Thursday, March 27, 2008

Get Involved with MLA/TSS

Back in the 1980s when I was a relatively new staff member at the Western Mass Regional Library System, someone asked me if I'd like to run for Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect of the Technical Services Section of the Massachusetts Library Association. Saying "Yes" was one of the best moves I ever made professionally, socially, and intellectually.

Now you have an opportunity to meet new friends, develop leadership skills, serve others, and gain increased personal and professional satisfaction. As of July 1, there are two vacant positions on the MLA/TSS Executive Board. One is Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect (one-year term) and the other is Member-at-Large (two-year term).

If you would like to serve in either of these positions please contact Chair Wei Jeng-Chu at or Vice-Chair Cecile Bianco at The slate will be presented and voted on at the TSS Annual Meeting on Thursday, May 8th at the MLA Annual Conference.

There are no extra dues to be a TSS member. Simply check off TSS on your MLA member application or renewal. It could be the best move you've ever made.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MLA has a lot to offer Technical Services staff

I hope you’re planning to spend some time at the Mass Library Association conference in Falmouth. Dates: May 6-9, 2008. The Technical Services Section has put together a dazzling array of programs.

First, on Tuesday, May 6 and the morning of May 7, there will be a pre-conference devoted entirely to The Future of the ILS (Integrated Library System). Speakers are Marshall Breeding, Director of Innovative Technologies and Research at Vanderbilt University Libraries and Eric Lease Morgan, Head of Digital Access and Information Architecture at University Libraries of Notre Dame. Also speaking will be representatives from new and innovative ILSs like Georgia PINES, Koha, Endeca, VUFind, Scriblio, and WorldCat Local.

The rest of the schedule is just as exciting

Wednesday, May 7th, 1:15pm – 2:30pm. The Emerging Cataloging Future: RDA, DCMI, and the Semantic Web. Speaker: Diane L. Hillmann, Research Librarian, Cornell University Library.

Thursday, May 8th, 9:30am - 10:45am. The Future of Bibliographic Control: Predictions, Pratfalls, Dread or Delight? Speaker: Janet Swan Hill, Professor, Associate Director for Technical Services, University of Colorado Libraries.

Thursday, May 8th, 11:30am - 12:45am. UR Research at the University of Rochester: an Institutional Repository case study. Speaker: Suzanne Bell, Economics/Data Librarian and UR Research Projects Coordinator, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester.

Registrations must be postmarked before April 18, 2008 or you can also register at the Conference.

I'll be there and I hope to see you.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Book Review: Cataloging Without Tears

Cataloging without tears: managing knowledge in the information society by Jane M. Read. Oxford, England : Chandos Publishing, 2003. ISBN: 1843340437 (pbk)

There are lots of things I like about this book beyond its intriguing title. I like the chatty, informal tone. It’s a book that constantly reassures readers that cataloging doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, cataloging can be a lot of fun for those “who enjoy intellectual challenges for their own sake.” Even the layout of the book is reassuring and easy to read. There is lots of white space so the book reads fairly quickly.

It contains a lot of good background and good general information including a section on Dublin Core and ONIX. In fact, I had an “aha” moment since I learned the precise place for a piece of information that I was never sure how to include in a Dublin Core record. It was like finding a missing link. There is a very informative comparison and contrast of AACR2/MARC and DC, XML, ONIX.

The book is divided into two parts. All of the above are included in Part I or “The Big Picture”. Part II is called “The Nitty-Gritty” and covers just that – in a way. In discussing the specific parts of a bib records, Ms Read describes the thought process involved when choosing what to include and how. There is a very good chapter on cataloging items in different languages, something I’ve faced many times and, fortunately, survived. Another chapter covers the details of cataloging archives and rare books.

While this book is well worth reading, it has some shortcomings. The first is that the British orientation can sometimes be distracting for U.S. readers. Cataloging Without Tears is definitely not a reference book. One cannot learn much by skimming the book; an entire chapter (or the book) must be read to get any value out of it.

While Ms. Read uses a lot of humor, it is sometimes a little too cute for my taste. There are many cartoon, few of which I thought were funny. Humor can be culture specific, though, so maybe a British reader would react differently.

While Part II is entitled “The Nitty-Gritty”, no actual rules are cited. In talking about dates, Ms Read says “AACR gives rules for determining which date to use.” Examples of bib records do not use the format of Library of Congress Subject Headings which may be confusing for U.S. readers trying to learn how to catalog. Many libraries in central Massachusetts and throughout the state are a part of an automated network such as C/W MARS, yet the book assumes a standalone catalog and never addresses shared catalogs. The book was published in 2003, so is slightly out-of-date. Ms Read states that AACR3 will be published in 2005 or 2006. AACR3 was abandoned a few years ago for RDA which is (optimistically) due to arrive in the spring of 2009.

Don’t be turned off by these few negative comments. Overall, I think this book is well worth the time of a new (or newish) cataloger to gain a lot of insight into the history, background and thought process of cataloging. Even a veteran cataloger like me can – and did – learn a few things.

Monday, March 3, 2008

NETSL Spring Conference – Registration is Open

If you’re not a subscriber to one of the myriad cataloging-related electronic discussion lists (NETSL, Autocat, OLAC, NELINET, etc.) you might not have heard that registration is now open for the Absolutely Very Best conference for Technical Services Librarians.

Every year, usually on a Friday in April, NETSL – New England Technical Services Librarians – organizes a conference so great that it draws over 200 librarians from all over the northeast. The two featured speakers are Janet Swan Hill and Jay Weitz – both well know and well respected names in the cataloging field. In addition, there are 4 breakout sessions scheduled on a variety of topics relating to managing the traditional print resources AND the newer electronic resources.

For more details, visit the NETSL website. You can register with a credit card or by mail. Registrations are pouring in, so act fast.