Professional Development

“Humanities in the 21st Century” symposium: Closing Speaker

Saturday, March 19, 2011 6:14 pm

On Saturday March 19, 2011, I attended the closing session of the WFU Humanities Institute’s inaugural symposium. The session was titled “Are the humanities good for humanity? The aims and place of the humanities in liberal education.”

Our guest speaker was Stanley Fish, Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and Law at Florida International University. Fish describes his field (humanities and law) as a “very new” one that is currently producing new schools of thought on academic freedom, the focus of his talk.

Fish outlined five definitions of academic freedom, arranged on a right-to-left ideological scale:

(1) Traditional/conservative: “the freedom to do the academic job, and not the freedom to do other jobs. The academic job is (a) to introduce students to bodies of materials with which they were not previously familiar, and (b) to equip students with the discipline-appropriate analytical skills. That’s it, nothing else.” In other words, you’re neither trained nor paid to be a therapist, political/social change agent, etc.

(2) Classical liberalism: “the freedom to pursue lines of inquiry that lead to the advancement of knowledge. It cannot be limited in advance — no ideas either canonized or stigmatized at the outset — but it is limited by the in-place standards and norms of academic work,” i.e., subjected to the rigor of academic scrutiny. Fish introduced the term “academisizing”: the notion that “social urgency” (real-world intervention) should be translated into “academic urgency” — supplying the kind of analysis, etc., to current issues that academics excel at, and that constitutes their most distinctive contribution.

(3) “Post-Modernist”: “the freedom to interrogate and challenge the institution’s norms and standards, for it is always possible, and indeed likely, that those standards and norms reflect and perpetuate the interests of a suspect status quo.” Fish calls this a “hermeneutics of suspicion.” It further demands that academics justify their arguments according to external standards, not just by appeals to the traditional standards of the academic community.

(4) “Academic exceptionalism”: “freedom is exercised by exceptional beings who by virtue of training, expertise, and the scholarly temperament produce words more valuable than the words of ordinary men and women.” Fish noted that exceptionalistic notions have no standing as a legal concept (Supreme Court rulings have mentioned academic freedom in an honorific sense, not as legally binding), or as a constitutional right (doesn’t entitle academic institutions to special treatment over others).

(5) “Radical” or “Terminal”: “the freedom and obligation to oppose tyranny, oppression, exclusion, racism, and discrimination wherever they are found, including within the university itself which, because it is embedded in a neoliberal society controlled by corporate interests, is quite likely corrupt at its core.” This view, Fish says, emphasizes “freedom” as the main concept, “academic” as ancillary; this results in the loss of the disciplinary constraints academic rigor provides.

A panel of WFU faculty provided responses.

Michele Gillespie, of the History Dept., offered the following points:

  • She doesn’t want to see humanists go on the defensive; instead, we should think of ways to increase our presence in the wider world. This can be accomplished not only by employing service-based learning and other innovations in the classroom, but also by strengthening relationships with scholars in other disciplines (WFU’s small size makes it particularly conducive to this).
  • Economic growth was originally envisioned as enabling cultural growth; nowadays, economic growth is increasingly viewed as the end purpose.
  • Other disciplines need us, and are starting to realize this; they are coming to us to learn how to apply “our empathetic grasp of human complexities” to their own fields’ endeavors.

Simeon Ilesanmi, of the Religion Dept., questioned whether “the academy is better off” adopting a values-free approach to education, rejecting in loco parentis, etc. He noted the frequency with which WFU students cited parental preference as determining their choice of major. In contrast, he defined the academic’s job as “making individuals useful to themselves and to the community” — such a program cannot be values-free.

Herman Rapaport, of the English Dept., offered the following points:

  • He contrasted an ideology espoused by some parents, and some schools, that the academic’s job is to teach students skills but not to affect them personally (cause them to change their political or religious views,etc.), as opposed to the view that we are here to teach students how to be intellectuals, life-long learners.
  • Rapaport also contrasted European and American student attitudes. European students, he said, often read their professors’ work, debate it with them, and suggest new courses that they should teach; American students rarely do this. Rapaport attributes this to a greater American emphasis on skills acquisition.
  • Rapaport says he takes “a more psychological view of the classroom” than many of his colleagues. The very act of interacting with people means that you are dealing with their past influences; in this sense, instructors can’t escape being therapists. There is “something that transcends” pure academics in the act of teaching: even if a student doesn’t grasp the details of a lecture, something like a Freudian transference occurs when that student sees the instructor’s enthusiasm for the topic. In this way, the instructor delivers a tradition to another person.

