From the catalogs of babes

{July 29, 2010}   SkyRiver vs. OCLC?

The library cataloging world is all a-buzz today since the press release(PDF) announcing that SkyRiver plans to sue OCLC for anti-trust violations.

I think anyone who’s been following any sort of cataloging news saw this coming miles away. I confess: I always suspected that the creation of SkyRiver wasn’t simply only to provide an alternative to OCLC, but rather an ulterior-motive vehicle for exactly this type of legal action. I know plenty of catalogers who have long felt similarly about OCLC’s apparent monopolistic behavior, but if I recall correctly from my 7th grade government class (and I likely don’t, but still), no legal action can be taken until there’s some sort of victim, some other company or organization that is directly hurt by the alleged violations. When OCLC had no direct competitors, there were no victims to file suit. Now SkyRiver provides exactly that. Now some kind of action can be taken.

I have no idea what will happen, but I’d sure love ringside seats.


{April 13, 2010}   catalogers get my vote

So it’s that time of year again…time for ALA elections. I can’t say I’m overly active in most of the organizations I belong to (although the new local SLA happy hours certainly get my attention…). But I’ve always believed that voting for officers and leadership roles is not only my duty as a member, but also one of the main ways I can be represented in that organization. Even on my more cynical days, when I feel like voting is an inadequate method of representation, I still hold sway that I have no right to complain if I didn’t cast my vote at election time. So every year I dutifully cast my electronic ALA ballot.

But every year there are something like 30 openings for members-at-large (not to mention all the candidates for offices like president and treasurer and whatnot). If I was really dutiful, I would take my time and thoroughly read each and every single one of those bios and elections statements and carefully select who I felt would best represent me in the organization. But who has time for that?

So here’s my strategy: I open up each bio page and search for words like “catalog,” “cataloger” or “cataloging.” If I find one, I read over that person’s bio. With rare exception, I usually end up voting for them. While it may not be the ideal way to select my representatives, it’s a compromise that I can live with, and it makes sense to me that I myself, as a cataloger, would want to elect other people who understand (and, theoretically, advocate for) cataloging to the ALA board. Out of  about 117 candidates this year for Counciliors-at-Large, members could vote for 34. After I ran my search, I voted for 7.

7 out of 117 had some reference to cataloging in their bio or background. That’s about 6%. I wonder if that’s an accurate representation of the profession–are 6% of librarians catalogers? What about 6% of ALA members? I’d be interested to find out.

I mention this because recently I’ve had ongoing thoughts regarding catalogers and their escalation to leadership roles, if any. I have a sneaking suspicion that only a tiny fraction of library leadership comes from a cataloging background. The stereotypical ‘antisocial in-the-basement’ cataloger is not perceived as a personality type that lends itself to leadership roles. And if most catalogers enjoy their day-to-day cataloging duties, they probably aren’t interested in moving up to management. Most of the librarians I’ve talked to who have moved up to management (catalogers and others) regret that they spend more time on administrivia and less time “in the trenches” doing the direct work that drew them to librarianship in the first place.

So I’ve been wondering: how many catalogers actually move up to management or administration? I’m not talking here about heads of metadata or technical services. I’m talking about roles that oversee larger and more diverse library functions, beyond just cataloging-related tasks. How many library directors have a  background in cataloging? If we wonder why cataloging and its related services are often overlooked and/or undervalued, I wonder if this plays a large role in why? If management and administration aren’t familiar with cataloging (I’m talking about more than just one crash course in library school 20 years ago), how can they see the value in it? And if they can’t see the value in it, how can cataloging gain the support it needs to serve and improve the library?

{February 11, 2010}   a heart made of red tape

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I wanted to make sure to express my gratitude to everyone who posted examples of alternative classification systems. So many great examples, and all the information was very useful. Thank you all so very much!

What was it being used for, you ask? Well, I if you recall, back in the fall I proposed a new classification system for our library, as well as a survey to our students and faculty regarding classification and findability in the libraries. I’ve spent the last few weeks running around  trying to finalize the survey and get it going, as well as making presentations to, having discussions with, and gathering feedback from internal library staff.

Originally the discussions were scheduled for the week before Christmas, then put off due to staff vacations, then rescheduled because I was out of town, then rescheduled for illness, etc., etc. Finally we rescheduled for 2 weeks ago, and the initial presentation went well, but not all library staff were able to attend and so there was an encore the following week. All this, and we haven’t even been able to distribute the survey yet.

Why not? Because we’re still waiting for approval from the library director. I was hoping that would happen this week, after jumping through all the presentation hoops, but he still had some questions, and we were to meet today to clear up any lingering concerns. But he didn’t feel well, and had to reschedule, and the next available time when we are both in the library is two weeks from now.

We were supposed to distribute this survey to the faculty the third week of January, and to the students mid-February. Well, we’re there now and pretty much all we’re waiting for is a sign-off. I’m beginning to get a little frustrated that this has to take so long, that something so superficially simple has to be bogged down by bureaucracy. I know it happens everywhere, and it’s just a fact of life, but red tape is simply one of my biggest pet peeves that pushes all my frustration buttons.

