Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Graduated!

I completed the Univesity of North Texas course on Technical Services offered through WebJunction. I read through all of the information, wrote the required assignments, played the 2 games, took the pre- and post-quizzes and - ta da! - received my certificate of completion.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Blooming Blogs

While there are a lot of library-related blogs, Technical Services people have been slower to get into the biblioblogosphere.

On the cataglogers pages of the CMRLS website, I have a list of Cataloging Blogs which I've just updated with several more. Here's a little information about the new additions. Most have begun in the last 6 months.

A Portal to My Cataloging Aids Website is written by Lynne LeGrow who says "For many years I have maintained a website with cataloguing aids, reminders, and links." Her list of aids is similar to my cataloging pages mentioned above. Lynne is the Cataloguer (note the u) at the Halifax Public Library in Nova Scotia.

Celeripedean claims to be "Just Another Blog About Libraries." The author is Jennifer Eustis who "would like to share my thoughts on librarianship and cataloging." Jennifer is Catalog & Metadata Librarian at the Snell Library at Northeastern University in Boston.

From the Catalog of Babes describes the day-to-day adventures of recently graduated librarian Rachel Clarke (therefore just a "babe in the woods") who is now the cataloger in a library of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in California.

Future4Catalogers Blog is written by Heidi Hoerman, faculty member of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina, as she "tries to understand what's coming." Heidi made the cataloging headlines in October of 2008 when she announced at the OLAC/MOUG conference in Cleveland that she thought RDA would die a slow death. She's since recanted.

Inquiring Librarian is the blog of Jenn Riley. Jenn is Metadata Librarian with the Indiana University Digital Library Program. I had the pleasure of attending one of Jenn's programs on Metadata at the OLAC/MOUG conference in Cleveland.

Metadata Librarian Experience is written by Jin Xiu Guo who is the Assistant Librarian, Catalog/Metadata Librarian at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

I'm not certain if Resource Description and Access: ALA Rep Notes is still being updated, but it offers lots of insight into the RDA process. RDA is due to be released in November 2009. The ALA Rep is John Attig, of Pennsylvania State University.

I like the witty title Three Catalogers Walk Into a Blog. The three catalogers are Jennifer B. Young, Serials Cataloger at Northwestern University; Joy Anhalt, Technical Services Manager at the Tinley Park Public Library, Tinley Park, Illinois; and Richard A. Stewart,Senior Cataloger at the Indian Trails Public Library Disctrict and an instructor in the Graduate School (formerly the Graduate School, USDA). While this blog has been around since September 2008, I just discoverd it recently.

These are all good blogs to add to your RSS feed. If, after a while, you don't find them particularly useful, it's easy enough to delete the feed. I find a lot of the cataloging blogs cover the same information, so a review of them can often be very quick.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Additional Operations (sometimes) in Technical Services

This was the chapter on Other - the stuff that didn't quite deserve its own chapter but still is (or might be) part of Technical Services. Topics were Gifts or donations; Interlibrary loan and/or document delivery operations; Systems management or at least management of the library’s OPAC; Digitization projects.

Gifts, as was rightly pointed out, are a form of Acquisitions. If you wouldn't buy it, you shouldn't accept it as a gift. All gifts must fit into a library's collection development policy. When people donate items to a library, it should be made clear that the library might do something else with the gift. The donor should be given the chance to recind the offer. Gifts (like kittens and Open Source Software) are not free. There are costs to processing and even disposing of gifts.

While the instructors made some good arguments about Interlibrary Loan being a part of Technical Services, I've never seen it structured that way in any library where I've worked. Of course they're related as all library functions are related.

Tech Services staff have often become "accidental" IT staff. I guess a lot of people think "Tech is Tech". But some people have a natural affinity for IT and others do not. It can be very stressful to be responsible for something you're somewhat afraid of (and I speak from a certain amount of experience).

Digitization is another one of those default things like IT. There is definitely a relationship since Digital images need cataloging, too. And Digital images are saved in a catalog which may or may not be the same catalog as the books and other materials.

This chapter did not include a fun game, but there was an assignment to describe how your library is organized and who is responsible for the various Technical Services functions: Acquisitions, Cataloging, Processing, and Collection Maintenance. Here is the description I wrote and posted on Blackboard.

