From the catalogs of babes

{July 29, 2009}   a day in the life

I don’t do much in the way of memes, but I remember seeing a Library Day in the Life going around last year and made a mental note to myself to keep an eye out to participate this year. Which means, of course, I missed it–it was Monday, July 27. But the thing is–I don’t work Mondays. Librarianship isn’t a M-F, 9-5 job. Most of the time, I work Tuesday-Saturday, and I work the night shift.  So a typical day for me might go something like this:

circa 8:15 a.m.: Wake up after bizarre dream about children and pigs. Lay in bed for a bit while checking email on the iPhone.

8:30: Get out of bed, throw on a t-shirt and some comfy pants, brush teeth, poke at interwebs on real computer, respond to emails.

9:00: Look at whiteboard list of things to do. Decide which things to tackle today. Today will be laundry.

9:05: Poke at interwebs more.

9:52: Gather laundry this time. Take laundry to laundry room.

10:00: More interweb poking. Keyword some images for my freelance gig with Veer. Ponder the best keywords for an image of a woman in a public restroom stall with her panties around her ankles. Yes, I get paid to do that. It’s a good gig if you can get it.

10:45: Throw the laundry in the dryer.

10:55: Time for a breakfast snack and some juice. Decide to watch an episode of Mad Men before going to work. However, I have a personal rule that I can’t let myself watch TV unless I’m doing something else at the same time, so I work on knitting a sleeve for an upcoming pattern submission to Knitty.

11:30: Retrieve laundry. Fold while watching another episode of Mad Men.

12:00 p.m.: The episode isn’t over but I start to think about what to wear to work. It’s hot, so I want to wear something breathable and comfortable.

12:15: Episode ends; I decide to wear a cotton blue-green dress I made a while back from a 1947 pattern.

12:18: Stare at shoes in closet, trying to decide which pair to wear. The white open-toed ones match best, but gave me blisters when I wore them last week. red doesn’t match. Black is too stark and too high of a heel. Boots are too hot for this weather. I have cute black flats with embroidery but I have to wear socks or they rub my feet raw. Finally settle on a pair of cute brown pumps a co-worker gave to me. They match best, but feel tight, so I throw a pair of sandals into my bag just in case.

12:42: Crap. I’m running late.

12:45: Get stuck at train crossing waiting for the Metrolink to go by.

1:02: Pull into parking garage at work. (Still very happy about recently moving so much closer to work.)

1:06: Walk into library and head for the workroom.

1:10: Turn on computer and log in to email. Notice a voicemail on the phone from the San Diego campus librarian. She’s having problems with downloading some DVD records. Look at to-do list. I write one every day the night before on old book pocket cards.

1:15: Check email; skim listservs, then delete. Delete strange and bizarre emails from library director that have nothing to do with me and probably shouldn’t have been sent to me in the first place.

1:25: Process two trend reports left on my desk by a co-worker. One is a subscription we already have, so I add it to the collection. The other is a new acquisition for which we don’t have a record, so I put it in a pile for original cataloging.

1:35: Check my mailbox. There’s my reimbursement check for ALA! Woot! That’s the fastest turnaround I’ve ever had for a reimbursement. This makes me very happy.

1:40: Copy-catalog about 25 new books.

2:10: Try to return call from SD librarian, leave voicemail.

2:15: Pastry time. My boss and I go to the new Danish bakery for a treat. I change my shoes. On our way, we decide to check out the new exhibit in the museum downstairs.

2:45: Back to the workroom. Begin to tackle the pile of “problem books” stacked on my cart. Some need original cataloging. Some are in foreign languages. A lot of problem books are “in-between” copy- and original cataloging; maybe there’s a record but it’s not quite correct or sufficient enough for our library’s needs. Sometimes they are books attached to the incorrect record (we have a lot of problems with different editions of textbooks). Some are incorrect call numbers, some are books with accompanying materials (CDs, DVDs, patterns, etc.). Stuff like that. Basically anything cataloging-related that needs to be done.

3:15: Interrupted by the collections librarian who asks for advice of the librarians in the workroom about a reference question she recieved earlier in the day about tracking the influence of magazine advertising on fashion sales.

3:23: Conversation segways into discussion of the upcoming Open House, a quarterly event for prospective students which includes large numbers of tours coming through the library. We bandy about suggestions and decide we might pitch the idea of displaying  highlighted resources in the library conference room. We like this idea becuase it’s less of a disruptive impact on the current students working in the library, and it also has the added bonus of being able to display some of our online services on the large projection screen. It might also reduce the number of extra staff needed to come in on their day off for the event.

3:30 Back to cataloging.

3:55: Co-worker on reference shift comes into the workroom asking if anyone can do a last minute presentation for a class that’s supposed to start at 4 p.m., because the staff memeber assigned to it seems to be MIA. We all look down at the floor and try to avoid volunteering. The special collections librarian volunteers, but the missing staff member ends up showing up in time.

