Professional Development

Author Archive

Carolyn at ALA Annual 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 11:58 pm

Although the weather was hot and sweltering in DC during ALA, I still had a great time attending informative sessions on cataloging and metadata, going to socials, catching up with friends, and hanging out with Susan and Erik. I was one of the five who rode up and back in the library’s new van.

After dropping off our luggage in our hotel room, Susan, Erik and I walked to the convention center to pick up our conference materials. I tagged along with Susan and Erik to the LITA Happy Hour, the first of two socials that Friday evening. Following social number one, we all three then headed to the Capital City Brewing Company where the Anthropology and Sociology Section (ANSS) librarians were having their social.

On Saturday, I attended a session, “Converging Metadata Standards in Cultural Institutions: Apples and Oranges” where librarians from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the Smithsonian discussed digital projects that their institutions have created. Daniele Plumer, Coordinator of the Texas Heritage Digitization Initiative (THDI), discussed the necessity of educating metadata specialists who work in various institutions (i.e. libraries, archives, museums, state and local government agencies) on content standards, encoding syntaxes, project management and digital library systems and applications. In preparation of the THDI, Amigos Library Services held a series of workshops in five locations across the state as well as online. Some observations from this project by Ms. Plumer included most libraries chose Dublin Core instead of MARC as a metadata scheme, LC subject headings is the most commonly used controlled vocabulary, and overall metadata decisions are driven largely by the design of existing digital asset management systems. Ching-Hsien Wang spoke about the creation of a one-stop discovery center for the 4.6 million records and 445,000 images of the Smithsonian’s museum, archives, library and research holdings and collections. Ms. Wang described this database as a conjoined collaboration, not an individual silo of information. The database has various vocabulary features, facet types from controlled vocabularies, and sharing capability with social media options.

Next, I attended the Copy Cataloging Interest Group’s program where two librarians from the University of Colorado at Boulder described how they developed and implemented a FRBR and FRAD training program for all of their libraries’ professional and copy catalogers. Participants read the entire FRBR document, and at monthly cataloging meetings, discussed the readings and participated in group exercises to reinforce concepts learned. A blog was created for questions and comments on the readings. My last meeting of the day was the ALCTS CCS Recruitment and Mentoring Committee of which I am a member. We are looking into using Google Forms to create a questionnaire for interested mentor and mentee participants in the area of cataloging. Mentors and mentees will be paired based on the the information we collect.

“Cataloging and Beyond: the Year of Cataloging Research” was my first session on Sunday. It was a panel discussion and the room was packed and many were sitting on the floor in the back of the room, including myself. Panelists, one of which was Jane Greenburg, Erik’s Ph.D. advisor, discussed how the data catalogers create provides various areas of research for catalogers to explore. Catalogers’ research can impact and assist in making decisions about cataloging data and catalog design. Are we able and how can we measure usefulness? Per Ms. Greenburg, there are three areas that need researching: automatic metadata generation, creator or author generated metadata, and metadata theory.

Following this session, I attended another panel discussion on the “Strategic Future of Print Collections in Research Libraries.” Print on demand, the impact of scanning on physical books, and preservation were discussed in this session. My final meeting for this ALA was attending the Anthropology Librarians Discussion Group. I always learn much from attending this session. Topics included print and online bibliographic tools for Africa for which I collected several useful handouts that were distributed. It was proposed to request the ANSS Committee develop a list of core academic library journals for anthropology.

Sunday was also a day for catching up with friends. Lauren C. and I had lunch with a graduate school classmate who is the business and economics reference librarian at Clemson. As mentioned in one of Susan’s posts, she, Erik and I had a lovely dinner with Waits and Christian.

It’s been awhile since I attended a conference with both Susan and Erik. Hanging out with them at conferences, I am assured of three things occurring: exploring the sites of the city, exercising (i.e. a lot of walking around) and having fun.

Carolyn at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in Boston

Sunday, January 24, 2010 8:25 pm

This was my first time attending ALA’s Midwinter Conference. I had a great time rooming and socializing with Susan and Roz. During the conference, I ran into some old colleagues (Elizabeth Novicki, Jim Galbraith & Debbie Nolan), made new contacts with other librarians, and heard some interesting talks which are subsequently described.

Friday night, I attended the Anthropology and Sociology Section’s (ANSS) social at the Lansdowne Pub which is in Boston’s Fenway Park neighborhood. Met and spoke with several librarians who work/liaise with their respective university’s anthropology department. Two individuals with whom I spoke knew Lauren C. from her employment at Old Dominion and Emory, and another individual whom I sat beside at dinner knew Lauren P. from ALA committee work. Truly, the library world is a small one.

Saturday morning, Alasdair Ball (British Library), Ruth Fischer (R2 Consulting) and Brian Schottlaender (UC San Diego) spoke on redesigning Technical Services workflow in regards to libraries’ costs and the value delivered to libraries and patrons. As the Head of Acquisition and Description, Mr. Ball reported that his department processed around 1 million items per year. He characterized the UK’s National Bibliographic framework as being one with high duplication of effort, having a fragmented network of stakeholders, using multiple standards and formats, having an increase in demand for shelf-ready materials and records, and slow to change. Within his organization, there is a focus on adding value to research and providing collaborative workspace and tools for researchers. Acquisition and Description is viewed as necessary, but a back office set of functions with a high cost. Some operational challenges he sees are contributing to the library’s expanding agenda with no increase in resources (human and monetary), the need to optimize balance between costs, quality, and speed of service, outsourcing of the CIP programme, redefining and streamlining workflows and process models, and where can the British Library add value. Ruth Fischer spoke on the Study of the North American MARC Records Marketplace which she and her partner were commissioned by the Library of Congress (LC) to research and write. They conducted two online surveys, 1 with libraries (972 participants from all types of libraries) and 1 with vendors (70 participants), to investigate the current MARC records marketplace.