Dr. Fish distributed a ten-page handout filled with interesting quotes on academic freedom. I’ve posted my copy in the staff lounge, for anyone interested.

“Humanities in the 21st Century” symposium: Student panel

Friday, March 18, 2011 9:27 pm

On Friday March 18, I attended a symposium marking the launching of WFU’s new Humanities Institute.

Because students are the reason we’re all here, the organizers made a deliberate and significant decision to open the symposium with a student panel discussion, on the topic “Perspectives on the future of the humanities at Wake Forest.”

The panel consisted of five students, whose majors and minors represented not only the traditional humanities disciplines of literature and history, but also anthropology, psychology, chemistry, and economics. Helps explain why our LIB250 course (Humanities research) has, since its inaugural semester, attracted significant numbers of students majoring in the sciences and social sciences.

Some of the students’ more striking insights:

  • A student planning to pursue a career in neuroscience described how her work with homeless communities as part of a medical anthropology course made her aware of the importance of culture as a driving force behind scientific initiatives to enhance quality-of-life issues.
  • Many students forget to ask “Why”? “How can my research make a difference in the world?” Humanities can answer these questions.
  • A second student also planning to go into medicine cited the Kantian notion of treating people as ends in themselves: her study of narrative, and the concept of types (characters in literature, film, etc.) led to the insight that the humanities militate against typing people. This can help doctors avoid the trap of stereotyping their patients, and the limiting of the doctor/patient relationship that results.
  • One student had been exposed to scholarly arguments holding that current popular culture (films, magazines, etc.) are sufficient means by which to know the world and people. The student learned, through her studies in the humanities, that this is not the case.
  • One student cited the all-important factor of context: humanities fill the gaps in perception between science, politics, religion, etc.
  • Economics are “cultivated” by the humanities.
  • One student who as a freshman was reluctant to venture into humanities studies noted how exposure to philosophy, Classics, film studies, etc. “makes you restless.” It changed his focus from a didactic “me teaching you what I think” to a more reflective “me learning from you what you think.”

The moderator, Prof. David Phillips, asked the panel what they wanted to see from the Humanities Institute in the future. Some responses:

  • A number of students are resistant to humanities (“why should my money go to support a student studying some obscure 17th-century poem?”). The Institute can help change such attitudes.
  • All students, whether they know it or not, engage in reflection. Pop songs, for instance, reflect on the question “What is love?” The Institute could “modernize” humanities studies by explicitly demonstrating connections of this nature.
  • Interdisciplinary courses co-taught by instructors from different disciplines (“Schopenhauer and Wagner”, taught by a philosopher and a music scholar — “why not philosophy and physics?” asked the student) are particularly valuable.

Finally, one panelist admitted that, in contrast to others who had experienced a dramatic “aha” moment, his own appreciation of the humanities had developed slowly over his three years at Wake. He advised instructors who feel frustration when students seem not to “get it” — “try, try again”!

The Future of Cataloging – Steve at ALA

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 1:49 pm

It’s not often that you go to a conference and have a major realization about the need to re-organize how you do your work and how your library functions, but I did at this year’s ALA. Through the course of several sessions on RDA, the new cataloging code that is slated to replace AACR2, I came to realize that we very much need to implement and maintain authority control at ZSR. This is not easy to say, as it will necessarily involve some expense and a great deal of time and effort, but without proper authority control of our bibliographic database, our catalog will suffer an ever-diminishing quality of service, frustrating patrons and hindering our efficiency.

You may ask, what is authority control? It’s the process whereby catalogers guarantee that the access points (authors, subjects, titles) in a bibliographic record use the proper or authorized form. Subject headings change, authors may have the same or similar names, and without controlling the vocabulary used, users can be confused, retrieving the wrong author or not retrieving all of the works on a given subject.

Here at ZSR we have historically had no authority maintenance to speak of. Our catalog records were sent out to a company to have the authorities cleaned up some time shortly before I started working here, and I started working here eight years ago this month. I have long thought that it was a problem that we have no authority control system, however, it did not seem to be a crisis. However, that was until RDA came along.

