From the catalogs of babes

{September 30, 2009}   today’s message



I have no doubt that OCLC provides many ways to stay current in this fast-paced world of cataloging. Many OCLC ways.

As for me, I’d rather get my information from a variety of sources, preferably ones not put out by the cataloging monopoly. It’s part of this little thing we like to call “information literacy.”

I’m not saying, I’m just saying…


{September 24, 2009}   an OPAC by any other name

So it’s quarter break here in our library. We usually have 2-3 weeks between each quarter when the library is closed to patrons, but we still come in to work. We’re actually pretty lucky in this regard, as we get a lot of tasks done that we couldn’t ordinarily accomplish with the library full of students. I’m grateful for this opportunity; I know most other libraries don’t have a time like this.

One of the many things we do over quarter break is to change out all the library displays. I’m not involved much with this process, being on the tech services side of things, but a while back when asked for ideas, I suggested using one of the displays to highlight “how to” aspects of the library: how to find a book, how to search the catalog, etc. I’m pleased to say that the idea was well-recieved and one of our bulletin boards is now dedicated to that topic.

I am, however, slightly less than pleased with the actual manifestation of the concept. I know that I can’t have my finger in everything, and goodness knows I don’t want to be saddled with yat another task each quarter on top of all the work I already do. But it was my idea and I do have graphic design and retail merchandising experience. I confess I’ve been counting the hours waiting for this display to come down:



 What’s so bad about it, you ask? Well, I’ll skip the diatribe about the design and get straight to my point. Pretend you’re an 18-yearold design student in your first quarter of college with little-to-no library experience. You see this display entitled “how to find a library book” and step one is some fingers pointing at a computer that says “opac.” What does that mean? What do I do? What the heck is opac? It sounds like some sort of air-conditioning duct system, or a rodent-type animal from Peru.

I hate the term “OPAC.” Hate it hate it hate it. It’s probably one of my biggest pet peeves and it pushes all my buttons. No one but librarians knows what an OPAC is or what it stands for, and at this point an acronym for “Online Public Access Catalog”  is outdated anyway. But most of all, our patrons have no idea what it is, and so the image included in the wall display is prohibitively unhelpful.

I personally make it point to say “OPAC” as rarely as possible, and never around patrons. (It’s even driving me nuts just to keep typing it in this entry.) I know a lot of people equally as appalled as I am about the term “OPAC” who now just say “the catalog.” Which is fine, to a certain extent, and I do it too. But it got me thinking–the word “catalog” (as a noun) implies a list. Traditionally, a library catalog is a list of all the materials a library holds.

But what we have now is not a list. An OPAC is not even a list. We have long surpassed tallying our holdings as simple lists, and believe me, I’m grateful for that. So if we don’t have a list or a catalog, what do we have? We have a database. We have a collection. Those are the words I choose to use during reference interviews and instruction. I’m not sure they’re the ideal choices, but I think they’re miles better than “OPAC.”

We’re a profession not just steeped in terminology, but based in it. Vocabularies are some of the underlying tools of our trade, especially cataloging. We lobby to change and update vocabulary terms to be more current and patron-accessible, why shouldn’t we do the same for our services? Catalogers complain that “no one understands what we do”–maybe that’s becuase we’re using outdated terms and descriptions that those people don’t understand and can’t relate to. I’m left wondering about the marketability and “rebranding” opportunities that might be possible–might reach more of our patrons–if we stopped using outdated, unfamiliar terminology not only in our job titles and subject headings, but in our services as well.

{September 23, 2009}   We are all consumers

Today we received 101 Charts About Men, so I was looking up other titles with similar subject headings to see where the topic was classed in our collection. I found quite a few books with the heading

Male consumers   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
UF  Men consumers [Former Heading]
BT  Consumers

I thought this was strange, considering LC’s propensity for parallel structure–I distinctly recalled the equivalent heading

Women consumers   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
UF  Women as consumers [Former Heading]
BT  Consumers
NT  Lesbian consumers  [R]

If headings are parallel shouldn’t it be “Female consumers”? Or “Men consumers”? There’s not even a UF reference for “Women consumers.”