Results from the libraries’ survey found:

  • Everyone prefers LC records
  • 80% of libraries edit records in OPAC, but only half upload edits to their bibliographic utility
  • 78% of libraries are unaware of restrictions on MARC record use and distribution
  • Backlogs exist everywhere and are increasing (Largest backlogs are videos and DVDs; second largest are English language monographs)

Ms. Fischer’s report estimated that there are 34,000 each of original catalogers with the MLS and copy catalogers, and if each MLS cataloger created 1 new record each workday (200 in a year), 6.8 million original records could be created per year. It appears libraries have capacity in regards to number of catalogers. The question then is why are there backlogs?

Two hundred organizations create, sell or distribute MARC records to North American libraries, with the largest number of vendors providing MARC records for e-books.
Ms. Fischer’s interpretation of her findings include:

  • There is confusion in the market about real cost and/or value of MARC records-Each year LC catalogs many titles that are not retained in its collections (i.e. CIP program). By law, LC is disallowed to recover cataloging costs. In essence LC subsidizes the market, which in turn causes the undervaluing of MARC records.
  • Market provides insufficient incentives to contribute original cataloging-New commercial entrants are screen scraping LC’s and other libraries’ websites, and are not hiring MLS catalogers.
  • Most libraries and catalogers must believe that they create more value by modifying existing records (e.g. including pagination, changing or removing subject headings, adjusting call numbers, etc.) than producing original records.

Questions raised from Fischer’s study:

  • How long will libraries rely on MARC as the primary format for bibliographic data? We are trapped by the ILS.
  • What would be required to correct the economic structure of the MARC record marketplace?
  • What would happen if MARC record creators and creators of other descriptive metadata insisted on recovering their costs?
  • Why have we (i.e. catalogers) deincentivized ourselves if we have capacity to create?

Fischer closed by saying catalogers need to determine what the concept of “good enough” means and start believing and incorporating it into workflows.

Brian Schottlaender spoke on the University of California’s next-generation of Technical Services initiative which has grown out of the last five years of community thinking. He stated that his library is freeing up resources in order to focus cataloging and other metadata description on unique resources. He believes administration must make a commitment to its employees, who are moving into new positions with new responsibilities, by providing them with education and training to ensure their success.

As a member of the Cataloging and Classification Section (CCS) Recruitment and Mentoring Committee, I attended my first ALA committee meeting ever. This is a newly formed committee and our charge is to recruit cataloging mentors and pair them with interested new and seasoned catalogers, as well as persons interested in cataloging. We will contact library schools to see if they have any students interested in becoming mentees, and are planning to send out send out a survey questionnaire to listservs to garner interest from potential mentors and mentees.

Saturday evening, I attended a screening of Alexander Street Press’ new product Ethnographic Video Online. This product is a partnership with Documentary Educational Resources (DER) whose founder John Marshall was an anthropologist/documentary filmmaker. John Marshall is renowned for his films on the !Kung San (Bushmen) peoples of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia. His first film The Hunters (1957) became an instant classic of ethnographic film. DER’s films will comprise over 60% of the films in Ethnographic Video Online, which launches next month with 200 films. Its collection will eventually be comprised of 1000 titles (750 hours of films). This products will allow users to create clips, make playlists and annotations, search for specific words in a film, is fully transcribed and has scrolling synchronous transcripts. Alexander Street Press is meeting with individual ethnographers/filmmakers who have unpublished footage to try and get their films into this database. I feel this product would be very useful to Wake’s Anthropology department and even perhaps the new Documentary Film program. I hope we will be able to get a trial of this product, and if possible, purchase it if deemed valuable by faculty from Anthropology and the Documentary Film program. Afterwards, I met Susan, Roz and Elizabeth Novicki for a wonderful dinner at Legal Seafood.

Bright and early Sunday morning, I went to an OCLC Update Breakfast and spoke with someone about the problems I was encountering with entering information into MARC cataloging records for Wake ETDs, specifically complex mathematical equations and subscripts/superscripts that aren’t numerical. I was told that some character sets are not supported, but there may be some workarounds with the subscript/superscript problem. The OCLC rep. asked me to email him some examples of my problems, and he would get back in touch. I also found out that in July 2010 OCLC will be releasing its Digital Collections Gateway product to any OAI compatible repository, of which D-Space is one, and will simplify the ETD cataloging process even more and allows for more visibility of these unique items. Hooray! I ran into Jim Galbraith, who is now working for OCLC, at the breakfast and also met a librarian from Brigham Young University who knows Derrik. Such a small world!

The rest of Sunday’s sessions included attending another session where Ruth Fischer spoke more in depth about R2’s report on MARC records, an Out Of Print (OOP) Discussion Group where the topic was digitization on demand (James Lee of Brandeis University spoke about the process and his school’s involvement with the Boston Library Consortium, a pioneer in the area of digitization on demand), and the Anthropology Librarians Discussion group.