RDA (or Resource Description and Access) is, as you probably know by now, the new cataloging code that is supposed to replace AACR2. AACR2 focuses on the forms of items cataloged, whether the item is a book, a computer file, an audio recording, etc. The description gives you plenty of information about the item, the number of pages, the publisher, etc. If you do not have authority control (as we don’t), you may have a book with a similar title to another book, but you can distinguish it by saying, the book I need has 327 pages, with 8 pages of color prints, it’s 23 cm. high and it was published by Statler & Waldorf in 1998. In RDA, the focus is on points of access and in identifying works. Say you have a novel (a work) that has been published as a print book, as an audio book, and as an electronic book (by three different publishers on three different platforms). With RDA, you want to create a record to identify the work, the novel as an abstract concept, not the specific physical (or electronic) form that the novel takes. It’s not as easy to resort to the physical description (as with AACR2), because there may be no physical entity to describe at all. In that case, who wrote the book, the exact title of the book, and the subjects of the book become of paramount importance for identifying a work. RDA essentially cannot function without proper authority control (I had realized this fact during the course of the presentations I attended, but on my last day, a speaker’s first conclusion about preparing for RDA was “Increase authority control.”).

RDA is still being implemented, and the Library of Congress is currently undergoing a test to decide by March 2011 if they will adopt RDA. However, that test period seems a mere formality. There appears to be considerable momentum for the adoption of RDA, and I believe it will be adopted, even if many catalogers do have reservations about it. We may have another year to two-years before the momentum will force us to move to RDA, but in the meantime, I believe we need to get some sort of authority control system in place.

The advantages of authority control will be felt almost immediately in our catalog. The use of facets in VuFind will be far more efficient if the underlying data in the subject headings is in proper order. Also, as we move to implement WakeSpace, which will make us in essence publishers of material, we will need to make sure that we have our authors properly identified and distinguished from others (we need to make sure that our David Smith is the one we’ve got listed as opposed to another David Smith). Also, should we ever attempt to harvest the works of our university authors in an automated way to place them in WakeSpace, we will need to make sure that we are identifying the proper authors. The only way to do that is through authority control.

This issue will require some research and study before we can move forward with implementing authority control and maintenance. We will need some training for our current catalogers (definitely including me), we will need to have our current database’s authorities “cleaned up,” and we will have to institute a way to maintain our authorities, possibly including the hiring of new staff. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap, but if our catalog is to function in an acceptable manner, I think it’s absolutely necessary.

Needless to say, I’ll be happy to talk about this with anyone who wants to.

Steve at 2010 NASIG Conference

Monday, June 21, 2010 2:19 pm

At the beginning of June, I flew out to Palm Springs, California for the 25th Annual North American Serials Interest Group Conference. As a member-at-large of the NASIG Executive Board, I had to head out on Tuesday, June 1, so I could attend an all-day strategic planning session on the following day. Then on Thursday, I had a regular Board meeting in the morning. So I had already done quite a bit of work by the time the conference officially opened on Thursday evening.

The conference sessions began on Friday, June 4, with a vision session from Eric Miller of Zepheira, LLC. Miller is an information research scientist who formerly worked at OCLC and W3C, and his presentation was called “Linked Data & Libraries.” Miller described the idea of linked data, which involves exposing raw data sets on the Web and making the data manipulable by users. Rather than heaping all data into one database, linked data lets data stay where it is, but allows it to link to other data and be exposed. For example, it would allow a user to take data from a spreadsheet and layer it over a map to see if clusters form on the map indicating geographically where the data occurs. The use of linked data can allow us to have applications that are not just on the web, but of the web. Linked data would require the development, assignment and use of web identifiers, which are URLs that are being used to identify not just documents, but data elements, abstract entities, ideas, people, etc. Without web identifiers to serve as primary keys, there may be a disconnect between pieces of data that should be linked, meaning the use of web identifiers would require a degree of authority control. According to Miller, a linked data solution would enable human computation, would empower users to create their own views of data, and would build a community around data in which users create and curate data, but this solution would have to skip the supermodel idea of trying to build one enormous database with every piece of data in it.

