Friday, July 20, 2007

Technical Services Blogs

A couple of years ago, when the Quick T.S. column was part of the CMRLS newsletter Centralities and not its own blog, I wrote about the blogs that focus primarily on Cataloging issues. I had scoured the blogosphere and found only a few of them: 025.431 The Dewey Blog, Catalogablog, The FRBR Blog, and Lorcan Depsey’s Weblog. Since then, other cataloging-type people have begun blogs and so I’m updating my list to include more blogs with a Cataloging focus.

Christine Schwartz began Cataloging Futures in April of 2007. Cataloging Futures uses the subtitle “a ‘work’ in progress” (a play on FRBR?) and says “The focus of this blog is the future of cataloging and metadata in libraries.” Christine has been paying attention to the stated purpose of her blog since “Cataloging” and “Metadata” are some of the largest words in the accompanying tag cloud.

Digiblog: ALCTS and Future of Tech Services began in October of 2006 to “to support the 2007 ALCTS Midwinter Symposium in Seattle …” Anyone can register and post to the blog. There is not a lot of activity, so if you have an opinion on a Tech Services issue and don’t want to start your own blog, you might consider posting on Digiblog.

Minerva Shelved, which began in December of 2006 as part of a Library 2.0 project, does not specifically define itself as a cataloging oriented blog. The tagline is simply “On books and libraries and such.”. However, Minerva often covers cataloging issues and so I’ve tucked her blog into the folder called Cataloging Blogs in my Bloglines account. What I like best about Minerva Shelved is that it plays classical music. I want music on my blog, too!

Any blog that begins with a Library of Congress classification number must have something to do with cataloging and sure enough Z666.7L364 contains “musings related to metadata, cataloging, and the ‘great big’ world of librarianship (plus some other stuff…)” The blog’s author, Jennifer Lang, is the Electronic Resources Cataloger at Princeton University Library and also teaches Cataloging and Classification at Rutgers University’s library school. The blog began in April of 2006.

Perhaps you don’t want to take the time to read each of the Cataloging blogs. If so, a quick and easy way to keep up with Tech Services issues is to read Planet Cataloging., “an automatically-generated aggregation of blogs related to cataloging and metadata …” Planet Cataloging began in May 2007 and is maintained by Jennifer Lang (of Z666.7L364) and Kevin S. Clarke who are happy to add any blog they might have over looked. Planet Cataloging scoops up posts from all of the blogs I’ve listed plus several others. It also locates individual posts on Cataloging topics even if the overall coverage of the blog is more general.

Technical Services people no longer need to bemoan the lack of blogs discussing Cataloging and related issues. The number is growing which means it that much easier to stay informed. So find yourself a blog or two and get reading.

A Little Background

Quick T.S. has been around for about 2 years, although not as a blog.

It began as a column in the Central Massachusetts Regional Library System’s newsletter Centralities and was intended to keep the technical services staff of member libraries quickly informed of happenings in the T.S. world .

However, Centralities underwent an extreme makeover as part of CMRLS’s branding project. As of July 1, the newsletter is only 2 pages (instead of 10-20), and longer regular columns became blogs which are now available to everyone on the Internet.

The new Centralities is issued semi-monthly, so I’ll likely be posting to this blog 2-3 times during the month, although I’ll write more if time allows.

I’m happy to receive comments and receive suggestions for topics. Chances are, if something is of interest to you, it’ll also be of interest to librarians in Worcester County, Mass.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Working in the Digital Environment

For the last year and a half, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with a project called Digital Treasures . As I look back on my cataloging career (a rather long cataloging career), I’m sometimes amazed at the progression. Yet, working on a digital repository is a logical part of that progression.

First, a little history: My first full-time library job consisted of typing headings at the tops of catalog cards (I told you it was a long career). After a couple of weeks, I couldn’t help but think that a machine could do what I was doing – and probably do it a whole lot better. Lo and behold! Along came MaRC (Machine Readable Cataloging) and not only was a machine producing catalog cards with all of the headings correctly typed, but the cards arrived in the library in alphabetical order!

Over time I moved from copy cataloging to original cataloging learning AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd ed.) and MaRC codes. Then came audiovisual materials where I mulled over GMDs (General Material Designations) and Chief Sources of Information (do I really need to view that videocassette?). As media proliferated, I learned how to apply the rules and codes to CDs, DVDs, CD-ROMs, and remote electronic resources. Each type of item had its own idiosyncrasies that affected how the rules were to be used.

Amid all of this high technology, I also cataloged several Local History collections consisting of privately published material, hand written genealogies and many, many scrapbooks.

Then along came the opportunity to work on Digital Treasures, a cooperative venture of CMRLS, WMRLS and C/W MARS . C/W MARS purchased the software CONTENTdm which uses the metadata schema Dublin Core. (When librarians are describing books, audios and videos, the process is called cataloging. When describing digital resources, the process is called applying metadata.) Dublin Core was designed for digital libraries and is used instead of AACR2 and MaRC. One reason is that Dublin Core is OAI (Open Archives Initiative) harvestable and objects in Digital Treasures can be found by using a keyword search on any search engine.

Digital Treasures has been focusing its efforts on photographs, postcards, newspapers and other items often tucked away in brick and mortar libraries, showing the world these wonderful treasures. What a boon for researchers and the merely curious! If someone is surfing the web for information about railroads in Athol, a search on the words “railroads” “athol” and “mass” immediately brings up items from Digital Treasures. And if you key in the words “calvin” “coolidge” “kart”, you’ll find an image of our nation’s 30th president building a go-kart with his son at their home in Northampton that was scanned into Digital Treasures.

As much as I love visiting a “brick and mortar” library and curling up with a good book, I’m excited by all that digital libraries have to offer. Digital Treasures gathers together the gems hidden in area libraries and makes them available to people everywhere, bringing recognition to the collections and the libraries that house them. Soon, Digital Treasures will be one of the digital libraries accessible via a portal called Digital Commonwealth where people can absolutely wallow in Massachusetts history and culture.

When I think of researchers meandering through digital libraries clicking on links that bring them to more of what they’re looking for, I think back to when I used to type headings onto catalog cards. In addition to producing cards with the headings at the top, machines have made it possible to search immense amounts of information from disparate sources and to allow users to navigate through the great resources libraries have to offer.