Before leaving for home on a snowy Monday, I attended two more sessions at the convention center. The first was the Publisher-Vendor-Library-Relations Forum. Beth Bernhardt (UNCG) started off by saying that the NC legislature has mandated that by 2014 UNCG’s enrollment will be at 24,000 students. UNCG’s library is utilizing patron-driven acquisitions in building their e-book collection. Changes in user expectations, librarians’ roles, and researchers’ needs are some of the factors behind this new model of collection development. In April ’09, the library began this new model with MyiLibrary and chose computer science as the subject area. 1144 e-books that matched the library’s profile were loaded into the OPAC. 70 e-books were ordered at a cost of $7010. They are expanding their profile to include physics, chemistry, nursing and business. Plans are to compare what professors and students purchase. The first access to a title, no cost is incurred; the second look triggers a purchase. With the Life Sciences Library e-collection, they pre-selected a set of 23 books, but loaded all 750 titles’ MARC cataloging records into catalog. These books are very pricy due to the subject areas (i.e. nursing, anatomy, anesthesiology, and nutrition). Some important things to take into consideration when allowing patron-driven acquisitions include budget, deposit accounts, price limits, real-time invoicing, and cut off access/visibility.

Lindsey Schell (U of TX-Austin) spoke about their experience with EBL. Currently their patrons have access to 70,000+ titles, but have purchased 4,000. They too dumped all of EBL’s MARC records for their titles into their catalog, but this year began removing records for those titles never viewed in the initial 12 months to reduce cost exposure. Her university also incorporates patron-driven print approval acquisitions. The library downloads MARC records for publishers and subjects on a refined approval plan to the OPAC and allows patrons and subject specialists to decide which titles are actually purchased. Books are expressed shipped and are shelf-ready.

Next steps for this model of acquisitions involves analyzing patron purchasing and usage by LC call number and publisher to target specific areas for e-book and print delivery.

Due to patron-driven acquisitions, adjustments in the Technical Services department have occurred and include:

  • Automate wherever possible
  • Eliminate creating work elsewhere
  • Free up staff to work on library’s priorities that can’t be automated or outsourced (i.e. e-resource management, digital content, unique collections)
  • Eliminating serials check-in-Some people are freaking out about this
  • Move monographic series standing orders to approval vendor
  • Discontinue label production for periodicals-People can read titles unless it’s not in Roman alphabet
  • Eliminate approval review shelves
  • Reduce the number of gifts received
  • Discontinue paper book plates for non-endowment donations
  • Cut binding quotas-Redirect funds toward digitization

Judy Luther talked about developing a common platform for university press e-book distribution. The Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant to four university presses (NYU, Rutgers, Temple and Penn), and these presses are working with consultants to help develop a business model suitable to a university press consortium. They are looking to establish a “university press” brand and achieve economies of scale through collaboration on technical, financial, and practical challenges. Twenty-nine librarians were interviewed and core markets were identified (ARL, other Ph.D./masters programs, Oberlin Group). These were exploratory conversations designed to frame library practices, expectations, concerns and trends. Key issues included pricing functionality, digital rights management (DRM), and ability to select print and e-book purchases. An online survey of 1000 librarians (30% response rate) was conducted to test conclusions gathered from interviews. Purchase models must be evaluated. Vendors’ platforms need assessment. How should a university press consortium operate? The challenge, according to Ms. Luther, is serving our users well. Libraries want content for their users, as well as presses then getting out of their way. Right now platforms are not conducive; one can only print 10 pages at a time. The consultants’ report is due next month, and the presses will determine if they want to move forward. If so, further planning will be required.

My last session was on bibliographic mash-ups and once again the concept of redundancy in our data and workflow was mentioned by opening speaker Renee Register of OCLC. For libraries, most of the production work is performed at the end of the publication cycle with the receipt of a published item. On the publishers end, bibliographic data evolves over time beginning months before publication and sometimes ending years later with people contributing data. Inefficiencies and redundancy are common in metadata exchange, and different standards make it even harder to share. OCLC is currently creating authority control and mapping between BISAC subject terms (seen in Amazon) and Dewey Decimal Classification. We need to have ways in our systems that will allow metadata to grow overtime. Metadata records are living things from the information supplied by publishers to end user applied headings.

OCLC’s Karen Coyle spoke about the Open Library whose goal is to create one web page for every book ever published. It is not a library’s catalog and includes all e-books in the Internet Archive (Open Content Alliance, Google, public domain). The head of the project is the founder of Flickr. This database does not have records; it uses semantic web concepts called types (e.g. author name, birth date). All are equally important. Each type has properties; one can add properties without disruption and nothing is required and everything is repeatable. The database is based on wiki principles. All edits are saved and viewable and anyone can edit and add types and new properties. Sources of data come from LC, Amazon, Onix (publisher data), numerous libraries, and individual users (people can add their own books such as vanity press published books). There are some data problems as this is an experiment of non-librarians taking library data and using it. Examples of problems are:

  • Names-no inversion, no birth or death dates
  • Inclusion of initial articles in titles (e.g. The Hobbit)-Alphabetical order is not important here
  • Needs normalization of series
  • Differences in publication product dimensions-LxWxH vs. height in cm. used by libraries

There are page views for books and authors (similar to WorldCat identities). LC subject headings are not used; segment of LCSH are broken apart (i.e. no “dash dash”). Each subject heading has its own page. This project is currently in beta but is coming out in February 2010.

Kurt Groetsch of Google closed the session by speaking on the challenges Google Books has encountered with metadata reuse and matching, and the challenges of working with multivolume works. I got a little sleepy during his segment so I don’t have many notes for this part of the program.