I don’t work in a “real” library, but rather the headquarters of a Regional Library System that provides services, including consulting, to area libraries regardless of type. We have a small professional collection.

The individual consultants (including me) are responsible for collection development in their areas of expertise. We choose the titles and purchase them, usually via Amazon or ALA. There is an overall acquisitions budget monitored by the Assistant Regional Administrator.

When items arrive, they all come to me – the cataloger. We are part of a consortium and the Network headquarters maintains the catalog. I assign call numbers, add our holdings to that catalog and import bib records into it from OCLC if the ones I need are not already there. I will create an original record in OCLC if necessary. I also do all of the processing: property stamp, barcode, spine labels.The individual consultants are responsible for weeding their own areas. Once weeded, I delete our holdings from the Network catalog and OCLC.

Interlibrary Loan and Circulation are handled by a paraprofessional.The director (or in our case the Regional Administrator) occasionally selects and purchases books the same as the other consultants. The business office pays the bills.

We do no repairs; we replace an item if needed, but that seldom happens. We have small back runs of serials, but never bind them. They are rarely used except by the consultants.

We do no digitization, but I am responsible for helping area libraries select items they want digitized and create metadata. The Network headquarters maintains the digital repository and staff there handle the scanning and maintenance of the digital collections.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Collection Maintenance

The Technical Services online course continues and this chapter covered collection maintenance - weeding, repairing, binding, replacing, etc.

In my opining, most libraries need to spend more time on weeding their collections. Reasons for removing an item include:
  1. Not used sufficiently to justify the space (or real estate) they require
  2. No longer contains current, correct, reliable, or complete information
  3. No longer needed or duplicate of another item
  4. Poor condition
  5. Outdated or obsolete format or technology

Rather than having more books, most libraries need a better looking collection with books spaced out so they can be seen (not to mention removed from the shelf without pulling down adjacent books). Academic libraries rarely weed, but their mission is different from a public library's and something with information that is not "current, correct, reliable, or complete" can still contribute to historical research.

Mending is a useful tool when used appropriately. However, sometimes it is actually more cost effective to purchase a new copy than try to mend a book. A heavily mended book is usually unattractive and less likely to be chosen by a library patron, so why even keep it?

In the chapter on Preservation and Conservation, the instructors distinguish between preserving the intellectual content and prolonging the life of the artifact. For example, digitizing a newspaper article makes more sense than trying to prevent it from yellowing and disintegrating. However, a rare book should be kept in a climate controlled area to prevent its deterioration.

The chapter ended with a fun little game (I like games). Different items were shown with a brief description. We were instructed to drag the item to one of 5 choices: Dispose, Repair, Digitize, Return to the Collection as is, Replace. For example, a VHS copy of the video Gone With the Wind with over 300 circulations has a broken cassette. Answer: replace it with a DVD. In a few cases, there were 2 correct answers depending on the situation.

This exercise has a major typo. At the very beginning are the instructions for the previous game - the one matching Dewey Decimal numbers to book titles. I'm still looking for a way to report this problem since I'm sure it's easy to fix.

In general, this was a thought-provoking section and one too often overlooked or not thought through very carefully in Technical Services. Too many people still have a horror of throwing away books, but there are good reasons for not keeping some things in the collection. See above.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Physical Materials

This was an extremely brief chapter. It took less than 5 minutes to read from beginning to end. It covered serials, both hard copy and electronic.

While the coverage was quite cursory, I have to admit that I don't even mention serials when I teach Cataloging & Classification. Many catalogers would like to forget they exist since even the simplest bib record for a serial is fraught with details and irregularities not found in most monographs. I had the good fortune (and I'm not being sarcastic) to work with a lot of serials as part of a retrospective conversion project several years ago. I worked with 2 very experienced serials catalogers and I learned a lot from them. After a few weeks, not only did I not dread serials, but I actually began looking at them as a puzzle to be solved.

Databases and electronic books were also included in this chapter, again very, very briefly - not much more coverage than that they exist. I would have really liked more detail since I have no direct experience with acquiring or cataloging such entities. Both are becoming a larger and larger component of libraries' collections and I'm feeling increasingly left behind. Attending workshops isn't the same as dealing with them on a day-to-day basis.