I next attended a session by Colin Meddings of Oxford University Press called “Digital Preservation: The Library Perspective.” Meddings discussed the findings of a survey of OUP’s customers, as well as a survey of publishers regarding digital preservation. The most surprising thing in the presentation was that about a quarter of both publishers and libraries surveyed are doing nothing at all about the preservation of digital content. Luckily, the large majority of publishers and libraries are involved with digital preservation, through initiatives like Portico, LOCKSS, CLOCKSS, dark archives, etc. OUP found that digital preservation is important to their customers, but that there is still confusion around the issues. It remains unclear who is ultimately responsible for digital preservation (publishers, libraries, national libraries?), and who should pay for it. The cost of preservation is actually more of a problem than the technical issues. OUP has found that further education and discussion on these issues is needed.

I then attended a session led by Steve Shadle on how catalogers at the University of Washington use their ERM. It appears that an ERM can be quite useful in managing the loading of bibliographic record sets. If we have an ERM in our future, that may be something to pursue. I also attended a session on serials industry initiatives in standards involving the UKSG (NASIG’s sister organization in the United Kingdom). Ross MacIntyre discussed TRANSFER, a program for smoothing the transfer of journals from one publisher to another, KBart, a standard for knowledge base practices, COUNTER, an initiative for developing usage factors based on the use of journals, and PIRUS, an initiative for developing usage factors for individual articles, which is also COUNTER-compliant.

On Saturday, I attended the conference’s second vision session, a program by Kent Anderson, publisher of “The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery” as well as the Scholarly Kitchen website, entitled “Publishing 2.0: How the Internet Changes Publications in Society.” Anderson argued that the developed of Web 2.0 technology has changed the nature of publishing. Media on Web 1.0 was the digital version of broadcast, it was one-way and hierarchical. Web 2.0 technology has made media less a source of information and more a place for conversation, where users can comment on, add to, and enhance information. This leads to a form of organization called heterarchy, in which authority shifts, develops on the fly, is democratic, waxes and wanes, is situational, and fades as problems are resolved. Furthermore, in older publishing models, information was scarce, and in a world of scarcity, users need an intermediary, but in newer publishing models, information is abundant, and users need a guide. This process of guiding information users is called apomediation, as opposed to intermediation. Another factor that Anderson discussed was the fact that increasingly consumers own the infrastructure on which publishers publish (smart phones, iPads, etc.) and can control how published material displays, which limits the control publishers have over the material they produce. Anderson closed with the simple but powerful idea that users are changing, expectations are changing, and publishers must change as well.

After Anderson’s program, I attended a session called “When Jobs Disappear” led by Sally Glasser of Hofstra University. This session looked at the results of a survey of libraries asking about the effects of elimination or significant reduction of print serials management tasks on positions and employees. There was no really big surprise to find that the task that was most reduced was binding print serials. Also, the survey found that most libraries assign new tasks to the staff who used to perform the tasks that have been eliminated. Most libraries have plenty of stuff that needs to be done, and the elimination of several tasks can open up the opportunity to perform new functions. So we are not alone in facing these sorts of issues.

I followed this session with an update on the activities of CONSER, the serials cataloging consortium. Not to bore you with the gory details, CONSER has changed a few MARC coding practices and has been testing RDA.

On Sunday morning, I attended another Executive Board meeting, and followed that up with one last session (Chris and I had to leave the conference a little before it closed in order to make our flight). The session was called “Making E-Serials Holdings Data Transferable-Applying the KBART Recommended Practice,” and was led by Jason Price of Claremont Colleges Library and SCELC Consortium. KBART stands for Knowledge Bases and Related Tools, and is a new standard from NISO and the UKSG. It is a universally acceptable holdings data format created by publishers, aggregators, knowledge base vendors, and libraries, designed to allow for the timely exchange of accurate metadata between vendors and libraries regarding holdings. If the standard is accepted and applied it should save libraries the trouble of badgering publishers to send complete title access lists, would end libraries having to navigate title changes and ISSN mismatches, and would end libraries having to wait for the knowledge base data teams to make updates. Price argued that librarians should learn about what KBART is and does, and should help lobby publishers to adopt KBART practices.

So, that’s about it. Oh, but I forgot to mention that on Saturday night there was a special dinner and reception in honor of NASIG’s 25th anniversary. The reception included dancing, which both Chris and I participated in. However, there’s no photographic evidence of it available (thank goodness), so you’ll just have to take my word on it.