I then met up with Susan and Roz. We took the Gale sponsored shuttle (very nice service) to the airport, got an early flight to Newark, and then waited for several hours in the magical place that is the Newark airport before we caught our flight home to Greensboro. All in all, my experience at ALA’s Midwinter Conference was a good one.

Carolyn’s Sunday and Monday at ALA

Friday, July 17, 2009 7:12 am

Sunday at ALA was a busy day for me. It started off with me attending a program sponsored by the Anthropology and Sociology Section (ANSS) of ACRL titled “Chicago’s Ethnic Mosaic: Cultural Identity and Neighborhood Change”. Although I only stayed two of the four hours program, I heard and learned much on the history of European immigration and in-migration of African Americans and Mexican Americans to Chicago as well as the history of Chicago’s public housing.

Next, I went to the exhibits to attend Lauren Pressley’s book signing and to visit vendors’ booths to pick up any interesting free stuff. I stopped by the Library of Congress’ booth and picked up several informational booklets on MARC and FRBR records. Afterwards, I went to Au Bon Pain in the conference center to purchase something for lunch ($6 for a small bag of chips and a bottled water–outrageous) and spotted an escorted Judy Blume trying to make a decision about lunch. I loved her books as a young girl.

The afternoon session I attended was called “New Selectors and Selecting in New Subjects: Meeting the Challenges”. Linda Phillips, Head of Scholarly Communication at the University of Tennessee, began the panel session by likening selectors to entrepreneurs. We need to be client-centered in providing content and services to faculty and students. She said selectors must:

  • approach collection development in a digital library framework
  • take an active role in creating scholarly publications
  • assert professional principles for free and unbiased access to knowledge
  • understand and fully exploit the potential of the local and the immediate

She went on to say libraries need to complete the migration from print to electronic collections. Her library embarked on a reorganization where the emphasis is on liaisons and their academic departments, the expansion of unique local digital publications, and adding freely accessible web content to collection (e.g. Directory of Open Access Journals and OAIster). Her advice for new selectors is:

  • learn the library’s explicit and implied collection policies and practices
  • talk with colleagues
  • know the library’s budget and expectations; understand recordkeeping and encumbrances/expenditures for accountability
  • learn library’s strategy for managing cost increases
  • get to know clietele (i.e. faculty) and their search preferences; build trust; collaborate with faculty–this is the key to enhancing research and instruction on campus
  • get acquainted with vendor materials
  • be knowledgeable in intellectual property issues, creative commons, SPARC, NIH open access–this will increase your credibility with scholars
  • learn about your faculty’s discipline–how are they involving students
  • participate in at least two disciplinary related programs each semester
  • encourage researchers to consider open access publishing

Supervisors should lead discussions about research practices and discipline culture and encourage liaisons to include these things in yearly goals.

TRACE (Tennessee Research and Creative Exchange) is the University of Tennessee’s digital repository.

Arro Smith of the San Marcos Public Library spoke on and showed attendees resources on the ALCTS (Association for Library Collections and Technical Services) web site for new selectors. By clicking on “Conferences & Events” which appears on the lefthand side of the web page, one can discover webinars, workshops and web courses available. The Collection and Management and Development Section (CMDS) of ALCTS has recently started publishing a new series of monographs called the Sudden Selectors Guide and they are available through the ALA Store. These monographs are designed to address niche topics. Business resources is the only guide so far to be published. Mr. Smith said forthcoming discipline guides to be published include biology, English, art, chemistry and GLBITQ.

Next on the panel to speak was Jeff Kosokoff of Tufts University. He feels libraries shouldn’t take possession of things not needed. We should think about information in terms of having access not about having it sitting on shelves or owning it. Information, as a service, becomes ever more dominant from a user perspective and needs to be delivered in a way people would use it, otherwise it won’t be used.

My last session of the day was attending the Anthropology Librarians Discussion Group. At our meeting there was an Alexander Street Press representative who reported that the vendor is looking to develop a streaming video database of anthropology films that would be transcribed and text searchable. He was seeking input on what types of films should be included in the proposed database. One person suggested to the rep. that the product should be marketed to anthropology and area studies. Serials cancellations was another topic on the agenda. Several attendees said they were having to make decisions about cutting dual formats of journals and expressed concerns over how some electronic anthropological journals sometimes don’t contain illustrations that accompany the print format. From this discussion, I felt that Wake is ahead of the curve in eliminating dual formats of anthropological journal titles. I really enjoyed going to this session and talking with other anthropology librarians. I believe I was the only cataloger in the room.

On Monday, I attended “Resuscitating the Catalog: Next-Generation Strategies for Keeping the Catalog Relevant” which Kaeley has already summarized in her ALA Annual 2009 day 4 post. I also went to the ALCTS sponsored “President’s Program: Who owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage” in which James Cuno, Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, discussed whether museums should return ancient artifacts to their country of origin. Mr. Cuno has written and published a book with the same title as his talk. At the conclusion of his talk, it was time to make my way to O’Hare Airport to go home.

Saturday at ALA with Carolyn

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 11:13 pm

On Saturday, I attended “Workflow Tools for Automating Metadata Creation and Maintenance” which was a panel discussion comprised of individuals who work on digital projects at their institutions.