4:05: More cataloging.

4:30: Coffee time.*

5:00 Time for my reference shift. Check the library’s email inbox. Empty.

5:20: I get an interesting question from a student looking for the average life expectancy of garments. The catalog’s got zilch, but teh almighty Google turns up some good results, including one originally from the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute. I also refer her to the textile specialist on staff, in the textile workroom, for information about life expectancy of specific textiles.

6:02: I get a student asking me for trend forecasting books for “daywear.” Ask for clarification and more specifics, since “daywear” pretty much means anything worn during the day. Students responds, “you know, daywear.” Try again, a few different ways. Get nowhere. Start to lose patience and just pull out 9 or 10 books and let her flip through them until she finds one she’s happy with. She works with the book for about 15 minutes, comes back, and the whole cycle begins again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

7:00: End of reference shift. Time for lunch/dinner break. Realize that I got so caught up in TV and laundry that I forgot to make myself the sandwich I’d planned. Doh. Crave a cheeseburger but try to resist. Debate for a while with a co-worker about suggestions for what to eat.

7:15: End up walking over to the Ralph’s across the street for a deli meal.

7:30: Eat. Work on some knitting. Log into Google reader and read the posts that catch my interest. Skim the library ones.

8:30: More cataloging. Work a little bit on chapter about cataloging for upcoming book about for art and design school libraries.

9:15: Short attention span syndrome strikes and I go hang out in the Media Lounge for a few minutes. A former student and library regular is in there watching a movie and we chat for a bit.

9:30: Go back to desk. Write up to-do list for the next day. Move things not completed today to tomorrow’s list, making sure to include reference shifts and meetings and their times.

9:45: Pack up bag, including brown shoes that I never put back on after Pastry Time. Head out to the reading room to help shut down computers and clean up library.

9:55: Give evil looks to remining student working on computer in Cyber Room.

10:00: Close the library and head home.

10:15: Pull into parking lot, annoyed that the shady spaces are all taken. Make sure to put up windshield shade in car. Check mailbox. One junk mail, one bill.

10:18: Check email. Poke internets.

10:25: Decide it would be a good idea to write up a ‘day in the life’ blog entry before I forgot what all I did today and when.

11:43: Get to end of blog entry and reflect that, of all days in the past week or so that were full of meetings with vendors, presentations, discussion groups, research, writing, and reviewing, this was probably the most boring one to write about and the one that makes me look the least accomplished.

11:47: Decide ‘to hell with it,’ post it anyway, and go to bed.



*This is unusually late for us. Usually we have coffee time around 2:30.


{July 23, 2009}   I really want to do this

I really want to do this: Part Time Librarian, RedLine. I’m going to be in Denver over Labor Day and I think I could make this happen. It would be easy enough to set them up with a LibraryThing account linked from their website, especially since they don’t circulate materials, and it would be easy for staff to update with new acquisitions in the future.

Think they’d be interested in classifying their books by color?

{July 22, 2009}   giving them what they want

One of the “best” sessions I saw at ALA was the Sunday afternoon session on Catalog Use and Usability Studies. I put “best” in quotation marks because it wasn’t an over-the-top amazing delivery or anything. I thought about saying “interesting,” and it certainly was, but while the topic was of interest, the actual information wasn’t novel. Perhaps “most applicable” would be, well…most applicable in this case.

There were other speakers on evaluating usability, but the meat of the session was Karen Calhoun’s presentation of OCLC’s latest research report, Online Catalogs: What Users and Librarians Want. If you haven’t read it, stop what you’re doing and go right now. It’s not long and it has lots of pretty charts and graphs. Every cataloger and anyone remotely involved with cataloging or catalog systems and interfaces needs to read this. You can come back to this post later, when you’re done. I can wait. It’ll still be here.

I love and hate this report at the same time. I love that someone finally did some research about what end users want from an online catalog. I hate that someone had to spend time and money to discover that “end users want to be able to do a simple Google-like search and get results that exactly match what they expect to find.” Ya think? Pardon my French, but no sh*t, Sherlock. On the other hand, I love that hard data now exists that validates that exact point–a point I’ve been making ever since I started down the cataloging path.

We’ve suspected this for a long time. Now we have data to back it up. Maybe now we can finally start moving away from clunky, cluttered online interfaces with strict, unfamiliar terms and irrelevant metadata and move towards something more user-friendly that contains information that patrons actually use.

Since we’re a relatively small college library, many of us wear many hats. In addition to cataloging (which is of course the majority of my job) I also shelve, work shifts at the reference desk and give presentations about how to use the library and the library’s online services (a little thing most libraries like to call “bibliographic instruction”).