Triangle Alliance for Response Forum, NC Museum of Art, Raleigh

Friday, October 23, 2009 8:33 pm

Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath
This forum was organized by Heritage Preservation to organize community groups to respond to disasters. First responders and cultural preservation groups from federal, state and local entities joined in the forum. This was the first such forum in North Carolina and focused on responders in the Triangle area. It was good to see fellow Preservation Librarians Andy Hart(UNC-CH) and Winston Atkins(Duke) before the event. During the morning break, I met with Alix Bentrud, Preservation Services Librarian for Lyrasis. She and I had corresponded about developing the ZSR Continuity of Operations Plan. We discussed our plan and what ZSR is trying to accomplish. Alix is mulling over the idea of a Lyrasis class on this topic, so I passed a copy of our template along to her. This was a good contact and discussion. Each presenter had only 15 minutes- so it was quick and dirty disaster preparedness all day.

Robert James, Executive Director of the NC Preservation Consortium led off welcoming everyone and thanking Heritage Preservation for their sponsorship. Larry Wheeler, Director of the NC Museum of Art also welcomed the crowd and talked about the new NC Museum of Art building (opening in April, 2010).
David Brook, Director, Division of Historical Resources, presented on “Why Protect Cultural Heritage?” He gave an overview of our cultural resources-their value and the threats to them.

Dr. Marty Matthews, Curator of Research, NC Historic Resources presented on “Triangle Cultural and Historical Treasures.” This was a quick summary of cultural resources in libraries, archives, museums, monuments, and State Historic sites in the Triangle.
Jane Long, VP of Emergency Programs, Heritage Preservation presented on ‘Risks and Response: How Emergency Systems Work.” The Alliance for Response initiative was formed to bring together cultural and emergency professionals before disasters occur. These meetings have been held in 9 cities since 2003. It consists of educational programs and training, and networks and policies are developed- (listservs, alert systems and contact systems).

Joshua Creighton, Dir. Wake Co. Emergency Mgt. and John McGrath, Chief Raleigh Fire Dept. presented on “How Emergency Systems Work.” Creighton spoke on threats- natural, technological and man-made; how you must evaluate your threats, and reduce risks to threats and overcome vulnerability. He said we must work with local responders. Chief McGrath spoke about the incident command system during a response to an emergency. He made the same point Creighton did: You have a place at the table during the emergency by interacting with the liaison officer. You should identify yourself to the scene commander, account for all personnel and mechanical operations. After the emergency, those with subject matter expertise must help establish salvage priorities. The Fire Dept. actually provides equipment-including breathing apparatus to allow trained staff into the structure for recovery.

April Cummings, Environmental Historic Team lead-FEMA presented on the federal response to a disaster. FEMA provides individual and public assistance and hazard mitigation after a disaster is declared. Assistance, insurance, disaster, housing assistance, and small business loans are provided. The National Historic Preservation Act takes into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties. FEMA funding for historic sites- reviews the scope of the work, and determines eligibility prior to work beginning. Have a disaster place in place to minimize damage and coordinate response.

Martha Battle Jackson, Curator, NC Historic Sites, presented on” Disaster Team Roles.” She reviewed the ideas of Preparedness(ready at all times, prepare in advance, stockpiling equipment, practicing); Response (fac. Mgt, communication, security, data collection-photographing the recovery process, logging the images, etc. ) and Salvage (review functions, sorting, recording, packing, develop a tracking system).

Bill Gentry, Program Director, Community Preparedness and Disaster Management School of Public Health, UNC-CH presented on “Health and Safety following a Disaster.” He urged us to follow safety personnel after a disaster-do not assume the building is safe, use common sense. Hazards can be electrical, structural, mold, hydration for workers, air pollution/residue, mental health concerns and stress.

Elaine Wathen, Asst. Director, Information and Planning, NC Emergency Management presented on preparedness training. The NCEM provides training: exercises, elaborate discussions, or full scale role playing in a scenario.

Sarah Koonts, Head of Collection Management, NC State Archives presented on bringing people together to protect our vital records and archival treasures. Preparation before a disaster is key and helps during an actual disaster. Council of State Archivists took the lead role in planning how to protect vital records after Katrina and developed new methods and procedures. IPER-developed after Katrina, is web based training and support.