Much of the talk was highly technical and I didn’t quite understand everything, but one of the most interesting projects discussed was by Brown University’s Ann Caldwell, Metadata Coordinator for the Center of Digital Initiatives, who spoke about their recent project in assisting the Engineering Department with its upcoming accreditation. Engineering professors wanted to digitize materials such as syllabi and assignments so that the accreditation team could have them in advance of their visit. The Center created an easy way for professors to put stuff into the repository by creating a very simple MODS (Metadata Object Description Schema) record form with required fields to fill in (e.g. date, title, genre) and providing an easy way for individuals to upload files (i.e. digital objects). Faculty decide how they want to set up folders for their stuff; they can dump everything in one folder or create multiple folders down to the micro-level. Faculty also determine who and what individuals can see. Because of the enormous amount of material being brought in to be digitized, the Center developed a tracking system. Due to the success of this project, the Engineering Department will continue digitizing their materials for future accreditations, and Ms. Caldwell indicated other departments were interested in doing the same.

In regards to metadata creation workflow, consistency, automation, streamlining and true interoperability between systems are of utmost importance. With the help of metadata tools, librarians can do their jobs better and more efficiently. Smart systems are possible and necessary. We need to pay attention to user interface design for cataloging tools because it is critical to the success of our data.

Next, I attended a four hour panel discussion titled “Look Before You Leap: Taking RDA for a Test-Drive.” Again, a highly technical presentation. RDA is the acronym for “resource description and access” and is a new cataloging tool to be utilized for the description of all types of resources and content. It is compatible with established principles, models, and standards and is adaptable to the needs of a wide range of resource description communities (i.e. museums, libraries, etc.) Tom Delsey began the session by comparing and contrasting AACR2 and RDA. Nanette Naught followed by previewing the RDA Toolkit which is currently in the alpha testing stage. Sally McCallum of the Library of Congress spoke on new fields developed for the MARC record in conjunction with RDA. John Espley, Director of Design at VTLS, gave attendees a preview of what an RDA record would like like in the ILS he represents. His presentation finally shed some light for me as to how an RDA cataloging record would appear in an online catalog. National Library of Medicine’s Barbara Bushman described the upcoming testing of RDA at 23 select institutions. The testing will occur in OCLC Connexion as well as in various ILS. Voyager being one. Once the RDA Online software is released sometime in November or December 2009, a preparation period which includes training for the testing institutions will occur in the months of January-March 2010. Formal testing will commence in April-June, followed in July-September with a formal assessment. October 2010 a final report will be shared with the U.S. library community.

If and when RDA is approved for use, training for catalogers will be the next step. Knowledge and training about RDA for all library staff will need to take place as well. People on the front lines working with patrons in catalog instruction will need to know the differences between a specific work and its possible multiple manifestations (work and manifestation being FRBR terminology).

For more information, one can visit the RDA web site.

Needless to say, after this session ended, I was ready to head back to my hotel for some rest. I will post more information on the rest of my conference experiences on Friday.

Catalog Debate at ALA

Thursday, July 10, 2008 9:05 am

At ALA, I attended several sessions on cataloging and the future of the catalog. The liveliest session was a debate titled “There’s No Catalog Like No Catalog: The Ultimate Debate on the Future of the Library Catalog.” Below are some of the questions Roy Tennant, Senior Program Officer for OCLC Programs and Research, posed to debaters, Stephen Abram, Karen Coyle, Joseph Janes, and Karen G. Schneider as well as the debaters’ responses. The debate has been made available as a podcast on LITA’s blog.

1. What are library catalogs good for and not good for? As expected, views and responses varied. Negative comments included library catalogs are rotten for patrons, they don’t enhance learning, they don’t create good user experiences, and there is no sense of community. The catalog is a dead end repository; it is the beginning of where data starts, but it shouldn’t be the end. One person used the analogy of the old Raid bug spray commercials that it’s a roach motel, lots of easy ways in, but no way out.
One person posed the question with the catalog as an inventory manager, should it be helpful to users as a tool? It is this for library staff, but maybe something else is needed for our users. We should be trying to figure new ways to get users what they really want, not what we have in our collection that may or may not meet their information needs.
Another comment made was that we were better off with the card catalog. If one failed, one could turn around and get help. If one’s in the middle of nowhere using a digital library, getting help is not necessarily an option; there maybe nowhere obvious to go.
Start with Wikipedia or Google even though libraries have these enshrinements of what they own.
The catalog is an 18th century metaphor. How can it be stretched to fit the 21st century meaning.
2. Could one big catalog do it for everyone (i.e. World Cat)? Some of the comments generated by this question included that’s nonsense to libraries shouldn’t be place oriented, but information oriented. Making a catalog bigger doesn’t necessarily make it more desirable. Libraries have to let people do things with data even though we may not like it. Free the data; stop locking it up in arcane proprietors. There was two opinions about World Cat expressed; one, it is not a catalog, but a registry file for data, and two, it is so a catalog.
Google is taking catalogers and they’re making information usable as opposed to catalogers taking information and making it useful for OPACs. A new set of ideas is needed to connect people in a thoughtful way with the resources they want, and the MARC record may be incapable of doing this. Librarians should ask themselves is what they are doing serve us today? Give up the idea of a system and sameness; look towards experimentation. We need to bust data out of silo and move seamlessly across a data network. The usability and value of local enhancements added to a catalog record, are they worth the time and cost?
Any transition must make sense to librarians and our users. Some of our users are proficient at using our systems. Because we are hemmed in by past traditions, change may annoy some of our users/supporters and thrill others.
Two questions were posed by one debater; how does a book get better every time it’s read and how does a library get better every time it’s used? This somehow should be traceable without compromising users’ privacy concerns. Catalogs should have something like Netflix cues in them; people add value with personal comments and reviews. Libraries need research on where does metadata help users be better discoverers. We are behind in approaches with collecting and using data.
3. Do open source solutions offer a compelling option, either now or in the near-future? Libraries should be helping to design systems they use. Librarians need to look at what open source software does and its quality; it must be good and needs to be auditable.
4. What changes do you see coming in the library software market and how will those changes affect options for libraries? Mergers with ILS vendors was one response.
One person mentioned the economy and budgets. These two factors will affect how people get books in our libraries. With gas at an all time high, purchasing a book on Google for $.99 may become an alternative option for some. With times being tight, this is also when people turn to libraries as an alternative for entertainment; it’s a good opportunity for libraries to shine. Are we going to have a marketing campaign? We should be clear that we’re not the choice for bad times only, but for good times as well.
Print on demand. With the many options of technology, what is the cost in relation to the benefit must be determined. Can libraries quantify the benefit of cataloging? Cost will ultimately show things need to work differently. If ILL costs $30, why not purchase the book on Amazon used books for $5 and ship to the patron?
Libraries need to be statistically literate and evidence-based as opposed to barking dogma said one debater.
5. If you could snap your fingers and do one thing to the current library software market, what would it be? Everything will be open source. Get on cycle of normal technology profession; don’t get behind six generations by not upgrading software.
Separate library management systems without hindering good user services.
Larger library software market; a sense of greater demand may merit major software companies wanting to develop software products for libraries.
Libraries can provide people the intelligence of other users.
Everybody gets their own personal Nancy Pearl.

