#catbkchat – Section 1 of Twitter book club

This is going to be an unusual blog post as I’m going to use it to just post some thoughts for the Twitter book club, a bit like liveblogging (so expect a lack of full sentences, poor grammar and spelling, half-finished arguments, etc).

We’re about to start on Twitter and I’m not sure how busy it will be so I might have time to tweet a lot of these thoughts anyway. We’re talking about Conversations with catalogers in the 21st century and this part of the chat is focusing on the introduction, foreword (by Michael Gorman) and the 3 articles in Section I , AACR2 and RDA.

Starting with Section I because, let’s face, that seemed logical plus it wasn’t too long as to be daunting. The great upside was that the longest of the 3 articles (RDA, AACR2 and you by Elaine R. Sanchez) was available online in her institutional repository (hurray for repositories) so people can join this section even without a copy of the book.

The downside – for me at least – is that this is one of hte least interesting sections of the book for me. In fact, it made me feel quite depressed as a starting point because it was all so very negative (even the foreword is a bit negative about future developments in general and RDA in particular). In a normal book club, this would be a spoiler, but let me just say that this isn’t really representative of the whole book. The rest of the book has really interesting, thought-provoking and varied things to say. It’s not all anti-RDA polemic (which is kind of how this first section felt to me). And the book itself is aware of this slight bias – it gets mentioned later on but I wish in a way they had acknowledged it in the intro up front as it nearly put me off. I hope other people didn’t feel the same.

On balance, I realised there have been a lot of extremely pro-RDA publications too so there’s nothing wrong with something to balance that out and provide the alternative view, especially as there are a lot of people with very real reservations. I just would have liked a warning that this book would adopt a particular slant if that makes sense.

Very fast typing as I’m about to switch over to Twitter now and post this as first liveblogging entry.


CILIP branches & groups: some thoughts

I’ve been thinking about the role of CILIP branches for a while and had some informal discussions with a committee member because I’m not on the committee myself and don’t really have time to get involved this year. At the same time, I just attended my first meeting of the Cataloguing & Indexing Group (CIG) which I joined at the start of the year and many connected issues came up. After a really interesting discussion on Twitter last night, I wanted to blog some random thoughts (I’d love to think I’ll have time to write a well-thought-out and coherent blog post on the issues but the chances of me finding time to do that are pretty slim so this is the next-best option). I’d be happy to hear feedback and more discussion in the comments here. These are all entirely personal opinions (more focused on regional branches than on groups at the moment) though obviously I’m also thinking about how it will affect CIG too, just not speaking on CIG’s behalf.

The Twitter discussion came about because a couple of people were livetweeting the CILIP CDG & London joint AGM, which featured a talk by Annie Mauger and which Nicola Franklin blogged about here. Also the background of all this is the recent Branch and Group discussion and ensuing conversations within individual committees – useful summary provided by Katie and Emma if you want to check those out too.

Here’s a quick summary of the Twitter discussion, which was mainly between me, Tina (@tinamreynolds), Jo (@joeyanne) and Niamh (@cilipEoE) though we managed to attract the marvellous past-President of CILIP Biddy Fisher (@bikerbid) and I note with trepidation that Annie Mauger (@anniemauger) is following me as of last night! Just goes to show you’re never speaking into a vacuum on Twitter.

The coming changes should be summarised in a report from Annie Mauger shortly and the reactions to it ranged from being a bit afraid of what was coming to seeing it as a potentially positive opportunity to develop communication & change.

The role of the regional branches – Tina wanted to see the London group as “an umbrella group organising SIG + advertising events, being a catalyst for ideas”. This tied in perfectly with conversations I had had with both Jo and Niamh privately about the role of the regional branches – I really think that they should have a key role in collating venue information (already underway in CILIPWM) so that they can provide knowledge and possibly contact information about venues in the region, especially free or low-cost venues. This could attract the SIGs but also any other groups (TeachMeet, anyone? anything else?) to that region, particularly when it’s so important to keep costs down. The more people choose to hold events in your region, the more your regional members benefit from having easy access to events, CPD opportunities. This local element is crucial in an environment where people have less and less money available for travel, time off, conference or event fees (either out of their own pockets or through employers, who are probably starting to be more restrictive even where they did once pay).

