Posted tagged ‘technical services’

Notes from a Meeting

February 3, 2009

Today was the latest technical services roundtable, and it was my turn to run the meeting this time.  This was a great meeting, despite the weather.  The Westfield Athenaeum were incredible hosts.  They have an amazing library, a simply gorgeous building, and an amazingly active and dedicated staff.

And the meeting was one of the more rewarding ones I’ve been a part of.  We managed to draw little more diverse crowd this time, 1 library that was much further afield than our regulars, and for once I was not the youngest person in the room (course that might just be because I’m getting old).  So a few random notes to help me process things:

We can replace our dot-matrix with a thermal printer!  Man do I feel dumb now.

We need a “get a life” item type for dvd sets that cannot reasonably be finished in a single week.

Comics, man do I love them, but God are they a pain to create records for!  Marvel, listen up and stop resetting the volume number for your collected editions!

On the OCLC record use policy, we’ve been here before and we’ll be here again.

Network!  Learn what other librarians in your area you can go to for advice.  I’ve never encountered another group of people so willing to go out of their way to help their peers, take advantage of that.

What’s So Bad About Google

January 26, 2009

The Autocat regulars have picked up the Guardian article on OCLC last week, and the direction they’ve gone with the conversation seems a little….oh what’s the word…wrong?  Complaints immediately sprang up regarding the anti-OCLC agenda held by those who were interviewed (why this is surprising, or a problem I don’t get).  And people responded even more vehemently against the suggestion that it’s wrong for catalog records to be part of the hidden web.

The arguement goes something like this, people can search for a book in either a library’s own catalog or in Worldcat, so why would you want to let Google do it?  Well let’s see, because people use Google and they don’t use Worldcat (the majority of patrons have probably never even heard of it).  Because Google is intuitive to use and our catalogs are anything but.  Because we have to meet the patrons at their level and not force them to come up to ours.

Furthermore, there’s a bit of a fear that giving search engines access to our data will make our own systems irrelevant.  That’s only true in that our systems are already bordering on decrepitude.  Our jobs are to find ways to let people discover our resources.  To do so we should use every single tool at our disposal.  There is no possible downside if a new patron finds our stuff that wouldn’t have otherwise.  Really who cares if this discovery happened through an approved channel or not?  The important thing is that it was able to occur.

Job Description

January 9, 2009

A while back most of the people at my library had to work on a survey for the purpose of reevaluating job descriptions.  As a department head I was exempt, but I’m thinking listing my tasks might make a good exercise now in the wake of taking on a few more responsibilities in the wake of a co-workers maternity leave, a hiring freeze, and just generally being a gluttn for punishment.  So here we go, in the order I think of them:

Supervise a staff of 4 (1 full time, 3 part time)

Catalog all materials with the exceptions of fiction and a/v items.

Place and track orders for all materials

Investigate reports of defective/damaged a/v items and replace/repair them as necessary

withdraw materials

maintain catalog

run 2 patron workshops a month

run 2 video game events a month

keep statistics on items added/withdrawn each month

Make computer purchases

Maintain our computers and network

Act as liason between library and the consortia

Organize seasonal meetings of Western Mass tech services librarians

Serve on board of the MLA tech services section

Serve on consortia’s bibliographic and opac design committees

Serve on planning committee for the purpose of drafting a long-range plan

Oversee physical processing of materials

Oversee repairs of materials

Assist in crafting library policies

Future4Catalogers

January 6, 2009

Heidi Hoerman, one of the most observent people working in tech services today has started up a new blog on the future of cataloging.  But what really makes hers a site worth watching is her view that the field is about to undergo drastic and unavoidable changes, and that the people within the profession are largely tripping over each other while trying to figure out how to confront those changes.  A view I agree with entirely.

The Aftermath

December 4, 2008

Wow!  This was a good day.  My workshop went amazingly well and the responses I received for it were more than I possibly could have hoped for.  Huge thanks must go out to Janet Eckert and WMRLS who organized everything and served as the most gracious hosts imaginable.  And the attendees were just as wonderful, everyone seemed engaged, there was a good amount of participation (that I hope will continue online), and they let me rant a bit on copyright, RDA, and the new OCLC records policy.  

And I even got to show off my favorite website of the week, which had nothing to do with anything, goingtorain.com (Thanks Jason).  Sadly the answer we got from it was yes, and that prediction proved accurate.  But even the rain (ok snow while driving back over the mountain), couldn’t bum me out today.  Because I have a handfull of feedback forms that almost uniformly say the one improvement that could be made to the workshop, was to add more time to it.  And in the positive column I got some of the best praise possible, that it was actually practical and useful.

And to top it all off, lunch at the Black Sheep, home of the greatest cookie I know, the Repulican National Convention cookie (full of fruit and nuts).  They started making these back in ’04, they’re basically giant macaroons filled with whatever nuts, fruit, and bits of chocolate they had left over in the kitchen from all their other baked goods.  If you’re ever in Amherst you must stop in, the baguettes are amazing too.