Some final thoughts expressed included:
1. A tremendous amount of information can be learned by new graduates and the expertise and tradition of those working in trenches.
2. Give up dogma, reanalyze our practices. Some are based on older technologies. If you don’t want to kill dogma at least put it in a kennel long enough to reanalyze practices.
3. Engage with non-librarians who are creating bibliographic records; let them into our environment.
4. Trust our users and make use of them.
5. Marriage of traditional metadata and tagging.
6. Take advantage of leaner times to market what libraries do.

Carolyn at ALA Annual

Monday, July 7, 2008 11:05 am

This was my second ALA, and I am so glad I went. I attended several sessions on cataloging and the future of the catalog, as well as a session on information literacy standards for anthropology and sociology students.

Below are insights gained from attending sessions by and for sociology and anthropology librarians and information literacy standards for these disciplines.

Before heading out to California, Roz informed me about an ALA session in which ANSS (Anthropology and Sociology Section of ACRL) librarians were meeting to discuss the new “Information Literacy Standards for Anthropology and Sociology” that had recently been published in the June 2008 issue of College & Research Libraries News. Roz, Bobbie and I are currently planning and developing the LIB210 class Social Science Research Sources and Strategies.

Key insights from this session include:
1. The standards document is a library document, not something you would pass out to faculty. Possibly start with one faculty member and together pick out key things in the document that resonates with him or her and start with incorporating those items into the department’s curriculum.
2. The learning of information literacy skills should be integrated into discipline specific classes, not separate. A comment was made that this is an easier sell to faculty if it’s integrated rather than as an add-on. Having a basic information literacy course may make some faculty feel they don’t need information literacy in other courses; there is a difference in basic skills vs. specific disciplinary skills.
3. Special guest Edward L. Kain, Professor of Sociology at Southwestern University, suggested that faculty and librarians think about strategic places in sociology assignments where information literacy goals can be incorporated.
4. Departments are looking for ways to assess what they do. Librarians will gain points with faculty by providing guidance on assessment to faculty.

After the session, I spoke with Patti Caravello, Librarian for Anthropology, Archaeology, and Sociology and Director of the Information Literacy Program at UCLA as well as one of the authors of the document, and she told me of her experiences teaching information literacy in a Sociology class alongside the professor. She commented that the professor was convinced that student papers were better written. She has published an article about her experience and feels strongly that information literacy should be integrated into discipline specific classes rather than being taught as a separate class altogether. She also invited me to come to the Anthropology Librarians Discussion Group the next day, which I did, and I learned much there as well.

At the Anthropology Librarians Discussion Group, a goal of the group is to create a repository of teaching materials (e.g. syllabi, homework assignments, instructional materials) to post on the ACRL ANSS section’s website. Included material in the repository must tie into the newly created information literacy standards. Best practices for graduate students’ instruction programs were also discussed. Even though WFU no longer has a graduate program in anthropology, I believe some of the “best practices” could be applicable or tweaked to fit undergraduate classes. Some of the “best practices” include:
1. Subject specialist or liaison has office hours in department. Usage varied among librarians, but all agreed one-on-one consultation is popular.
2. Have a wine and cheese social in the library’s graduate student lounge. Make this a no-sit-down function so that people will have to mingle. Acquire a list of student names at the social.
3. Conduct workshops throughout the year in Endnote, RefWorks, and how to submit one’s dissertation.
4. There is a need for data literacy skills (i.e. How does one make sense of these data charts/graphs?).
5. Conduct a graduate student workshop at orientation. Have an introduction to the library as well as a citation workshop on academic integrity (i.e. Do students really understand plagiarism?). The citation workshop can be adapted to any discipline and can be an active learning experience; provide short 2-3 sentences scenarios of plagiarism examples.
6. Ask professors to send librarians their graduate students’ subject specialties/research topics. This will aid in collection development and predicting future topics in emerging areas of the discipline.
7. In bibliographic instruction classes, demonstrate citation management program and use students’ topics when demonstrating databases.
8. Audit or take classes in discipline; become an embedded librarian.
9. Offer scanning as a way to see what students are working on.
10. In course management software, ask professor to add your name into specific class. That way one is able to jump into discussions, offer tips on anthropology sources, but unable to view assignments submitted.