Tina mentioned that CILIP London had tried to organise a SIG day to help facilitate collaboration but that there hadn’t been much interest, however I think in this new CILIP landscape there should be a lot more interest. I know we at CIG would be thinking along these lines, collaborating and cooperating with regional branches and using their local knowledge and advertising too. Hopefully another SIG day could be held in future? Maybe in more than one region?

There is an obvious need to know what members want, especially with what Annie Mauger was saying about CILIP becoming more focused on members. Everyone was talking about polling or surveying their branch or group membership in some way to get feedback on this, which would obviously be great and hopefully can happen soon. Although everyone was very pro-social media (what else would you expect in a Twitter conversation?), we all really felt that the face-to-face contact of the branches especially was crucial and was indeed where the branches “add value”. The fact of offering affordable activities and opportunities is crucial in the economic climate, as I said, and the branches should be proactive in providing people with ways to build a professional network locally through offering informal gatherings (drinks? lunches where everyone pays their own way?) but also through things like free talks. I know there’s a need to raise revenues but don’t underestimate the value of free in terms of goodwill, attracting members in and giving them something they will really appreciate.

I had already suggested that CILIP EoE might want to try something along the lines of ThinkDrinks (a few different groups hold them but look for example at the Digital Learning Network). Ours is quite a widespread region not known for fantastic public transport links, so I envisage the thinkdrink style event being a cheap (well, no venue costs, people buy their own drinks, so really just advertising which is pretty much free apart from time spent) and distributed model that can be repeated in multiple locations all over the region. I even wondered whether you could have a designated thinkdrink night (or lunchtime?) where people all through the region are encouraged to hold mini-thinkdrinks in each city/locality. Obviously some areas will have more take-up than others but it also means that someone in Suffolk doesn’t have to travel to Cambridgeshire for their “local” event. When I raised this, Jo mentioned that CILIPWM had tried pub networking evenings but that these had not been well attended (mainly committee members turning up) and suggested that this kind of event worked better with a focus/theme than just open-ended networking. This is why I think the thinkdrink model is interesting – it’s not “speed dating for librarians” or anything which I would personally cross the road to avoid. You could pick a very simple, very broad topic (even something like “what do you want from your local branch”) and bill it as a chance to get informal feedback from members while offering a chance to chat and meet up (everyone could do introductions as to where they work).

Finally, we did mention that maybe we need a Group/branch network of contacts, go-to-person. I’ve been happily using personal contacts and informal connections, eg Twitter, but there would be value in having a go-to person clearly advertised on the branch/group website too maybe? We were all agreed on the need to reach beyond Twitter and blogs. There was so much more to say, it was such an interesting discussion but Twitter has its limits so we wondered about moving to a different space to continue the discussions that must be had. Possibilities include a discussion on the CILIP communities forums, posts on our blogs/comments, possibly more formal routes like Update (which is probably already on the cards as CILIP moves through this process over the year ahead), a wiki, mailing lists, even Second Life or Skype for a multi-regional discussion? Jo mentioned the possibility of coordinating /discussion event some time (Biddy said she’d attend!) so there would be a possibility of lots of different mix-and-match discussion venues to encourage this thinking to continue.

Library (Half-)Day in the Life: Wednesday

I only work part-time, so my working week finished today at 1pm.

First of all, I have never managed to write a full explanation of what it means to work in a legal deposit library, what that specifically means about our cataloguing and workflows. One of the obvious points is that we didn’t specifically request/select everything that we receive. Another is that we don’t get to refuse it, pass it on elsewhere or withdraw it from stock. Fortunately for me, John McManus is a cataloguer at Trinity College Dublin which is also a legal deposit library and he’s written a great explanation, so I don’t have to. Read it, if you’re interested in why he deals with a lot of death, depression and diets whereas life in my library is more about Jesus, kings and Loose Women. While you’re there, anyone who’s ever spent time working in cataloguing/acquisitions will appreciate his latest picture on the importance of bits of coloured paper. It brought to mind Stuart Hunt’s talk at the CIG conference last September about workflow analysis.

This morning, I finished checking some cataloguing (with a bonus that a couple which I thought needed authority work actually didn’t), did a bit of classifying, put together a series authority proposal which was approved quickly – great news as we had 18 volumes of this particular series (each with multiple volumes itself). Even better news, I was able to pass the authorised heading on to someone else who would deal with all these books.

