From the catalogs of babes











The other day I heard and ad on the radio that caught my ear: apparently Emergen-C “makes you feel so good you’ll want to reinvent the Dewey Decimal System.” Wanna hear it, too?

  1. Go here: http://www.emergenc.com/
  2. Scratch your head and wonder why people still love to use Flash.
  3. Click on “Good Ads” in the left side column.
  4. Under where it says “Radio Spots,” click on “Librarians.”
  5. Laugh!
  6. Ponder a bit about how designing this site with Flash has all but eliminated any chances Emergen-C might have had for that ad to go viral because of the inability to access a direct link.
  7. Laugh some more!

Can I get a round of Emergen-C for all the catalogers out there? It’s on me.

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Dear Readers,

I’m looking for concrete examples of libraries currently using alternative classification schema (i.e., not DDC or LCC) for some reasearch I’m doing regarding our library’s reclassification project. BISAC, Bliss, Colon, locally-designed, home-grown, what-have-you are all okay. Examples of academic libraries (regardless of size and specialty) are preferred, as are corporate libraries. Not so much on the public libraries (I’ve already noted Maricopa County and the other public libraries recently featured in the press) but I’ll take whatever I can get. Beggars can’t be choosers, and all.

If any of you faithful readers out there know of any examples, please leave a comment with any info you have and you will earn my undying gratitude (at least for now, until the next project…)

With sincere thanks,

your friendly neighborhood cataloging librarian



{January 12, 2010}   a new logo?

I stopped dead in my tracks when I walked into the library this afternoon and saw a student with this backpack at the circulation desk:

AnMARChy

She thought it was a little weird that I asked to take a photo of her backpack, but this is a fashion school and the students are kind of used to things like that. I’m not sure where the image comes from and I haven’t yet tried to track it down, but I’m tempted to adopt it as inspiration for a t-shirt or blog theme or button or something else to show the world how I really feel about MARC. In your face!

eta: The bag is Marc by Marc Jacobs, as if I should be surprised.



{January 1, 2010}   Welcome to 2010!

Welcome to a new year! I think it’s gonna be a good one. Not only has 2010 been designated the Year of Cataloging Research, but this blog has also been listed by Cataloging Futures as one of the top ten cataloging blogs to read in 2010 and also nominated by both the former and some kind anonymous readers as one of the top ten library-related blogs to follow in 2010 by LISNews. I sure hope I can live up to all of that!

 I know I’ve got lots of big plans in store for this year, lots of things to talk about, and, of course, lots of strong opinions. Let’s make some resolutions to do some research, assessment, evaluation, and improvement in our services, big or small, to make 2010 a better year for our patrons as well! If anyone out there has plans regarding cataloging, classification, or any other collection organization for this year, I would sure love to hear about them. Please leave a comment and let me know: what’s your cataloging resolution?

2010 is going to be a good year. I know that together we can all investigate and make changes that truly make a difference in people’s library experiences and lives!



It’s the last day of the quarter at our library. The library is dead. I think maybe 4 people have come in all day, mostly to drop off books before we close for winter break. Our school is on the quarter system, and for about 2 weeks between each quarter, the library is closed to patrons, although we still come in every day to work on projects and backlogs that we can’t seem to accomplish when school is in session. I know we’re lucky; most libraries don’t have that luxury.

Sometimes, as the end of the quarter rolls around, and especially during the holidays, we get cards and gifts and candy treats from some of the staff and faculty, a very kind and thoughtful gesture of appreciation. Sometimes patrons will thank us individually, with a card or small gift, for personally helping them with a specific project, or always interacting with them in a positive way.  Yesterday, one of the circulation staff came in the workroom to share a nice gift he’d received from a teacher he always helps. And I confess, it made me a teensy bit jealous.

I’ve never been one of those outgoing, perky, friendly people who bonds with others right away. I think I’m pretty outgoing once I’m friends with someone and no longer have to interact with them in a professional manner. I suppose I’m old enough that to me ‘professional manner’ still equals a sense of some sort of formality–I’m not saying this is good or bad, it just is. I know I can come across as stand-offish, aloof, even stuck-up and snooty. I try very hard to be friendly, open, and approachable, especially at the reference and circulation desks, but I’m just never going to be one of those people with whom students and faculty have an instant rapport. Most of the time, I’m okay with that. As nice as it might be, it’s not my job to be the patrons’ friends. It’s my job to help them find the materials and resources they need.

And that’s what cataloging is: helping library users find, identify, select, and obtain(pdf) bibliographic resources. The purpose of cataloging is not to create a bibliographic record; that is a function of cataloging, but it is not a purpose. Bibliographic records are valuable contributions to cataloging and make up a majority of the work that catalogers currently do. But a cataloger’s job is (or should be) larger than that–they should use whatever appropriate means necessary to enable the library’s user to find materials, to identify and/or differentiate between materials, to select the best or most appropriate material for their needs, and to obtain or acquire that material. To enable library users to accomplish these tasks takes more than bibliographic records. It takes more than authority control, more than subject analysis, more than classification, metadata, stacks management, holdings, circulation, reference, bibliographies, reader’s advisory, inventory, needs assessment. It takes all these things and more to get to a point where users can not only find, identify, select and obtain materials, but can do so seamlessly–without errors, hassles, broken links, missing materials, unnavigable interfaces, and all the other obvious obstacles that users see on a day-to-day basis.

