Archive for the ‘promotion’ Tag

Anatomy of a cataloguer, or, I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed

This blog post started life as a comment on the “Anatomy of a cataloger” post by Theresa Schultz over at LISNPN but it got a bit too long and then moved slightly in another direction anyway so I’m posting here on my much-neglected blog.

First of all, it’s not entirely true that I wasn’t angry. There was definitely some anger, in fact there may have been a little mention of Hulk Cataloguer on Twitter last night. After thinking it through, however, what I’m left with is disappointment. First of all, please do read Theresa’s post. And definitely also read the comments there, eloquently and coherently written (thank you all). I’m not interested in any ad hominem attack – Theresa has replied to the comments and explained her position, welcoming the discussion. She points out that the piece is meant to be humorous. Let me just indulge in a little experiment to see if I can show why the reaction to her post wasn’t just a sense-of-humour-fail on the part of the cataloguers I know.

What if, instead of being a piece about cataloguers written by a non-cataloguer (or a very reluctant cataloguer, by her own admission), it were a piece about librarians written by a non-librarian. Replace “cataloguer” with “librarian” (and a couple of the other words to the new context) and see what it gives:

Is there any position more dreaded than “librarian”?  Not because they’re scary, but because none of us really want to do it?  Because we don’t really love books, electronic resources, searching, referencing, or silence?  Or any of the library standards?

I can’t think of anyone I went to university with who liked librarianship.  We all thought of it as a necessary evil.  I’ve had to do some work in a library, and I haven’t changed my tune overmuch.  Borrowing a book is fine, but working on an issue desk?  Forget it.

[…]

Librarians are respected in an abstract way, I think, when they’re thought of at all.  It’s not a glamorous position, a high-visibility position, or one with a lot of change.  If you like a reliable, steady sort of work, then libraries might just be for you. 

You get my point, right? If someone wrote this in a magazine or website, the library community would be all over it. Even though it’s intended to be humorous, the use of stereotypes, the “necessary evil”, “who’d want to do this” aspect would get our backs up and we’d be advocating and busting out of the echo chamber about libraries and librarianship. Wouldn’t we?

And rightly so. It’s particularly disappointing that this was written on a website for enthusiastic, interested new professionals, library school students and people interested in the profession. As part of a series that, while light-hearted, states its aim to give “a better understanding of what our colleagues do and so students might have more realistic ways to potentially decide which track to focus on”. Yes, the author gives some praise to the importance of cataloguing and the catalogue but all the while says “we’re lucky other people like to do this so that we don’t have to”. Who is going to finish reading that and think “Hmmm, I think cataloguing’s for me, I love to be under-appreciated, mocked and considered nitpicky”?

More importantly, I’m disappointed because we’re obviously not getting our message out. It’s been nearly a year since High Visibility Cataloguing was set up and we’re not much further out of the cataloguing echo chamber. I’m disappointed because we should have been *offering* to write a piece for LISNPN about the realities of being a cataloguer. As part of the discussion on Twitter last night, Doreva Belfiore made the suggestion that a cataloguer write about their work for the Hack Library School blog. Brilliant idea. We should have thought of that. Proactive not reactive!

In true schoolteacher-y style, I’m most disappointed in myself. Must. Do. Better. This high visibility stuff won’t happen all by itself, we need to be looking for avenues to promote and describe what we do ourselves, take charge of the narrative so that other people don’t do it for us.

This was my own personal reaction so I’ve posted it here but please do keep an eye on the High Visibility Cataloguing blog as we would really like to collect proactive ideas and ways to get our message out there. We need you! If only to make sure the Hulk Cataloguer doesn’t make another appearance.

Thank you to all the wonderful cataloguers who commented on the original LISNPN piece and talked about why they love cataloguing, superstars one and all!

P.S. I heard a rumour that the Hulk Cataloguer may have a Twitter account. If any gifted person would like to design an avatar for Hulk Cataloguer, I…. er, I mean he‘d be very grateful 😉

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!

Cataloguers, step into the limelight

I have always said that if librarians as a profession struggle with their public image and with public understanding of what they do, then cataloguers are the librarians of the library world.

When people talk about the “echo chamber“, where librarians need to talk to the wider public rather than to each other, I can’t help but think that cataloguers are stuck within their own little bubble inside that echo chamber, mainly talking to other cataloguers.

So, for a long time now, I’ve been interested in promoting cataloguing and cataloguers within our profession, to other librarians and information professionals. And within our institutions – there has been a tendency to describe us as “back room staff” and “back room activities”, tucked away in our fusty corners, poring over rule books, measuring things with rulers, preparing antiquated records fit only for card catalogues while the whizzy, modern, exciting work of whizzy, modern, exciting libraries takes place around us, even in spite of us. This isn’t the case, but we really need to get better and telling people the facts. And showing them what we do.

Biddy Fisher talked about library advocacy and the role of “cat & class” within the new heart of the library profession in her keynote speech at the CIG conference in September (the powerpoint slides are available here). It was a subject that came up a lot in general discussion, over tea, at dinner during the conference.

At the conference (and mainly due to us both being on Twitter), I met Venessa (who tweets as @scarlettlibgirl and blogs at Scarlettlibrarian) and since then we’ve been talking about our mutual interest in proactive advocacy for cataloguing and metadata. Talking about the new roles and activities for the staff traditionally called “cataloguers” (you will note that my job description places me in a “cataloguing” department whereas Venessa’s calls her a “metadata adminstrator” but that’s only the tip of the iceberg in what our various roles cover). We also interested in how cataloguers promote themselves and their work within the wider library, perhaps even the whole institution.

See Venessa’s call to arms on her blog. Our aim is to promote debate and discussion within the cataloguing world but also to encourage promotion to librarians who are not cataloguers. All of this is with the aim of making cataloguers more visible, we need to step into the library limelight and do more to promote our contributions.

We’re particularly interested in anything (official or not) that cataloguing staff have done to promote themselves or their cataloguing work to their colleagues. We’re working on raising our profile so hopefully you will hear more from us in due course (Venessa is working on this right now).

Please do get in touch, on Twitter or via our blogs. I think there’s a real groundswell of broader library advocacy and promotion going on from grassroots level in the wider profession and I really want to see the cataloguing community build on that.

I’ll be posting more about this shortly…

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