There are just a few more sections left in this course. Stay tuned for the final chapters.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The online course on Technical Services continues and the section I just finished was on Processing.

Like the other sections the description on exactly what happens was pretty brief. However, the emphasis of this section was on examining what you do for processing and justifying each step. I totally agree with this approach.

Too many libraries record information that's not actually used, just because that's the way it's always been done. It's not unusual to see pencilled somewhere on the book an accession number, the date received, from whom/where and/or the price. Is this information ever used? If it is, can it be found anywhere else? Now that many libraries have online acquisitions systems, numbers, dates and prices can be found there. Does a staff person also need to hand write it in the book?

Another archaic practice I sometimes see is ownership information on a "secret page". Just in case someone tears off the library's name from the front of the book, the owner can be identified by going to page 62 (or 87 or some other agreed upon page) and see an additional ownership stamp. In my opinion, for all the time it takes to stamp every book the library owns on an additional specific page, the library could purchase an occasional replacement copy.

An important lesson to take away from the section on Processing: look at each step and have a good reason for doing it. Otherwise, abandon it. There's plenty of other necessary stuff to do.

The instructor also discussed outsourcing. Outsourcing is something to be considered but the library has to be careful. It may mean more compromises than the library is willing to make. However, having your books arrive with jackets already attached, or outsourcing some other very specific task might be worth the cost. If you have an abundance of reliable student workers or pages, I'd jacket in-house.

When it comes to processing library materials, think Faster, Cheaper, Better. You can only have two of them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cataloging & Classification

After Acquisitions, the next section in the Technical Services course that I'm taking online was Cataloging & Classification - my specialty.

This section was a very brief overview of the kinds of things involved: Descriptive Cataloging, Copy Cataloging, Subject Headings and Access Points, Item Records, Authority Control, and a reminder that the cataloging environment is ever-changing.

There was a fun exercise where I got to drag some general Dewey Decimal numbers to the corresponding hypothetical titles. There is a Dewey Concentration game in the Cataloging section of the CMRLS website. Not only is it a good refresher, but you can exercise your brain and help ward off dementia.

I expect that the reason this section did not have a lot of depth is because most cataloging in most libraries is Copy Cataloging - where a person searches a database for an existing bibliographic record and downloads it into a local system. Or in the case of a consortial member, searches the consortium database and adds local holdings. There was no coverage on the details of a bib record, no real discussion of AACR2 and its rules. And while the author was clear there have been lots of changes in the cataloging world and more to come, there was no actual mention of RDA or any other specifics.

I would have liked to see a little more in this section. Maybe some exercises that had students look at different library catalogs and/or looking at bib records in more detail. However, this is a survey course so maybe this level of coverage is appropriate.

Monday, June 15, 2009

NETSL is looking for a few good people

Are you the type of person who wants to stay up-to-date with Technical Services issues? Do you like to collaborate on projects with other Technical Services people? Do you usually attend the NETSL spring conference? Would you like to go for free?

If you answered "yes" to any or all of the above questions, please consider running for an office on the NETSL Executive Board.

Every year, there are 4 openings: Vice-Presedent-Elect, Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, and Treasurer. Each term is for one year. However, the VP/Pres-Elect automatically becomes President the following year and Past-President the year after that, so the position is, in fact, a 3 year committment.

In addition to the elected offices, there are some positions appointed by the President in consultation with the rest of the Board. There are 2 Members-at-Large, Membership Committee Chair, and Archivist. If you run unsuccessfully for one of the above offices, and want to serve on the Board, you can volunteer for any of the appointed positions.

For more details on being a NETSL officer, see Article IV of the By-Laws on the NETSL website. I'm also happy to talk with anyone who just wants to discuss the responsibilities in more detail.

To toss your hat into the NETSL ring, contact current President Amy Benson at netslpresident@nelib.org, or 617-495-5858 by July 8th.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Ideal Vendor

I’m proceeding with the online course on Technical Services. I’ve just finished the section on Acquisitions (or will when I finish this assignment).