And that’s the problem: cataloging, and all its related functions, when done property, should never even be noticeable. The only time we’re brought to the attention of patrons or other library staff is when things aren’t working. What kind of reputation does that give us? It lends the impression that we’re all errors, all the time. I have a friend at another library where they recieved a report of some broken links to articles on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, and the faculty member who filed the complaint had the nerve to complain that it took 4 hours to get it resolved. 4 hours! During a holiday weekend, when the library was closed and no one was working! To me, that shouldn’t warrant a complaint, it should warrant a bonus. But the staff fixes errors so rapidly on a regular basis that  I guess 4 hours must have seemed outrageous.

What catalogers do goes on behind doors, in basements and workrooms, away from the public eye. Ideally, the tasks we perform make library functionality seamless and transparent. Many do not understand what is we do all day, or how it applies to tangible library services or manifests in patron services. Patrons rarely (if ever) see us, yet we touch so many of them directly though records, indexes, subject headings, and other services. Patrons don’t bring us gifts for making their searching easier. Every thank you note I’ve ever received has been for instructional presentations, never for increasing findability.

I’m not trying to fish for sympathy. Despite some of the bad days, when it’s finals and students are stressed and teachers are disorganized and frustrated, I think most of the time, our patrons really do appreciate us. We’re always appreciated for our public face–our thorough and knowledgeable reference service, our extensive collection of materials, our flexibility in terms of circulation and accessibility. I don’t need recognition from patrons to know that I do my job well and I improve library services. I observe it everyday, when I watch people look for books and DVDs. I’ve seen students retrieve books in searches that I know only turned up because I added keywords or headings to the record. I’m not in this for applause or reward or grandeur (although I sure wouldn’t turn it down…), and I know many other catalogers feel similarly.

But if you have a minute, maybe you can stop by your cataloger’s desk and say thanks. Tell them you appreciate what they do. If you don’t know what it is exactly they do (and it’s hard to appreciate something if you don’t even know what it is), maybe take a few minutes and talk to them about it and ask them to explain it to you. It could be a beneficial and enlightening conversation for both parties.

And hugs to all my cataloging friends out there. Keep up the good work!



{December 4, 2009}   3rd time’s the charm(?)

As if the other instances of fame this week weren’t enough, this blog has also apparently been citied in the recent issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly (Issue 8, 2009).  It’s in a new(?) column(?) called “Cataloging Blogs.” Thanks to David of Catalogablog for pointing it out to me.

It’s under the “Research and Opinion” section, as well it should be, as the tone of the piece seems quite a bit opinionated against blogs to me. I’m not sure if that’s really there or something I’m reading into it. I almost wish it was a reviewed piece instead. I confess I’m a little disappointed to see this piece given the green light for inclusion in CCQ.

Had the piece been reviewed, maybe there wouldn’t have been typos in both the title of my blog (the article calls it “From the catalog of babes” when it is in fact “From the catalogs of babes”) and the description (“An unfashionable cataloger takes on the fashion library” vs. the correct “An unfashionable cataloger takes on a fashion library”). Not to mention the repeated references to “Technocrati”–it’s Technorati, folks. Yeah, I know, these are really minor errors. But I am, after all, a cataloger–it’s my job to notice these differences. What if this were the transcription of a book title in a bibliographic record? I’d like to think someone affiliated with cataloging would have a little more attention to detail. The typo in the title bothers me more than the description, because the URL for the blog includes the “s” in “catalogs.” (Thankfully, the URL is correct in the list provided.) I’m a little surprised (and, I admit, disappointed) that these errors slipped through the publication process, of a traditionally respectable peer-reviewed journal about cataloging, no less. These omissions and misrepresentations lend an air of misinformation and prejudice to this piece that lower the journal’s claim to preeminent scholarly publication in the field.

But it’s more than just the typos that bother me. I feel like the author (who is not listed, so I can’t tell if it’s  Mary Curran or someone else)is trying to hold me up as a young person who still chooses old technology.

One of the newest cataloging blogs on the block, From the catalog [sic] of babes, started in December 2008 by a recent MLIS graduate seems to suggest that even young catalogers continue subscribing to AUTOCAT and other cataloging listservs and read them along with cataloguing blog posts.