I then spent some time revising my talk on RDA (which I gave last week), amending a detail on one slide which meant I ended up able to amalgamate the contents of two slides onto one. I then printed out all my handouts and made a start on the photocopying for the next time I give the talk, next week. I had no idea how many people might turn up last week, so had printed 60 copies of all the handouts (a list of further reading, a handout of example RDA records and the slides themselves) thinking that might well cover both talks. To my surprise (it was a good surprise but definitely took me aback), around 70 people turned up so we ran out of handouts. I’m assuming surely that most people came last time so am only doing 40 copies this time. Plus everything’s available on the intranet so it’s not the end of the world if I don’t do enough. I do about half the photocopying, using photocopy ninja skills I learned during my time as first-line-of-defence against photocopier problems in a faculty library (double-sided? wham! staple and sort? ker-pow!) but started to lose the will to live so will do the rest on Monday.

I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about the tv programme Loose Women today (for any US-based readers, it’s a daytime tv show spookily similar in premise to The View). Let me explain – our allocation of cataloguing for the British National Bibliography (as explained by John above, please keep up!) is titles beginning with the letters J, K and L. I had a book called “Loose women on men”, where the author was presented as “Loose women”. Um. Is that a corporate body? My colleague had just established an authority heading for the tv series because he had “Little book of Loose Women” and “Loose women: girls’ night out” or some such on his desk. Spent a bit of time conferring with colleagues about it. Our conversation took us through Monty Python – Monty Python (Comedy troupe) – via Top Gear, the Goodies, the Mary Whitehouse experience and Blue Peter. Luckily, we ended up deciding we wouldn’t have to create a corporate body heading after all, so I was able to finish off that record before finishing work.

Just before lunch, I was asked to look at some records to try to explain why facets in LibrarySearch (our name for Aquabrowser) no longer seemed to be correctly identifying all records for e-journals. Cue some discussion of Leader/008 codes, checking whether a flip in our e-journals records to a new code for online (using o rather than s in 008/23 if anyone’s interested) had actually happened (it had). I’m not sure my input answered the question on why it’s happening, but at least I’ve left the systems librarian with what I do know about coding and how it *should* work before I disappear for the week. I really enjoy getting involved in this side of the catalogue resource discovery tool, it’s just a shame I can’t get more involved as I’m not going to be around enough this year.

Instead of heading home, I go to a lunchtime talk on social networking in academic libraries, say hello to several friends and colleagues (there’s a big turnout again) and then finish off some bits and pieces of email while keeping an eye on Twitter. I also check the details of some errors in LCSH construction reported by a colleague. Twitter provides entertainment in the form of some discussion about reclassification projects (something I’ve recently started getting a nerdy interest in, not for current work, just in general after doing a reclassification to LCC in a previous job) as well as the useful information that there is a LCSH: Husbands — Effects of wife’s employment on. We managed not to call Richard Keys or Andy Gray for comment.

As usual, I try to tie things up before I go on a Wednesday and start to shift into my out-of-work mode (mainly spent organising my eldest’s hectic social life) but still have some leftover thoughts about work even tonight. I need a better to-do list system, this much is clear, and when I have one I will add to it some thoughts about macros (something I’ve been wanting to investigate further for some time) and follow up on something mentioned to me on Twitter (in response to the paper slips picture mentioned above). Oh and some random thoughts about the TeachMeet. But now, I’m heading to bed early to read something recreational… oh, that’s right I’m reading this. About a librarian. Er…..

Library Day in the Life: Tuesday

I’m really much too tired to be writing this now but I know if I don’t do it tonight, I’ll never catch up. Since I’m in no fit state for proper composition, I’m going to do today in bullet points.

