Sorry for the delay in posting this, but two weeks ago on April 10 and 11, I attended the North Carolina Serials Conference in Chapel Hill. The focus of the conference was primarily on personnel and employment issues.
The Opening Keynote was delivered by Pamela Bluh of the University of Maryland, President of ALCTS (Association for Library Collections & Technical Services). She discussed how the Serials Section of ALCTS changed its name to the Continuing Resource Section, because some materials don’t strictly fit the serial or monograph categories, like looseleafs and, more crucially, websites. According to Bluh, the name change reflects a “permanent shift in the bibliographic universe,” and that librarians need to adapt to new materials and develop new methods for handling them. Bluh argued that this change is a microcosm of the changes facing ALCTS, which needs to develop procedures and products to face the challenges of the present and future, including breaking down the barriers between sections as separate silos. This type of thinking informed the new ALCTS strategic plan, which is now available on their website.
Later that afternoon, Tamika Barnes McCullough of the Triangle EPA Library spoke on “The Cocktail Speech: How to Market Your Services.” She emphasized that librarians are constantly marketing their services, whether they know it or not, and that how we present ourselves is important in our careers as well as in attracting new people to the profession. Basically, she suggested being positive.
The next morning, there was a panel discussion called “Turnabout Is Fair Play: Recruiting Outside the Box,” which, in my opinion, was pretty safely inside the box. Nothing much interesting or original came from it.
I then attended a concurrent session called “Who Care About Catalogs Anyhow?” conducted by Sandy Hurd of Innovative Interfaces. Hurd argued that as long as libraries buy and manage resources, we will need to describe them and display what we own and offer. Despite enormous changes in technology and information sources, stuff still needs to be organized and accessed, and that’s where the catalog comes in. She discussed various things that are being done to make catalogs more useful, such as companies that sell book data (cover pictures, tables of contents, reviews, summaries), like Syndetics, which we use. She described how the University of Nebraska at Lincoln is working to link out to academic departments from the catalog, such as adding slide photos with metadata to the catalog, or links to special departmental collections. Other enhancements include adding scoped searches, link resolvers, real-time updates, personalized RSS feeds, ratings, reviews, and reading histories. The more collections are exposed in the catalog, the more collections are expanded and the more usage increases. One potential problem for the future of the catalog is that catalogers at the Library of Congress (a major source of all cataloging copy) are aging and will be retiring in the near future. With fewer catalogers, how will stuff get cataloged? One potential solution is selective enrichment, using embryonic metadata that is enhanced by users adding information to entries. It will need some kind of bibliographic control, but it might be used well with non-academic genre fiction. A more useful application might be asking for tags for photos, like we have done here with some of our Digital Forsyth photos.
The next concurrent session I attended was “MARC Record Services:A Comparative Study of Library Practices” by Rebecca Kemp of UNC-Wilmington. The presentation was based on an article she published in “The Serials Librarian.” Because you can look up the article if you’re interested, I won’t go into much detail here. The presentation discussed Kemp’s survey of libraries that use MARC record services (Serials Solutions, Ex Libris, EBSCO, or IDNet) to provide bibliographic records for electronic journals. The results fit very closely with our experience here. Most libraries were happy with the services, appreciated the greater accessibility to their e-journals, but were occasionally displeased with the lack of detail in some of the bib records provided, and sometimes found the record-load process rather difficult.
The Closing Keynote was “Recruiting for the Next Generation,” presented by Rick Block of Columbia University, Long Island University and the Pratt Institute. In a highly entertaining talk, Block discussed the cycles of job openings for librarians from the early 20th century on, defining the periods of librarian shortages and periods of oversupply. He said that we are currently in a shortage phase, but that this is the first shortage where age is a factor. Block pointed out that libraries are exacerbating the shortage problem by not offering enough entry-level jobs, what he calls the entry-level gap. If graduates from library school can’t find jobs as librarians, they may leave the field. He argued that libraries should offer more entry-level jobs, so we can bring in new people, new ideas and increase diversity. Block also argued that we should recruit new librarians by actively promoting the profession, by marketing librarianship as a good mid-life career, and by recruiting among undergraduates, paraprofessionals and interns.