The question how does one teach students how to find scholarly articles and which databases to utilize was posed? One person’s comment was to limit to the top three best starting places for the discipline, and if this proves unsuccessful, one can drill down even further.

Both sessions were immensely informative and helpful and because of them, I plan on joining ACRL’s ANSS section. With proposed changes to WFU’s liaison program, I realize I have much to learn about the field of anthropology. I made some great contacts with Anthropology Librarians, especially Patti Caravello of UCLA who was willing to answer my questions and share her knowledge and experience of working as an Anthropology Librarian. After expressing concern to Patti about not having a degree in anthropology, she recommended some titles for further reading and stated that having a desire to further my knowledge and understanding of the discipline and its lingo will go a long way in becoming a better liaison to the Anthropology department at WFU.

Later this week, I will post reflections on the cataloging sessions I attended.

Day 2 at NISO Forum

Friday, April 4, 2008 10:12 am

Here are some highlights from day two of the NISO conference.

Day two began with a talk by OhioLINK’s Assistant Director for New Service Development, Peter Murray on Discovery Tools and the OPAC. In describing next generation functions/features of online catalogs, Murray referenced Marshall Breeding’s article on next generation library catalogs which appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of Library Technology Reports. These next generation functions/features include:

  1. Suggested search modifications (ex. Google’s “Did you mean..?”)
  2. Faceted browsing—Post-search limiting possibilities on the screen for users. One can limit or broaden their initial search without having to start the search over from scratch.
  3. Persistent URLs/Permalinks—Wouldn’t it be nice if URLs lasted a long time to items in the catalog, even to searches.
  4. Syndication feeds (RSS)—What’s out there that is new about this search? Are there comments from others?
  5. User-supplied tagging—Users apply their own vocabulary so they can get back to an item later.
  6. User-supplied annotations—Comments, reviews, edits to underlying bibliographic record. Allows users to make changes in wiki-like fashion.
  7. Book covers—Makes catalog screen look pretty.
  8. Recommendation engines—”If you like this item…” “Users who checked out this item looked at these titles as well.”
  9. Social networking tools—Users want to reflect categorization and interests post URL to get back.

He then showed several libraries’ catalogs who are utilizing next generation OPAC tools (ex. AquaBrowser, Innovative’s Encore, Ex Libris’ Primo, WorldCat Local, Blacklight, fac-back-opac, Scriblio, VuFind).

Murray is also a blogger known as the Disruptive Library Technology Jester. The catalog examples that he used in his presentation utilizing next generation OPAC tools can be seen in an entry on his blog.

After his presentation, several people were concerned with how libraries would deal with spam or objectionable comments. In opening up our catalogs, libraries are opening themselves to possible negative consequences. This adds on the responsibility of policing our system but, there are tools for underlying blog technology systems such as Akismet and Big Brother which can be applied. Dinah Sanders, a Senior Product Manager with Encore, Innovative Interfaces, commented that libraries who utilize Encore, their patrons who wish to leave comments or ratings must login into their patron record; this eliminates much of the problem because the library knows who you are.

Dinah Sanders presented on Changing Patron Expectations and the Discovery Landscape. She spoke about iterative searching (i.e. berry picking model) in catalogs. Specifically, on how catalogs should be able to remove dead ends and provide alternative paths to the precise items to which a user is interested; people come to the library to find, not to search. By utilizing features such as relevance ranking, faceted searching, tags, and regional borrowing options, catalogs can take users from discovery to delivery plus. Users have high expectations, and they want libraries to provide the same level of search success without the resources of Google. They want rich content like Amazon, faceted browsing, Web 2.0 capabilities, and the ability for community participation. She felt that community tagging of library resources in catalogs will become popular with the academic community and take off. By libraries collecting tags in their catalogs, it in essence is capturing part of the dialogue of an academic community and demonstrates the knowledge and utilization of community users. We can enrich our collections by embracing community reviews and ratings as well. As an example she indicated that for a specific title that a faculty member has on reserve, the library could request him or her to contribute a brief explanation on why this work is critical to the discipline being studied. Because these reviews are not coming from strangers on Amazon, they may be more meaningful to the community.

Ms. Sanders also commented on her recent experience at SXSW Interactive, a web technology conference. SXSW is where one goes to find out what’s happening on the leading edge of technology; its focus is not just on the how, but the why. At this year’s conference, she said strong themes emerged that were indicative of change in libraries and standards. A few of them are listed below:

  1. We are all publishers—Roll over Gutenberg, tell McLuhan the news (the name of an actual presentation at this year’s SXSW conference according to Ms. Sanders).
  2. The social web—Work and play are done collaboratively. We build networks of trust.
  3. The back channel—“The web doesn’t shut up just because you have”—a quote from Jason Fried. There is a profound culture of mentorship people look to for information (ex. Meebo, Twitter, Traditional hierarchal authority is not trusted, and authenticity and time are playing roles where people are putting their trust.
  4. Cultivating emotional engagement—Tools should make me happy.
  5. Pace of change—Last Web 2.0 conference is nearing.