  • The Pile of Doom was diminished this morning – in the way of cataloguing magic, a couple of the multivolume sets were less complicated once I’d shown them to a colleague, the looseleaf integrating resource turned out not to be a problem at all and I checked off the DVD-video training pack, doing an authority proposal for it
  • More classifying, here and there throughout the day to keep moving through the stuff awaiting classification
  • On a visit to the Legal Deposit department (to return a book which turned out to be a duplicate), I see the enormous number of boxes of books they are currently unpacking. They tell me that’s only half of what arrived. You can hardly see round the room for the stacks of boxes and all the shelves are full. Hurry back to my desk and take some more classifying to make more shelf space for what is coming our way…
  • Mid-morning meeting, regular weekly catch-up with the staff who deal with looseleaf material and continuations (which currently fall outside the normal workflows of the department for one reason or another). I apologise for being focused on RDA in the last few weeks and promise full attention next month. We set out some medium term goals and talk about where we’d like to be by the time I go on maternity leave.
  • Am asked a question about cataloguing remote databases, so refresh my memory of some work I did on this (turns out it was in 2007). Cataloguing for these databases is currently the responsibility of Electronic Systems & Services division though I think there’s a case for us having someone more involved – I can’t volunteer though as I’m not going to be around much this year
  • Lunchtime – bump into a couple of the TeachMeet organising team who are coming into the library for lunch so sit and have a lovely chat with them about the bookings yesterday, what next and the need for cake next time we all meet.
  • Weekly meeting with member of staff I am training. She shows me the questions/queries/comments she has from what she’s been working on. We talk about 246 use for portion of title, exhibition catalogues, multiple statements of responsibility and language codes in 041/008. It’s a short meeting as she’s doing well. I still need to give her records a final proofread back at my desk then classify and send for binding as needed. There are a few which need authority work so I leave those for tomorrow.
  • Afternoon meeting with the language specialist staff of the European Cataloguing department to talk through the workflow changes we have made in English Cataloguing. This is seriously one of my favourite topics. It’s really good to talk through what we did, how we went about it and why, what it achieved, the issues it raised. Their own workflows, types of material and priorities differ from ours (they don’t have legal deposit material which is an enormous difference) but I hope there will be something in what I’m describing that’s useful to them. There will be issues specific to each language that will be different to what we faced with English-language material. It’s a really positive meeting – they listen very politely to me talking about workflow, ask some questions, nobody falls asleep. I hope they got some ideas – we talk about the need to look at quick wins, the importance of good news stories in cataloguing (where so much can be about what we haven’t managed to do, the backlogs, the increased rate of material coming in). I think it’s important that we’re all actively looking at our cataloguing workflows with a critical eye. I follow up the meeting by emailing some further information I didn’t have to hand and clarifying how to limit a search in OCLC to just PCC records (one of the things I talked about). I’m tired, and I still managed to write quite a lot about workflow – thank goodness for everyone’s sake I don’t have the energy to write more.
  • Oh and I also had cake as it was someone’s birthday in the department today. A good day.

Library Day in the Life: Monday

This is my first post for the Library Day in the Life project, now on Round 6, where librarians record what they do to give an insight into what library work involves. I work as a cataloguer in a legal deposit and university library in the UK.

I work part-time so haven’t been in the library since Wednesday lunchtime last week. Mondays are therefore always a bit of a catch-up day: catch up on emails, catch up on the piles of books and AV material left on my desk in my absence (I’m sure some people wait until my back’s turned!) and catch up on how things have been going since I was last in the office.

On a Monday, I take a bit of time to look at the shelves of books to see how things have been moving, whether work is building up in one area, how many books have been dealt with out of another, how quickly things are being processed and so on. Especially so this morning as it’s technically “changeover day” – the staff of the English Cataloguing department work on a 3 week cycle (3 weeks in a team working on urgent material of various types, 3 weeks in a team working on various “fast track” procedures, dealing with books by finding records according to various predefined workflows and dealing with the various offshoots of that work). I usually send out an email to cataloguers moving back onto the Fast Track team on the Monday of “changeover”, so like to know where we stand with various categories of material for their work during that cycle. However, we had to reshuffle things last week to respond to problems of a lot of staff leave and unexpected absence over the weeks before and after Christmas and also in anticipation of an exceptionally large delivery of books from the Legal Deposit Agency (more on this another day). We’ve basically had to throw all our cataloguing and classifying might in the direction of most need, so we’re not doing a normal changeover. A brief, impromptu meeting with the head of department and we settle on a strategy and email the rest of the staff to let them know how we’re proceeding during this cycle. We’ll be keeping an eye on the workflow and how things are moving over the course of the weeks though.

I then plough through piles of books that have appeared on my desk: mainly books returned from the bindery or from lyfguarding which I’ve already classified, so I just need to complete the holdings records and pass them on to the processing staff for final classmark and labelling. I also have a couple of piles of books to check that have been catalogued by a member of staff in another department who has been having cataloguing training with me: she’s learning fast but I still need to proofread and check each record, make classification decisions and, in a few cases, I need to propose new authorised forms for headings (mainly personal names, but one Sri Lankan series and one subject heading for a Canadian lake). The authority work is the most time-consuming part of this work.