The Current State of Tech Services on the Web

December 3, 2008

Well, it’s come at last.  Tomorrow I’ll be heading out the WMRLS for my first ever workshop, and will finally be able to put into use the links page in the right hand column.  In preparation I’ve spent a lot of time lately exploring the online technical services world, and over all it’s not very good.

There are almost no decent sites out there for the profession.  The Library of Congress’s cataloging and acquistions department is a notable exception, but besides that sites are largly poorly designed, out of date, or are just repositories for powerpoint presentations.  

The only real signs of life online are on the autocat list, the librarians for librarything forum, and across the blogosphere.  At least those resources are quite extensive and provide a great means of staying current, but they’re awful for getting up to speed.

So tomorrow should be interesting.  I’ve always thought that we need to spend more time focusing on life outside the field, which I guess is now going to become part of a theme for my talk.

But I’m still open to having people prove me wrong.  Find some more sites and let me know.

Reasons to Hate the DDC 314159

October 16, 2008

Here’s a puzzle.  Today we started weeding our books on weddings, and were annoyed by how fractured the collection had gotten.  The majority fall under 395.22, wedding etiquite.  Then there are a few under 392.5, wedding customs.  And finally there’s a bunch in 306.81, marriage.  

I think I can discount the 306 number as that should be for books about the relationship and not the ceremony, but the other two locations are more problematic, and we don’t really want to use both.  I’m inclined to the customs number, but the CIP data from most of the books go the way, along with our other full time cataloger.

I know this is where cataloger’s discretion comes into play, but there’s something wrong when the system in play is this ambiguous.

Trip Up North

October 7, 2008

Back from a roundtable held at the North Adams library, which is easily in contention for the title of nicest looking library in the Northeast.  The building is completely green, solar and geothermal powered, spacious, open, and somehow completely at peace with the historic home that was adapted to form it.  I’m very jealous, and that’s despite the fact that one of their tech services people is responsible for maintaining their power and heating systems.

The meeting itself was great as usual, and I finally had a chance to make my LibraryThing pitch (albeit with my backup slides instead of a live demo due to a temporarily downed server).  I always go into these meetings afraid of having a sparse agenda, and then we always run out of time.  And besides the opportunity to discuss workflows and spend some time in other libraries these meetings have been a great way to network.  The tech services librarians in my region are starting to form a fairly strong community.

The next one will be this February at the Westfield Athenaeum, exact day T.B.D.  If you’re in the area please come.

Serial Offenders

September 29, 2008

Serials are a nightmare for catalogers.  The reason for this is fairly simple.  The rules that govern the cataloging of bibliographic items are largely based around the conventions established within the publishing industry.  We draw our main information from title pages and verso, we understand subtitles distinguished by font changes, and we know the difference between a second printing and a second edition.

But then there are serials, where all that goes out the window.  I’ve heard some colleagues say (mostly out of frustration) that publishers should do a better job of following the rules.  Suffice to say that’s not going to happen, nor should it.  Instead what needs to happen is that we need to update our processes to ones that can cope with any curve-balls thrown at us.

One of the biggest problem areas we’ve experience lately have been (surprise surprise) graphic novels.  Theses are particularly hard because the publishers have been continuously changing their publication models.  Right now the big two publishers (Marvel and DC) release each story in up to five different formats (single issues, trade, digest, hardcover, deluxe hardcover) in a very small period of time.  

Let’s use Captain America as an example.  We’re currently at volume 6 (I think) of the monthly comic.  Those issues have been collected in a deluxe edition collecting the first 25 issues.  It has also been published in two volumes of the Winter Soldier (named after the story arc), 2 of Red Menace (collection a story of a totally different title) 1 of Civil War, and most recently 3 of the Death of Captain America.  Each of these collections reset the volume numbering for each arc, despite the fact that they all belong to vol. 6 of the comic.  The only logic here is that comics with a number 1 sell better, so they reset the numbering as frequently as possible.  This is not an anomaly, this is standard practice, and we have no clear way of dealing with it adequately.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Cost of RDA

September 24, 2008

Wow, going through my autocat digest this morning I came across a gigantic thread concerning the proposed economic model for the new RDA standard.  I think it’s safe to say that people are not happy with it.  Librarians are demanding a model that makes the proposal freely available and many have said that they don’t see it catching on if its distributed via a subscription service.  

The only counter arguement stated so far over the listserv is that RDA’s potential distributors don’t see the potential in the free models to recoup their development costs.  It’s early and there aren’t any figures out there for either side, but my gut response is with those who say that the free will prove prohibitive to its use, especially since a large portion of the cataloging community out there remains unconvinced of RDA’s value to begin with, and I’m among them.