We were to visit the websites of at least two library book vendors and notice 1. The type of information they provide; 2. The value-added services and features; 3. Anything else that struck us as interesting and/or desirable.

Then we were to visit the websites of at least two regular retail Internet book and audiovisual sellers and notice 1. Value-added features they provide; 2. How the information is organized; 3. Other observations.

One thing that’s pretty obvious is that Amazon sells a lot more than books. Kind of like Wal-Mart or Super Stop & Shop – they sell at least some of just about everything. Who knows? Maybe I'll end up buying my next car from Amazon :-)

Now I’m to make a list of the features, special services, or other factors that I would want from the "ideal" vendor or source for books and audiovisual items for a library like mine.

It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in acquisitions, and I don't work in a "real" library, so my answers are all theoretical.

A lot of my expectations of a vendor would depend on the circumstances of my library. Do I have adequate staff? What kind of equipment does my Technical Services Department have? Am I part of a consortium or do I have a stand-alone ILS? The less my library has, the more I will want from my vendor. (Note to administrators: You have to pay one way or the other.)

If I’m not part of a consortium, or did not have access to OCLC or other large database, I’d likely want bibliographic records for the items I purchased. If I had minimal staff, I’d probably want my items processed (mylar book jackets, property stamps, spine labels, barcodes, etc.).

Another option would be a third-party company for cataloging and processing. Perhaps it’s because I worked for just such a company, but my impression is that a library is able to get very specific customization from such an entity. If a bibliographic record does not already exist, they will create one. My experience with most vendors is that if they cannot find an existing bib record, the library does not receive one. Also, there are fewer existing bib records for audiovisual materials than for books, yet the need for those records is just as great. How would I get bib records for "odd" items?

Regardless of cataloging and processing, I’d want an online ordering system that coordinated with my catalog so that my patrons could see what was on order as well as what my library owned. I’d want to be able to keep track of the status of my items (shipped, on backorder, out of stock, etc.). I’d want to be able to keep track of what I’d already spent, what I’d encumbered, and be able to allot funds to different accounts if I had multiple branches. It's unlikely that I'd be able to purchase 100% of the items I wanted from a single vendor, so I'd need to be able to incorporate those other purchases into the accounting system.

Technical Services does not exist in a vacuum. I want materials that I order to arrive quickly, be findable in the library catalog and to look neat and clean on the library shelves so that patrons will want to check them out and take them home.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Digital Projects in Massachusetts

I received an email recently asking about "digital comings and goings in Massachusetts library land". After replying with what I thought was a concise summary, it occurred to me that others might benefit from this information. I've edited my reply somewhat to make it more generic and applicable to other libraries.

There’s a lot going on in the Massachusetts digital world. Let me outline some
of it; I’m sure there is more of which I’m not aware.

In western and central Massachusetts, there’s Digital Treasures which is a collaboration among WMRLS, CMRLS and C/W MARS. Any library that’s a member of either of the regions can participate. You don’t have to be a C/W MARS member. There is a cost, which is slightly higher for non-C/W members, but I also have some grant money that can be used to defray most of that cost. The metadata for images in Digital Treasures are written in Dublin Core. The metadata have been sent to OCLC, converted to MARC, and imported into the C/W MARS catalog, so everything is available in both places. Digital Treasures is OAI (Open Archives Initiative) harvestable and everything is searchable via Google or any search engine as well as from the OAIster site.

In Massachusetts as a whole, there is Digital Commonwealth. DigiCom is primarily a portal which (similar to OAIster) harvests digital images in repositories throughout Massachusetts. There is a fee to join, but CMRLS, WMRLS and C/W MARS are all members so any library who is a part of Digital Treasures can search its collection via DigiCom. Libraries that have their own repositories can join DigiCom directly.

If a library (or museum or archive) wants to display its digital images, but does not want to or is unable to go through one of the existing repositories and does not have its own repository, DigiCom has a partnership with NELINET to host individual organizations’ repositories.

Boston Public Library is participating in the Internet Archive. I know a lot less about this project since I have not been directly involved with it. I do know, however, that libraries that want to have books scanned can send them to BPL and those books will be available via the Internet Archive. The Webster Vet Library at Tufts in North Grafton has done this with many titles in a special collection they received called the Seaverns Equine Collection. The digitized books are searchable from both the IA and their catalog.