The staff reference copy of Chris Oliver’s Introducing RDA has also appeared on my desk, but I have to put it to one side so I can ask a colleague how we go about dealing with staff reference copies (we have a small reference collection in the main cataloguing office and we thought a copy of Oliver’s book for this collection was a wise move since the library’s borrowable copy has been on loan non-stop and has now disappeared). I add this to a pile which also includes some problematic items that I’ve decided to come back to (this is the Law of the Magic Cataloguing Trolley which I might explain later in the week but is known to all good cataloguers). This pile is a little bit large now, so will have to tackle it tomorrow. I work on lots of non-book formats or non-standard material so the Pile of Doom includes some tricky multivolume sets (yes we have vols. IV.1 and IV.2 from the 1980s and now we’ve received vols. I, II.1-2, III.1  of a “new edition”, sigh). There’s also a DVD-ROM of video tutorials with accompanying book (where I know from talking to her that the cataloguer has made the right decision about how to handle it but which still needs me to proofread) and a looseleaf integrating resource which has changed title and binder size, so will need a new classmark (our in-house classification is organised by height), as well as a reminder for me of dealing with change of title in integrating resources (247 field anyone?). See, definitely needed to all go on the Magic Trolley.

My day is slightly unusual in that today was the day we opened bookings for the second Cambridge Librarian TeachMeet. It’s not part of my official job but the whole organising team has been working on this over the last few days, it’s amazing how we pulled it all together since our planning meeting on Tuesday last week. So I send out the announcement on my designated mailing list. Over my lunch hour, I spend a bit of time tweeting, checking camlibtm emails and marvelling at how quickly places fill up – within 2 and half hours of announcing that booking was open we have 44 people signed up out of a maximum of 60. We’re actually full as I write this, which is overwhelming actually – we hoped it would be popular but we had no idea how quickly people would want to join in. We’ve made a big effort this time to try to reach a wider audience than just staff in the libraries of Cambridge University so we’re really pleased with the mix of people signed up. Now we get to test Eventbrite’s waiting list system.

My afternoon is more of the same, dealing with questions from cataloguers on various issues, doing some classification/binding decisions (as the books to be classified are building up and are now our priority task). We found 3 unsuppressed RDA records in the database so I spend some time tracking down where they came from (OCLC) and what was done to them by local cataloguers (not enough to make them not be RDA records any more). I then email the findings to other staff who are due to meet next week as part of our regular RDA meetings. When we met before Christmas, we decided to keep an eye on RDA records appearing from other sources and we are probably now at the point where we need to draft guidelines for staff on what to do with RDA records when copy cataloguing. This will be discussed next week. It’s good timing, in a way, as I’ve just done an introductory talk on the changes from AACR2 to RDA to all staff (and will be giving it again next week) so everyone should at least have a basic awareness of what we’re dealing with now.

Finally, I follow up with a colleague in another department about having an informal meeting to discuss the workflow and procedures we’ve been trialling and implementing in the  English Cataloguing department. This is a topic dear to my heart, so I draft some notes and print off some of our documentation and we agree a meeting for tomorrow afternoon. More about that tomorrow no doubt.


yum yum

It’s surprisingly hard to sum up a day’s work, especially with cataloguing where I feel I should explain more about what we do and why we do it. Hopefully I’ll do a better job tomorrow. However, I feel the Cambridge Librarian TeachMeet is a big enough achievement for me to think I’ve had A Good Day. Even if I had to do it without any Worcestershire sauce French Fries . And even if nobody delivered cake to me.


Content versus carrier

This is a little idea I’ve been mulling over for a while, since doing the Cambridge 23 Things over the summer. As a cataloguer, we do talk about “content vs carrier” (particularly in conversations about RDA) but this is looking at it in a slightly different way.

When I set up this blog, as part of 23 Things, I spent a quite ridiculous amount of time agonising over the choice of WordPress template, colour scheme and details of layout. I spent time admiring the design of other blogs and wondering how to create something as aesthetically pleasing. The only thing that took me more time and effort than the appearance of the blog was the blog name (which I am also not very happy with, but that’s another story…)

As 23 Things progressed, however, I realised that I was reading the majority of other people’s blog posts via RSS feeds using Google Reader. I was trying to keep up with all the posts on the all the blogs (slightly over-ambitious) so I often read quickly in the display screen of Google Reader, without ever clicking through to the blog itself. In fact, I frequently still do this. And reading in this way means that I don’t see any of that lovely formatting, beautiful layout and great design. I see only the content and I’m choosing to look at it through a different carrier.