Sometimes I think it’s a miracle anything in libraries gets accomplished at all. No wonder there’s not more needs assessment going on. Sigh. Happy Valentine’s Day.

{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…

{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.

{February 19, 2009}   Facebook or OCLC? Perhaps both.

I was going to write up a little ditty about how Facebook’s recent change to the Terms of Service seemed to eerily parallel the changes in OCLC’s Record Use Policy, but it seems like Steve Lawson has already done it for me. I don’t think I could say it any better.

s1525700367_30196467_9281What’s interesting to me is how fast the Facebook retaliation started, and how quickly it was addressed (to the extent it was addressed, anyway). In less than 24 hours, everyone on Facebook heard the news about the TOS changes, and everyone was all hot & bothered by them, posting status updates and alerts, removing content, joining protest groups and even uploading blank profile photos with the message “This is in protest of Facebook’s Terms of Service.” In contrast, when OCLC announced their policy changes, I saw some blog posts and listserv messages, but I didn’t see anyone remove records from OCLC.

Facebook is in the public spotlight. Almost everyone in my demographic is a member. Heck, even my sixtysomething aunts and uncles are on Facebook, connecting with their families. Or, if not, they’ve at least heard about it and know what it is. I can’t say the same for OCLC. Some librariansI know don’t even know what OCLC is.

But here’s what I’m thinking, and what I wanted to write: everyone I can think of on Facebook has, at some point or another, used a library. School, public, academic, it doesn’t matter. Sometime in their studies or career or family life, they’ve checked out a book. So each and every one of those people on Facebook who were so up in arms about the TOS change has been touched by OCLC (where do you think the bibliographic records for those library books came from)? This isn’t something that only affects a few select catalogers. OCLC’s policy changes affect every library user, everywhere. If we can make those Facebook users see the parallels, and raise as much of a stink about OCLC as they did two days ago for Facebook, we might just have a chance.

{January 15, 2009}   more about OCLC and nipples

I’ve been meaning to rant about the proposed new OCLC policy for Use and Transfer for WorldCat(R) Recordsfor a while. In fact, it’s actually one of the (many) motivating factors for starting this blog in the first place, since people kept telling me the best action I could take against the policy was to blog about it.

It took me a long time, and I won’t lie–it’s mainly because I’ve been pretty pessimistic and hopeless about the whole situation. I didn’t see much chance for impacting or changing the policy or its implementation at all, and I didn’t know what could be done to change that. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but adding one more tiny little random blog voice didn’t seem like it would do much good.

But then I saw OCLC’s announcement Tuesday of a Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship, seemingly on the heels of Tim Spalding’s nipples (coincidence? I think not). And I’ve been listening to the discussion on last night’s episode of Uncontrolled Vocabulary (#67)and having a small bit of hope. All those little random blog posts did make a difference, to a certain extent.

It’s still very small, though, and I’ll tell you why. I have two main reasons why I think, at this point, OCLC’s attempt at implementing this policy will remain unchecked.

1. Catalogers are not managers.

No offense.  We’re the people who are passionate about data management, not people management. As much as we all decry the stereotype of the antisocial cataloger in the back corner of the basement surrounded by dusty books and covered with ink smudges, never interacting with the public, stereotypes do have distant origins in truth. Catalogers, despite whether it’s true on any individual level, are perceived as distant, secret, loners, with their alien MARC tags and their uncanny ability to recite obscure rules. Like I said, no offense–heck, I’m a cataloger, too. But how many catalogers are managers? How many are in charge of a branch, or a library system, or administer at the level of management it would take to make a substantive decision about implementing or rejecting the OCLC policy?

Of course there are some out there (and I would love to meet them and talk to them about their paths and philosophies!), and some catalogers, if not managers themselves, have enough clout that they can advocate for what’s best for their libraries in terms of cataloging and policies. But I think there’s a major issue when library management has little to no cataloging background or practice. My boss, the head librarian, had not even heard of the new OCLC policy when I first brought it up to her, much less our library director, who I’m not even sure knows what cataloging is. Until upper management and administration understand the impact of such policy implementations, there will be no support for change.

2. There are no other choices.

OCLC is a monopoly. Okay, not “techncially,” but they are the only organization providing the type of service they do, especially since they assumed RLG. Where else can libraries go? OCLC has no competition, and in a market where we vote with our dollars, where is our dark horse third-party candidate to patronize? I of course support Open Library, but because OCLC intends its policy to be retroactive and Open Library has records contributed from OCLC member libraries, who knows what will happen? My understanding is the same for Z39.50, if those records originated with or passed through OCLC. But no one can move away from OCLC until there’s a legitimate, comparable option to move to.

So it would seem hopeless. So what do we do?

We get catalogers into management positions and we create a new union database for bibliographic records.

Hey, I didn’t say it was going to be easy. If I thought nipples would solve the problem, believe me, mine would be out there. In fashion, that sort of thing works. But in this case, that’s not going to be enough. So we’d better get to work.

et cetera