BPL also has a partnership with Open Library . Like IA above, I’m not directly involved with this project. I do know that people can request books to be scanned so they are available to read online or download.

If your library has photos or documents (not books) to scan and wants to be part of Digital Treasures, please let me know. I can help a little with selection (it’s not my strength, but I can offer some guidelines) and a lot with metadata creation.

That last paragraph applies to all libraries located within the central region. Calling (or emailing) me and talking more about Digital Treasures does not commit you to anything. Feel free just to gather information for a possible future project.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Online courses

I've just started an online course called Tech Services: What, Why, How. It is a University of North Texas LE@D course through WebJunction.

I'm taking the course for a couple of reasons:
1. Since I teach a beginning cataloging course, I'm always looking to see what other cataloging-related courses are offered. I like to see how other people cover the information and I want to make sure I'm not missing anything. I watch the way the information is presented because I want to be able to present it in a way beginners will understand. One of the biggest chalenges of knowing your subject matter well is remembering that others do not. I can't assume everyone knows the terminology or has much Technical Services experience. Even people who have worked in a library for many years often don't know the deatils of what happens in Technical Services.

2. For a while now, I've wanted to do more with online courses. Between the cost of gasoline and the time it takes to commute, more people are reluctant to go out to workshops. This situation is now compounded with cuts to library budges which often means fewer staff making it even more difficult to leave the library. Online courses give people more options and many of my standard workshops lend themselves to online teaching. A good way for me to learn how this all works is to take an online course.

3. Even with face-to-face classes, an online component adds variety to the material and allows for more interaction - something else I've been trying to incorporate into my workshops.

This particular online course has keeping a journal as one of its assignements. That's great for me as it gives me a reason to post regularly to this blog.

So far, the material is pretty basic. I took the pre-test and got a 98%. There was one question worth 10 points. It contained a list of skills and I was supposed to check off all of the ones needed for Technical Services. One was "Good business sense" which I debated about. I think someone in Tech Services should have good business sense, but decided the creator of the quiz would not expect that to be included. I was wrong and I lost 2 points for not checking that particular skill.

So be aware: Good business sense is needed in Technical Services.

If you're interested in taking this online course or any of the WebJunction courses, they are free for staff of CMRLS member libraries. CMRLS has purchased a large block of "units" to be made available to library staff. You'll need a coupon code to register and you can request that by sending me an email at dgaudet@cmrls.org

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pet Peeves

For years I’ve been politely (maybe that’s my problem) reminding people that ISBN stands for International Standard Bibliographic Number so that saying ISBN Number is redundant. It’s like saying International Standard Bibliographic Number Number. (Same thing for PIN Number – Personal Identification Number Number – but that’s not specifically a library term and out of the scope of Quick T.S.)

Now there’s a new war to wage as I see more and more references to ILS Systems. ILS stands for Integrated Library System, so again saying ILS System is the same as saying Integrated Library System System.

Yes, I am a cataloger and therefore very picky about things like that. However, I feel the “problem” is broader than it might appear at first. Librarians, and especially catalogers, have a lot of jargon. We need to be careful when talking to non-library types not to use jargon if we want them to understand what we’re talking about. We even need to be careful when talking to non-cataloger librarians.

If you need to use the word “number” after the initials ISBN because you think the person with whom you’re talking will not understand you, then perhaps you shouldn’t be using the initials. Perhaps you should be using the entire phrase: International Standard Bibliographic Number.

I’m surprised how many people (even librarians) are not familiar with the initials ILS. They likely know what an online catalog is and probably what an OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) is, but don’t think of it as being part of a larger system – an Integrated Library System. An ILS is an inventory of holdings with a user-friendly (one hopes) interface for searching and locating those holdings. It includes additional modules such as serials check-in and acquisitions for ordering new items as well as a module to circulate those items to the public and a way to create various reports. It may include other features, too, such as a repository for digital images.

There’s always discussion in library circles about the catalog and what it should be and for whom. Perhaps in a few years, there will be a different set of initials to contemplate.