Reading blogs in Google Reader

This was good news for someone like me, whose design skills are limited – actually most people hardly ever need to look at the actual design of my blog and can read the content elsewhere, blissfully unaware that I’m aesthetically-challenged. However, this did make me think about catalogue records and cataloguing.

What do I mean? There is a stereotype that cataloguers spend their time carefully honing their “artisan-crafted” perfect catalogue records. Although this stereotype is outdated and no longer accurate, it does definitely have a recognisable basis in truth. As a cataloguer, I do spend time making my records look good when I can and I’m proud of them if I feel they are sparkly, shiny and perfect. There was a time when cataloguers could hope to have a lovely, neat, attractive, controllable catalogue. When I started cataloguing, about 12 years ago, it was worth this effort because the catalogue record that I produced was the final version that was viewed by other library staff and by users of our catalogue. We had a huge amount of control over what was seen and could make a final decision about how that record would look before we released it to the viewing public.

This started to change as we moved more and more towards large databases that collected records from a number of institutions and combined them in some way. This was happening way before 1998, I realise, but my personal experience came as I moved to a larger library which contributed to OCLC and RLIN (as was). Now, cataloguers often have little control over the view provided by their institution’s OPAC. And beyond the OPAC, there are now the various resource discovery tools which can put library catalogue records into a completely different environment from the one for which we originally created that record.

I also began my cataloguing career in a time of dumb terminals, catalogue records that were only available to view through one interface. Now, we have less control over the view that is being seen by the catalogue user – they could be online on a variety of different browsers, or looking at the mobile interface on their new Christmas-present iPhone or via an app.

The content is still what the cataloguer sweats over for each record. But the carrier, the formatting, the labels on the OPAC, the design, the view, the way the user interacts with that content, is totally out of our control. Any carrier we might have is only temporary, is subject to change at any time with a change of LMS or a new resource discovery tool, through mashups and re-use of the content for different ends. I wonder whether one of the biggest changes in cataloguing is less about RDA versus AACR2, and more about letting go of the carrier and focusing on the content. The content is the data, so we should be thinking about the data and how it can be created in such a way to make it as flexible, usable, reusable and, above all, useful as possible for the whole of its life after we release it into the wild.

In essence, this is what lots of people have been saying for a long time. Certainly if we think of the carrier as being the MARC format, then we all know that the carrier is on its last legs. But I also think it’s about the mindset of the cataloguer, particularly when facing the changes that may come with RDA in the next few years but which RDA itself (since it doesn’t solve the carrier issue) doesn’t quite address. We shouldn’t spend our efforts on worrying about the design/layout/presentation (the presence or absence of full stops, the order of notes), we should be focusing on the content and always the content.

2011 – the year of…

Well, it’s been a while since I blogged. Not because there is nothing to blog about, rather because there’s a little bit too much going on at the moment. So here’s a little summary of what I would like to be blogging about when I can find the time.

The year of cataloguing conversations

I’ve just ordered a copy of Conversations with Catalogers in the 21st century, which will hopefully reach me in a couple of weeks. I bought it after reading about it from Christine Schwartz (who has contributed a chapter). She talked about 2010 being the “year of catalog(u)ing conversations” but I feel I got to that one a bit late, so I’m very much aiming to see 2011 be another Year of Cataloguing Conversations. We are expecting the outcome of the US RDA Test by Easter and a decision on implementation by June. Given the level of conversation (and angst, worry, stress, conflict) already caused by RDA within the cataloguing world, I can only imagine that this will definitely get us all talking. Venessa and I are also planning to keep talking about High Visibility Cataloguing and have lots of ideas to get other people involved in that conversation too, so I’m hoping it will be a year of positive advocacy and visible cataloguers getting into the limelight and shouting about what they do and how they contribute. We already have guest posts lined up for the blog there.

I tend to end up talking about cataloguing if people stand still long enough to listen so I will keep doing that and hope it is more of a dialogue than a monologue. I am also on the committee of CILIP’s Cataloguing & Indexing Group, which is a great way to have more cataloguing conversations with colleagues from all over the country so I’m looking forward to that.