Darryl Aspey, NC Protective Security Agent, Department of Homeland Security presented on strengthening the infrastructure of the state against threats. Homeland Security has developed the National Infrastructure Protection Plan to detect threats, mitigate outcomes and recover. Their plans include protection plans for water, dams, monuments, state and federal facilities, etc. Protective Community Advisors advise local communities.

Carolyn Freitag, Emergency Management Assistance CompaCoordinator (EMAC) presented on mutual aid agreements in NC. All 100 counties have signed agreements supporting aid and assistance among local governments. EMAC is a national agreement developed after Hurricane Andrew. It facilitates efficient sharing of resources between member states during times of disaster or emergency. This is done with response teams.

David Goist, a professional conservator presented on model networks for cooperation and response. He introduced AIC Collections Emergency Response Team (CERT). This group advises on disasters.

Frank Thomson, Curator, Asheville Museum of Art and Andy Hart, Preservation Librarian, UNC-CH, discussed their networks: MACREN(Mountain Area Cultural Resources Emergency Network) and the Triangle Research Libraries Network Disaster Team. These networks respond to emergencies in their areas to recover cultural materials.

It was a day that covered so much, it was hard to absorb it all. The concept of a response team is a great one and I hope the Triangle area is successful in establishing a team.

Steve at NASIG 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009 1:14 pm

I know this is a bit late, but I’ve finally been able to dig myself out from under.The 24th Conference of the North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG) was held during the first week of June, and I served as co-chair of the Conference Planning Committee, with the spectacular support of Chris Burris as our AV Coordinator.Planning and running a conference is an interesting and exhausting experience (as many of you found out with the Entrepreneurship Conference).The Conference Planning Committee is sort of the Tech Services Department for the conference, we handle the logistics, while the Program Planning Committee handles the solicitation and selection of programs.

Our attendance was down this year, to only about 450 people, but it went fairly smoothly, if I do say so myself (I only lost my temper once, and that wasn’t even a major meltdown).The conference included a day and a half of pre-conferences, and two and a half days of regular conference sessions.There were also two off-site catered events (one all-conference event, and one optional event that required separate payment), an all-conference reception for the opening night, a first-time attendee reception, and a lunch and three breakfasts to coordinate.We had to take care of room assignments for sessions, signage, computer and other technical needs, set up of an internet cafe, copying programs and info for attendees, stuffing bags for attendees, poster session set-up, and registration.In addition, we not only had to coordinate the bus travel to and from our off-site events, we had to improvise a shuttle service from the Asheville airport.After NASIG signed the hotel contract to bring the conference to Asheville, the shuttle company that ran from the airport to the hotels went out of business, and the taxis in Asheville are outrageously expensive.So, we chartered a bus and ran our own operation.

To be honest, the whole thing felt kind of like organizing a massive wedding for 450 people that lasted for four days.It was satisfying, but exhausting.I came home the day the conference ended and slept for 13 hours.

If you get involved in conference planning (although with Wanda becoming Vice Pres/Pres.-Elect of NCLA I should say “When you get involved in conference planning”), I have three major suggestions:

1) Set deadlines and keep them as best you can.Conferences are big operations that involve a lot of players, and there are lots of moving parts.Some players can’t get to work on their tasks until other tasks are completed, so it’s key to have a schedule and firm(ish) deadlines.With my CPC, I arranged for monthly conference calls and sent out rough timelines that sketched out the major tasks that needed to be completed over the next two months, with an indication of who was responsible for that task.It seemed to help keep us on pace.

2) Nail down plans for everything you can anticipate you will need to do.This is really very basic, but the more detailed your plans are for the stuff you know you’re going to have to deal with, the better able you are to handle the unexpected stuff that inevitably arises.

3) Be flexible.This goes with my second point.The more you have planned, the better able you are to handle the surprises along the way.Even changing a plan you’ve already developed is better than having to improvise an entire approach on the fly.

Above all, keep a sense of humor (I know I said I had three suggestions…so sue me).

Steve at ALA Midwinter

Friday, February 6, 2009 6:00 pm

Sorry this is so late, but at least the info included is not time-sensitive.Like several other folks here, I went to the ALA Midwinter Conference in Denver in late-January.I stayed at the apartment of our former colleague Jim Galbraith, who is now living in Denver and working for NetLibrary as a Product Manager.Jim sends his greetings to all.If you get out to Denver within the next year, you should look him up.Of course, by this time next year, it’s anybody’s guess as to what town he’ll be living in.