And then it reminded me of one of my all-time favorite headings:

Child consumers   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
UF  Children as consumers [Former Heading]
BT  Consumers

I certainly hope the Library of Congress wasn’t thinking the same thing I was thinking when they came up with that heading…

For those of you out there reading who follow fashion as well as cataloging, you probably know that Thursdays are now Project Runway nights. Dedicated followers of the show also know that unlike the previous seasons, the currently-airing season was filmed in downtown Los Angeles, at the “top fashion design school in the city.” Yes, that’s right, folks: season 6 of Project Runway was indeed filmed at my place of work.

Lots of people ask me if we saw the cast and film crew, did we meet the winners, etc. But they never filmed in the main building as far as I know, and never the library. It’s too bad, because I always thought some sort of “librarian makeover” would be a great challenge!

I did, however, unexpectedly appear on the show, in a roundabout sort of way:


Yep, here’s a photo of me hard at work! This is an exterior establishing shot seen in multiple episodes. The square windows above the school sign are the windows to the library workroom. I generally work the night shift, and after 5 or 6 p.m. I’m usually the only one left working in there, so it’s a pretty reasonable assumption that the light on in that window is me, hard at work cataloging books & possibly writing posts for this very blog. Who knew librarianship could lead to a life of such fashion & fame? All that hard work we put into our careers really pays off sometimes. :)

{September 16, 2009}   technical topics

What, exactly, is a “technical topic”?  Such as in the following:

–Drawings [R S D]
Use as a form subdivision under technical topics for collections of drawings, plans, etc., on those topics.
Use as a topical subdivision under technical topics for the technique of making technical drawings on those topics, unless a separate heading for the technique has been provided.
NT –Designs and plans [R]

This subdivision is apparently only for use under “technical topics,” but nowhere can I find a definition or explanation of what LSCH thinks a “technical” topic is or which topics are considered “techncial”  and why.

I have a book of couture drawings by Yves Saint Laurent. From these instructions, I assume I can’t use “Yves Saint Laurent–Drawings.” I thought about “Fashion drawing–Drawings,” but a) the book really isn’t about drawing, and b) “Fashion drawing–Drawings” just sounds stupid. “Fashion design–Drawings” seems to be the best, but is “Fashion design” a technical topic? I mean, we would certainly say so here, but I’d sure be interested to know what the Library of Congress thinks.

{September 10, 2009}   forever in blue jeans
mama jeans daddy jeans sissy jeans baby jeans

photo by aphasiafilms on flickr

 While I understand the DDC editorial committee’s explanation, I’d still class the Jean Genies: Travelling Pants project under the number for “jeans” in my library. Call me a rebel, but in a fashion library we don’t get a lot of patrons browsing the 021.7 section. We do, however, have lots of students interested in denim and jeans and what people are doing with those products.

It might be against the rules, but I’d rather class a material where it will get the most access and use over a “correct” classification that renders the material essentially invisible.

{September 9, 2009}   proposal

I went on vacation for a week last week. Before I left, I submitted a proposal  to our library director about researching and implementing a new classification system, one more in line with our students’ needs and behaviors. I suspect from his response–no comments but passing it on to some of the other librarians for review– that he doesn’t really understand what I’m talking about (despite my attempts to use small words).

It was easy to not think about it while I was away, but now that I’m back, I’m kinda nervous. I think that most of the librarians will support it–two of them looked it over and supported the idea before I even submitted it, and I’ve been talking to another about this on and off since the spring. And if it doesn’t move forward, I know it’s not the end of the world–I’d be disappointed, but it’s not like I don’t have plenty of other projects I could work on. I’m just not a big fan of the not-knowing.

et cetera