The year of the (lib)TeachMeet

Last year’s inaugural Cambridge Librarian TeachMeet went really well. We’ve been talking since then about where to go next – members of the organising team are giving talks at conferences during the year ahead so we can tell people about our experiences and the feedback we received.  This week we announced that the next one will take place on March 29th. We have launched our spangly new website and twitter account too, as we were looking to create ways for lots of people to get involved in discussing, talking about, planning and participating in the (lib)TeachMeet. There is also another librarian TeachMeet planned in Huddersfield on February 9th and version for museums – TeachMeet Museums – planned for February 4th so this might turn out to be the year that the non-teacher TeachMeet really took off.

The year of professional conversations

2011 started off with a bang, as I attended the libraries@cambridge conference. Other people have written fantastic summaries of the day which I can offer until I have time to write it up properly. Apart from being a much larger and swishy affair than when I last attended in 2007, it was the perfect mix of inspiring, intriguing and interesting presentations and a rare opportunity to socialise and chat to lots of old friends, former colleagues and new acquaintances (the first time I’ve had people who have only ever “spoken” to me online in some way come up to me and say “oh are you Celine?” or, in the case of Ned Potter, “oh you’re Kuh-juh-klib”). I hope this is the sign of the year to come. At the moment, I’m using the huge network of cataloguers and librarians on Twitter to follow what’s happening at ALA Midwinter in San Diego. Even though my year at work will finish in April, I think the professional conversations will carry on – I might be a bit quieter than usual but I’ll still be keeping in touch with Twitter.

Here’s to 2011 – finally a year which is going to let me talk as much as I want!

High Visibility Cataloguing

High visibility, because visible is the first step to being valued.

Since Venessa and I first started talking about High Visibility Cataloguing, we’ve been trying to get the message out to as many cataloguers, metadata specialists, information retrieval officers, bibliographic data managers and other colleagues as possible. Our thanks to Alan Danskin of CIG for his support and for allowing us to post to the CIG blog and hopefully reach a wider audience there. We also managed to get a piece in the last ever issue of Gazette last week (needs Flash to view).

If you didn’t read my original blog post about this then you’ll find it here. Even if you did read it, you may not have seen all the great examples of self-promotion and cataloguers hogging the limelight that people have added in the comments so please do have a look (both here and on Venessa’s post). We’ve been talking about it on Twitter and getting responses from all over the cataloguing world so we’re trying to use the hashtag #hvcats (and have set up a twapperkeeper archive for it). We’re hoping that there will be more discussion and more examples/ideas in the comments on the CIG blog post too.

Venessa and I are really delighted with all the support for the idea and have been collating the various examples and experiences and will hopefully have a central home for them all and for this discussion to continue coming very soon (to save me having to add so many links for you to click on!). An exciting development to look forward to!

TeachMeet, Part Deux

I still haven’t posted properly about the Cambridge Librarian TeachMeet that we had at the end of September and it looks like I’ll never get round to it, because we’re doing serious thinking about the next TeachMeet. We hoping to hold it in the spring some time and have talked a lot about what we’d do differently, what we’d like to keep and new elements we’d like to add to the next TeachMeet. We did an evaluation of the first TeachMeet and I was pleasantly surprised by how many people responded (about three-quarters of the people who attended, which is a pretty good response by any standards). It was also extremely gratifying that so many people took time to write details responses to questions about the venue, their expectations of the TeachMeet before they attended and how it met those expectations, whether they had used any of the things they’d learned at the event. It has been a huge help to get this feedback and we’re going to try hard to incorporate a lot of it into the next version (main tip: don’t break for refreshments in the middle!).

I felt it was especially hard for me to get a real sense of how the evening had gone from the perspective of the participants because I was up at the front most of the time (just hosting/introducing/occasionally remembering to pick names out of a hat cup, the usual Bruce Forsythe type of gig but with less tap-dancing). I didn’t feel I had enough time to just talk to people and mingle (not that I’m a skilled mingler but I would have liked to try at least). I did think that overall things had gone well, the talks were well received and the post-it note questions were much more popular than I had anticipated. But we were surprised by the timing (after a few speakers dropped out at the last minute) and so our planned schedule didn’t really work out. I wasn’t happy with the ending, it kind of fizzled out early and we’d not timetabled in any discussions/q&a session or any extra time for socialising, having a drink, mingling (I’m not obsessed with mingling, honestly). That is something I’m keen to improve next time.