I got to Denver a little early so I could attend a meeting of the NASIG Executive Board before the conference began, in my role as co-chair of the Conference Planning Committee for the upcoming 2009 NASIG Conference in Asheville.I was only able to stick around for the first two days of the conference, but I managed to attend a few good sessions, which I’ll now discuss.

Actually, the first session I would like to mention is one that wasn’t held.The CC:DA (Cataloging Committee: Description and Access) was supposed to hold a four hour meeting on Friday, Jan. 23 to discuss RDA (Resource Description and Access), the proposed new cataloging code which is intended to replace AACR2.However, due to a lack of responses, the entire meeting was cancelled.That told me that we are quite a way from actually implementing RDA.

That is not to say that there was no discussion of RDA at the conference.That Friday afternoon I attended a meeting of the CCS Forum, which was focused on RDA specifically.The meeting discussed RDA in general terms and the expected benefits of the new standard, but without getting into the nuts and bolts of the standard itself. In her presentation, Barbara Tillett, the Chief of the Policy and Standards Division at the Library of Congress, claimed that RDA is a content standard for the digital age, but one that can be used for all other formats, and that is flexible enough to accommodate future formats.RDA is not an encoding or presentation standard, but is preparing the infrastructure to build for the future, by taking into account user tasks, content standards and conceptual models (particularly the big buzz-word model FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records), which space will not allow me to describe here-if you would like to know more about FRBR, please ask me, I will be happy to explain).We currently do not have the systems to deliver the content that RDA allows for.A MARC/RDA Task Group is looking at changes needed to the MARC standard to accommodate RDA, which would require very fine granularity of data to fully implement.Tillett argued that the first release of RDA carries over a lot of AACR2 practice and “case law” (as it were), because library administrators pushed for this continuity to make the transition to RDA less traumatic and extreme for catalogers.She argued that future revisions of RDA would move further from AACR2.Tillett also said that training materials must be developed to help catalogers make the transition from AACR2 to RDA.So, to sum up, the RDA standard has been developed, but we still don’t have a MARC format that can implement the standard, catalog systems that can implement the standard, or training materials to teach catalogers to use the standard.As I said above, I think we’re years away from implementation.

On Saturday, Jan. 24, I attended a session of the CCS Copy Cataloging Interest Group.Joseph Kiegel of the University of Washington discussed their experience as the first library to implement OCLC’s WorldCat Local.WorldCat Local (WCL) is a tool for using bibliographic records directly from OCLC’s database rather than downloading records from OCLC to load into a local system.Instead, the local system contains holdings information and other local information that is fed up to WCL.WCL has driven ILL and consortial borrowing through the roof at U of W.The major drawback to using WorldCat Local is that a library must use the records available on OCLC as they are, even if they have errors, unless the library has Enhance authorization from OCLC, which allows the library to edit the master record.Library staff must go through extensive training to get Enhance authorization in a given format from OCLC.There are six bib record formats, and, of the 232 Enhance authorized libraries in the country, none are authorized to edit all six formats.Indiana University has five formats, and twelve other libraries have four formats.This suggests that WCL is a workable option only for fairly large libraries, with large staffs that can absorb the high levels of training and specialization.In order to address this problem, UCLA is beginning an experimental program with OCLC to loosen OCLC’s current restrictions on the editing of master bib records.The training for the experiment is to begin in February.

I also attended a session with some interesting discussion of holdings records for e-serials, but I think I’ll spare you all those particular musings, considering the current length of this entry.If anyone wants to discuss any of the stuff I’ve written about here, please get in touch.

ALA Annual
ALA Midwinter
Career Development for Women Leaders
Carolina Consortium
CASE Conference
Celebration: Entrepreneurial Conference
Charleston Conference
Coalition for Networked Information
Digital Forsyth
Electronic Resources and Libraries
Elon Teaching and Learning Conference
Entrepreneurial Conference
Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP)
Ex Libris Users of North America (ELUNA)
First-Year Experience Conference
Handheld Librarian
ILLiad Conference
Innovative Library Classroom Conference
Journal reading group
Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians
Library Assessment Conference
Lilly Conference
LITA National Forum
Mentoring Committee
Music Library Association
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