But if the author had read back though my blog, he or she would see that I severely dislike the listerv format utilized by AUTOCAT et. al., and that I rarely actually read or contribute. Since I published that post, I’m excited to see good use of Twitter for instantaneous cataloging q & a and I think it’s only a matter of time before a major migration to better, easier, more-user-friendly technologies occurs. The author also cites an “in your face” factor as a reason people might prefer listservs over blogs, but that’s exactly one reason why I prefer blogs. He or she only seems to describe this as a negative feature, when I actually find it useful and beneficial to read articles and writings when and where I choose, rather than be forced to constantly recon with them in my inbox. Again, as I said in my post linked above, I think it comes down to each person’s personal preference, and systems should let the user choose his or her preferred method of delivery and access, a metaphor not unanalagous to libraries at large.

The author states that “AUTOCAT and the specialist cataloging listservs have become the authoritative sites to publish cataloguing news, studies, events, etc.” I’d like to emphasize the words “have become.” They didn’t start out that way, and they didn’t get to that position overnight, and neither will blogs. The author is looking at a mere two years of blogs (since 2007) which cannot hope to compare to the years AUTOCAT and other listservs have had to evolve into the authoritative resources they are today. The author also states (sans cites or statistics) that “repetition is more notable in blogs than it is with listserv cross-postings,” which is counter to my own personal observations at least–I see much more crossposting between AUTOCAT, RADCAT, and NGC4LIB than I ever do on all the cataloging blogs I read (43, btw, and that doesn’t count more general library blogs that also include cataloging topics). In fact, I’d venture to say that blogs are inclined to be less repetitive because of the very “personal rumination and occasionally ranting and whining” that the author disparages. To me, that’s what makes blogs unique and interesting, and very different from one to the next.

The author also assumes a “generational issue” in preferring blogs over listervs, and seems to assume that because I received my MLIS recently in 2008 that I am one of those new-fangled young librarians. But at this point, I ain’t that young anymore, in terms of generations. I’m not Generation Y. I am not a millennial. Nor am I a digital native, although I did grow up with technology moreso than many of my educational peers simply becuase my parents were both heavily interested and invested in technology and computers. But I remember learning cursive handwriting and sending letters to pen pals via “snailmail” before that term even exisited. I used typewriters and even wrote some school essays on college-rule paper with black pens. I remember a time before email and cell phones, maybe not as long as some others in the profession, but I didn’t grow up exposed to them like many current youth entering the profession. I was around when listservs were first new and the best technology around for the job. But I’m also around now, for new and improved technologies. And I’m not one of those young whippersnappers who went to grad school straight after finishing my BA. While I’m certainly not “old guard,” I spent 5 years in retail books and 4 years doing graphic design before it even occurred to me to consider libraries as a place to work, much less as a career. I’m proud to say that much of the insights I gained through both those areas of employment experience color my views on libraries, cataloging, and findability. I’m new to libraries, but not to user experiences.

I respect the author’s opinions and I certainly won’t complain about the exposure. I’m not even sure why an author so seemingly set against the value of blogs would bother to write such a piece. But regardless of the author’s motivations, I am glad to see blogs starting to be taken a little more seriously as professional resources and literature. So yeah, I’m glad for the citation, but I’m also thankful it’s only an opinion piece. Because we all know what they say about opinions…everybody has one. Sometimes I’m even known to have more than my share.



{December 2, 2009}   even more (in)famous

This blog also apparently just got picked up for syndication on Planet Cataloging.

No pressure, though!

(Thanks to Gina for the tip-off!)



{October 8, 2009}   a busy week

Lots of crazy stuff going on in cataloging this week, from the Library of Congress finally coming to the table regarding the subject heading “Cookery” [pdf] to a new bibliographic utility in the market to compete with OCLC. Plus I’ve been finishing up a 4-part series of blog posts in response to reader commentary talking about how I started cataloging and directions from there.

But all of those things pale compared to the official announcement today that our Head Librarian is resigning. She’s moving on to new & better things, but I confess I’m anxious about what will happen now–especially since the library director already has some “ideas.” That’s probably the part that scares me the most.



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:

FIDM_PR_library

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. :)



{August 29, 2009}   free to a good home

I haven’t been posting much, but rest assured I’m working on some big stuff. In the meatime, perhaps I can tide you over with the lure of free (as in beer, not as in kittens) stuff!

I happen to have a copy of Mary Mortimer’s Learn Dewey Decimal Classification (Edition 21) free for the taking. Be aware that this is for an older edition of the DDC. Our library moved up to DDC22 a while back, which included some significant changes in key subject areas of our school, so we won’t be using this book as training material anymore. It’s outdated for us, but I know there are plenty of libraries out there who haven’t upgraded, or perhaps it would be good practice for an MLS student. Heck, if you wanted to cut it up and make art projects out of it, I’d probably be okay with that, too. It’s got a barcode and a spine label, but other than that, it’s in good shape and hasn’t been written in.

Leave a comment if you’re interested. If I get overwhelmed with comments from interested parties, I’ll do a random drawing or something. Maybe I’ll make you all write haiku about fashion cataloging and pick my favorite. Or not.



et cetera