We’re hoping to get more people involved in planning and organising the next TeachMeet, so if you have any ideas/comments/suggestions/criticisms or just want to join us and see how we look when we’re doing “proper thinking”, then please do come along from 6pm Thursday 9th December, CB2 (which has wifi so we’ll hopefully have someone tweeting/checking twitter so you could join in virtually). Food, drink and camlibtm plotting – what could be better on a winter’s evening?

CIG conference report: Japanese management techniques and workflow analysis

At the CIG conference in September, there were a couple of talks about Japanese management techniques and their application to workflow analysis in cataloguing/tech services. I found this very interesting – I live with someone who does Six Sigma/LEAN workflow analysis as a job and who has often commented on how he’d love to apply the methods to the library! It’s almost too interesting a topic – I have too much to say and so have struggled to write up my report for the last 2 months. I’ve finally done a version for my institution’s intranet blog and am reposting it here, with a few extra examples, as I think it’s of wide interest.  Last year, we started a review of workflows and processes within my own department (which is why I have been talking about library workflows at home!), so I have spent a lot of time thinking about this issue.

Stuart Hunt spoke about “Improving performance in cataloguing and technical services workflows”, based on the experience of the University of Warwick. They contracted an external company (Processfix) to analyse and improve workflows throughout all University departments. The wider economic context of current and anticipated future cuts led to a need on an institutional level to consider all activities and see how they could achieve that holy grail of “doing more with less”.

Examples of  Rapid Improvement Workshops that took place in the Library were looking at how long it took to shelve a book (from being returned to being on the shelf ready to borrow again) or examining the entire acquisition process, from recommendation to availability of a book to the reader. At Warwick, the process used various different tools that Stuart Hunt described together as “Japanese management techniques” but included Six Sigma, LEAN workflow and BPR (business process engineering). This is a field full of acronyms (so very familiar ground for cataloguers) but contains some very intriguing ideas and techniques.

 Stuart’s presentation should have been followed by a talk from Robin Armstrong-Viner talking about the use of LEAN Kaizen (one of these Japanese management techniques) at the University of Aberdeen. However, he was unable to make it due to a family emergency, so instead his slides were used as the backdrop for a more general discussion, led by Alan Danskin who gave some examples of how these workflow analysis techniques have been applied at the British Library.

The start was to “brown-paper” a wall (yes, apparently “to brown-paper” is a verb) to create a process map. Everyone involved in the process from beginning to end takes part and, using post-it notes, writes down each step in the process (one step per post-it). These are then arranged on the brown paper to give a sequence of activities in the process, which can be divided into “swim lanes” (areas within the responsibility of a particular team or department). The process map is then used to identify areas of “waste”, defined as “anything that doesn’t add value to the process”. Waste can be  many things, for example waiting time is a waste, so it’s often crucial to look at the point of handover from one “swim lane” to another. Another waste is over-production, doing redundant tasks – the example given here was adding coloured slips of paper with tick boxes to each item received which essentially repeated all the information already contained in the purchase order on the Acquisitions system (and I wasn’t the only person in the room nodding and groaning in recognition there). Sometimes it’s worth asking “why?” of a certain step/process, and repeating the why until you get a sensible answer – saying “because we’ve always done it that way” isn’t satisfactory. I call this the “irritating toddler” method of workflow analysis.

Transport is another example of waste, so another technique was to take a scale plan/drawing of the library layout and use string to map the journey taken by an item from the minute it arrives in the building to the point it reaches its final home on the shelves. The length of the string would show how far the item has to travel and could reveal waste. This can be very illuminating, though obviously there are physical limitations placed by the building which can be difficult to overcome.

There was a huge amount of detail and interesting examples in the talks – Warwick were able to reduce the time taken to reshelve a book from 48 hours to 4 hours by changing the workflow. Alan told a great anecdote from the BL’s experience, where a huge amount disruption to staff working time could be cut out simply by deciding to stop locking the door of the stamping room while the staff were inside (I loved this and have repeated it to people since I got back, but it maybe losing something in the re-telling…). It is worth looking at the full presentations if you are interested in the ideas or want to see some photos of “brown-papered” walls with process maps on them:

Stuart Hunt’s presentation (PDF) and Robin Armstrong-Viner’s presentation (Powerpoint)

Stuart mentioned that he plans to publish about this (indeed, he made quite a strong argument about there not being a culture of publishing in the UK but that there should be, as the library qualification is a research qualification too), so I look forward to reading more about it.

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