Michael Winkler, Director of Information Technologies & Digital Development at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed the development of PennTags, a community tagging application. He spoke about educational applications being built around the masses; people are contributing, not just passively consuming. PennTags allow users to not only tag items in the online catalog but to annotate resources as well., another interesting discovery tool presented, began as a means to identify individual blogspots that are valuable sources of information to researchers in the social and hard sciences. It’s a way for bloggers to find and showcase their serious posts about peer-reviewed research. The categories of psychology and biology have the most posts. All users must create an account, and when posting to the blog they must create a formal citation either manually or enter a DOI about the research to which they are referencing.

I learned much at this conference, but the one thing that stands out most in my mind is that library catalogs can be so much more than what they are. If we want to be the first place of discovery for our users, then we need to build a better catalog utilizing the new tools that are available. In “Googlizing” and “Amazoning” our catalogs, standards will need to be developed for tagging and reviewing/rating resources (i.e. What does a 1 or a 5 mean on a 1-5 scale?). In conclusion, library catalogs can be a means to enrich an academic community’s dialogue and at the same time make discovery for our users less challenging and information delivery more rewarding.

Carolyn at NISO Forum on Next Generation Discovery: New Tools, Aging Standards

Monday, March 31, 2008 10:15 am

On March 27-28, 2008, I attended NISO’s 2-day forum on Next Generation Discovery: New Tools, Aging Standards in Chapel Hill. Todd Carpenter, NISO’s Managing Director, began the conference by referencing discovery as being one of the primary reasons people visit libraries either in person or virtually and, that the standards and systems that are currently in use at many libraries are beginning to fray. Libraries are not keeping up with advancing technologies. Out of this meeting, he hopes ideas will come to the forefront in areas of standards and development that NISO needs to address.

I took notes fast and furious so as not to miss anything. Here are some of my interpretations of highlights from Day 1 talks. I hope that they are accurate reflections of what was said. Any misinterpretation is this writer’s fault.

The keynote speaker, Richard Akerman, Technology Architect and Information Systems Security Officer of NRC CISTI, began his speech with the example of SkyNet, a term from science fiction used in the Terminator movies. Terminator fans will remember that the machine (i.e. Terminator) was cold and heartless and employed a hostile user interface. Akerman went on to say that exploring ways of getting machines to function in manners that users want is vital. Machines are not meeting all users’ expectations, and that Google crawlers have shaped all discovery expectations of users today.

How can we as humans better serve the machines our users utilize? Because machines don’t speak our language or have a deep contextual knowledge, humans need to be knowledge translators for the machines so as to enable machines to bring greater discovery to users. Some suggestions he offered included:

  1. Produce information in formats that machines can easily understand, and in parallel formats that are human readable.
  2. For every web resource and its machine reader,the number of formats should be kept simple so as to enable interchange easily.
  3. Bibliographic metadata should be a first class citizen by using OpenURL and COinS. Embedding metadata in webpages can provide bibliographic services around that metadata. Functionality to users can be added by using embedded knowledge.

Humans are seeking rich information experiences, and the general OPAC is not a discovery interface. A discovery layer needs to be built over the catalog’s metadata using APIs, and the catalog should work in ways that the Google generation understands. It should go to wherever your user is (example: a Wake Forest student user is searching Amazon for a book while drinking coffee at Starbucks, a box pops up and alerts the user that the book is available at the library) and able to work at web speed. Embedded knowledge can be enriched by using XML, RDF, RSS, GeoRSS, microformats, aggregators, and recommender APIs. An interesting example of a discovery tool developed by MIT’s SIMILE project is its Timeline component. Timeline is described by MIT’s SIMILE website as a “widget for visualizing time-based events.”

Akerman stated that instead of having too much information, he feels there is too much information poverty. We need to continuously search for and find ways to provide information to users everywhere. There is much information that is not getting indexed and is therefore inaccessible to people. We must tap the knowledge of people all over the world and provide information access to all.

In another talk, Mike Teets, VP of OCLC Global Product Architecture, demonstrated new discovery tools that OCLC is currently providing and those that are in development for users. Three tools that I found most interesting were xISBN, xISSN and Identities. xISBN is a service that consolidates ISBNs of a specific title into a list. It is driven off of FRBR algorithms. OCLC is still testing its xISSN service, which will bring together a graphical representation of the history and relationships of specific serial titles’ ISSNs. Identities provides information about authors and utilizes publication timelines (books by and about an author), audience level indicators (this number is computed by what institutions hold a specific author’s work(s)), and relationships to other authors and/or organizations. You can try Identities by searching for a title in WorldCat, click on the details tab and then click on the author’s name or you can go directly to

Other interesting discovery tools presented were 2collab and 2collab is an Elsevier produced free collaboration tool for researchers and scientists. Information can be shared with peers by creating groups. Users can add tags, bookmarks, ratings, comments, as well as, display one’s current research activity and interests and groups in which one is a member, and highlight one’s scientific record of publications. Privacy is of utmost importance to scientific researchers. Only members within a private group can share and access each other’s information. Group owners can accept or decline membership into a group. ScienceDirect has an “add to 2collab” button that allows users to transfer metadata about pertinent articles to their profiles and they are able to share this information with their groups. IEEE has developed a web service,, which is a free federated search service of 18 not-for-profit science and technical libraries. It is open to the general public, but is designed primarily for researchers. Partners pay a contribution fee to help fund the service. Subscribers to the partner libraries and members of partner societies are able to view full text included in their subscriptions or memberships; other users have a pay-per-view option.

All conference talks were recorded and the presentation slides are to be posted shortly to the NISO website on the Discovery Tools agenda webpage. For more in depth information, check out NISO’s website. Day two reflections will appear later this week.

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