Sometimes I get frustrated being on the technical services side of things, yet still saddled with the responsibility for such tasks. It’s not that I can’t do them or feel that I’m incompetent. I actually think I handle it just fine. I’m no stranger to teaching and presenting. Not to sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but with parents who were both teachers, years of experience as a camp counselor, leading storytime at Barnes & Noble, assisting teachers at an elementary school, even teaching sewing and costuming classes, I have little doubt in my presentation skill and teaching ability. It’s not my first choice of how I like to spend my time–if it was, I would have focused on that in grad school instead of things like classification and vocabulary design.

But it’s still nice when, upon completing a presentation about the library’s reserach databases, the instructor says, “Thanks. That’s the best presentation I’ve had yet.”

{July 18, 2009}   back to the grindstone!

New books waiting to be cataloged and added to the collection.

More about other stuff once I work my way through this…

{July 15, 2009}   report from ALA

I’m here to report that librarians still like cardigans. Which is good because despite the fantastic Chicago weather, the meeting rooms were, as always, over-air-conditioned.

I’m also here to report that librarians also apparently like shirtdresses, especially ones from Target, as I saw no less than 3 conference attendees wearing this (I know we’re in a recession with budget cutbacks and all, but it’s still a little tacky to show up in the same dress…):



Oh, wait, you wanted a report about cataloging? My bad. It’s probably saying something that I seemed to be paying more attention to style than sessions. Some good stuff here and there, but many of the sessions seemed redundant to me, and mostly I felt like I was hearing things I’d already heard multiple times before and had already written about right here in this very blog. I guess that’s good in some ways–the ideas are picking up momentum and spreading–but personally I’m more interested in seeing what’s on the horizon than the water we’re in now, much less what’s already rushed under the bridge.

{July 12, 2009}   Dear ALA,

I know schedule conflicts are unavoidable, and I know you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but really, what were you thinking scheduling two of the most important cataloging-related sessions of the entire conference in the same time slot??


1:30 PM – 5:30 PM on 07/12   
The Future is Now: Global Authority Control

Location: McCormick Place West in W-179
Unit: LITA/ALCTS – Subunit: n/a

1:30 PM – 5:30 PM on 07/12   
Catalog Use and Usability Studies: What Do They Show and How Should This Evidence Affect Our Decision-Making?

Location: McCormick Place West in W-196c

Unit: ALCTS/RUSA – Subunit: n/a

{July 9, 2009}   on my way

I’m on my way to Chicago for the ALA Annual Conference. I’m very excited for some of the sessions, and I’m very, very excited because I’ve never been to Chicago before!

I hope to run into some fellow blog readers and writers there. If you see me, feel free to say hi. I’ll be the one attempting to be fashionable in the humidity of Chicago in July (and failing miserably).

{July 8, 2009}   no The, always &

Last week, we got an institution-wide email with the subject line “no The, always &.” On first glance almost all of us assumed it was spam.  Who knew the email would turn out to actually be about authority control?

In order to more clearly align with that in all of our publications, signage, etc. this is how we will present our full name going forward:
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising

Please always use & , never spell it out as   “and” .
If you need to use the word “the” in front of the name when using it in a sentence, please use a lower case t .

Thank you so much for being part of a consistent branding message throughout our communications.

There’s never been an authority record for our institution (although there was one for $b Museum & Library. which published a book on California quilts a while back.) We never even had a local procedure or authorized form of our own institution’s name–I’d see it in the catalog as FIDM; Fashion Institute; Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising; Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising; Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandizing…the list goes on. When I started drafting cataloging policies and procedures last year, I included a stipulation for an authorized format of our institution’s name. I also updated all our bib records.

110 2  Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising

Nice to see I got it right, even before the official pronouncement. Some people may call it consistent branding. Some people may call it authority control. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.

{July 6, 2009}   First, do no harm



Wow. You want your paying customers to do your work for you, and then you imply that they are possibly too ignorant or too malicious to do the work? Go OCLC. That’s some nice customer relations there. I’m sure they “meant no harm,” but reading that warning message upon login day after day really puts a negative taste in my mouth. If OCLC wants it done their way, then they should do it themselves, or hire people to do it for them. If they are truly interested in supporting the evolution of cataloging through community efforts (as they claim), then they need to be open to the idea that evolution will require some change, and that some deviation from the traditional methods might actually not “harm,” but improve.

BTW, OCLC: it never in a million years would have occurred to me to do any harm, until I read that message. Thanks for putting the idea in my head.


And as an aside, I doubly hate seeing that message since (as you can see from the screenshot) we’re only CatExpress users, and therefore couldn’t participate even if we wanted to. Seems like the software should be able to determine my level upon login and only show me messages that apply to me or my institution. Just another chink in OCLC’s technological advancement armor–personally, I’d be skeptical to invest faith in technological advancement in any company that apparently can’t manipulate something like user accounts and login creditionals. Just saying.

et cetera