master binder for the department. All of these just didn’t feel right. I looked at blogs but wasn’t really sure that it was right for our department and then I stumbled upon wikis.

Wikis are free, open-source software created for the purpose of sharing information. This really grabbed my attention the first time I saw it. After further reading, I found myself attracted to the real-time factor and potential of the Wiki. The real-time factor means that I can spend less time fielding emails and sending around internal cataloguing rules in draft. Instead, I can post one draft and collaboratively have all of the cataloguers critique and edit it until it works. I like the idea of having the cataloguers play a role in creating internal rules and accessing them immediately. In addition to storing all of our in-house cataloguing rules, I plan on including minutes from our meetings, announcements from LC, SirsiDynix, other vendors and links to all of our online resources. I can even include a professional development element.

Currently, I am in the beginning stages of setting up a Wiki for our department. I have had the opportunity to “play” with the software and get a feel for its potential. I have also been speaking with staff, seeking their input and really pushing the buy-in factor. I’m fortunate because my cataloguing department is full of people who are really keen on new technology and are always willing to at least try something new. At the present time, I am organizing all of the information that we want on the Wiki. This is a bit labour intensive. Sorting through old meeting notes and cheat sheets is time consuming. Once I have chosen the base information for the Wiki, I still need to type it, organize it and assign access points to it. I need to design not only the content of the Wiki, but its general layout.

There are also privacy issues and editing restrictions that need to be addressed. Because it is open source software, I need to be careful who can edit the Wiki and who can see it. Should we store it on a web server or on our own intranet? Should all the cataloguers have editing access? Who should monitor the edits in addition to myself?

As this project goes on, I’ll be able to share my experiences with you. Overall, I see this as a very good thing for our cataloguing department. There are so many steps ahead and I am not naive about the time that it will take to create the Wiki. Once the Wiki is finally in place, there is always the staff training and evaluation. However, I am optimistic that this will be a great asset to our department.


Filed under The Cataloguer