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Mac less

June 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Sad news in the world, J McRee Elrod has died. I thought about writing “shuffled off his mortal coil” or something witty but, I just cannot.

Mac was an incredible man. I met him via the AutoCat list serv. Mac consistently, kindly, and with aplomb answered all questions that came across with his gentle, but firm southerness (he was not shy about expressing his opinion). He founded the Special Libraries Cataloguing. His cheat sheets helped me many a time. When I was a cataloging trainer, these were always on my resource list. When I organized an online RDA conference back in 2011, he was one of the first people I asked to speak. He very graciously did.

There is quite a bit out there about Mac, some written by Mac and, most recently, an attempt for a Wikipedia page about Mac. All can be boiled down to … a wonderful, kind and knowing man who was glad to share his knowledge. I never had the pleasure to meet Mac in person but still hold him in my heart.

Mac will be missed by cataloging community and, well, everyone who knew him.

ARN: 44330

A question for the ages

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

AutoCat (yes, I still lurk about), recently chatted about author birth dates in the authority file and then into the MARC Bibliographic 100 tag, subfield d. You can read the conversation by going to the AutoCat archives for the 4th week of September and looking at the string “Objection to author’s birth year” (I think you will need to register for AutoCat to read it).

I have found the thread fascinating. I can understand the author not wishing easy access to information that could be used in identity theft. Heck, as I accumulate years I really understand not wanting my age readily known (but still want birthday presents, thanks).

The, ahem, “discussion” began with a request from an author to remove her birth information from the files. The individual receiving the request could not do it and thus asked on the list. Then it began. “Everything is already out on the ‘net”. “Information is needed to differentiate names”. For each statement, a counterpoint is posted. OK, actually many, many counter points (we catalogers are not silent…on list servs).

I like Mary Mastraccio’s remarks and the idea of using perhaps “active” date instead. That is, the dates in which the author was most prolific. When I’m looking for other works by an author, I usually am searching for the author, genre, and within the same basic time frame (that is, not 20+ years apart – Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City excepted, of course).

Someone else noted using a pseudonym would “solve” the problem. Uhm, not really. Not only are current ‘anonymous’ authors outed regularly.  Then there was the Diana episode of History Detectives in which the solution was found at the Library of Congress card catalog (am I the only one who’d like to go spend a day roaming thru those cards?).

What is going to happen as we have more robust Authority Files? Gender? Physical Address? Family Information and more – look at the new RDA enhanced fields. Is Occupation needed in all cases? My friend, the brilliant Lucy A. Snyder, is a award winning author but her day job is really not relevant to her writing.  Is it useful to the user? Or should we do as some suggest, record it but use it only in the background to link to authorized versions of the name?

If authority files only worked like they are supposed to…but I’ve nattered about that plenty already.

Sharing is

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Sharing is what we do. It is a major part of The Profession – all librarians share, catalogers/metadata specialists are exceptionally good at sharing. I guess those years in kindergarten were not a waste [grin]

Who else read/participated in the recent CILIP CIG Forum? CILIP is Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and CIG is the Cataloguing and Indexing Group. If you missed their brilliant forum April 18-19, 2011, you can get a summary of the discussion. I urge you to go read it.

Wow. You guys at CILIP/CIG are great! I’ve been in a fair few forums in my life, and of late several to do with RDA. However, this forum impressed me most of all. Why? Sharing. The suggestions and ideas in this forum are lovely, Anne Welsh made quite a bit of sense and stir with her suggestions for training on RDA. I do hope they are brought to fruition. I’ve volunteered to help in any way I can and hope others do as well.

Here are some of the ideas:

1. Let’s ask publishers to provide scans of the information we’d use to catalog materials in RDA. For books, perhaps the cover, title page (and verso), spine, and a bit of information about the book. One cataloger on the list offered to contact her music publisher to get similar for scores.

2. Let’s take those scans and create records based on RDA – putting these records up on a public site with the scans for all to use to help educate. I’m hoping that with involvement internationally, we could perhaps have not just the RDA record but also AACR2, Dublin Core, and all current standards represented to show how each moved to RDA.

3. Let’s do some more training online and more materials available for trainers to utilize in-house.   Seems I recall reading that when AACR went to AACR2, there were bands of trainers roaming the land providing training wherever they went.  With the online capabilities of today, we could eliminate or reduce that need to travel.  There are a plethora of lovely open source options out there for online classrooms (Moodle anyone?). My hope is they do this in little sound bit type sessions – that is, a nice series of 1 to 2 hour sessions that cover a very specific part of RDA. Again, it would be great to have all standards represented and available to grab and listen to the recording as needed. These could be live sessions (always great because of the questions and give/take possible) or just recorded vidcasts. Or both.

The Library of Congress already has many of these things for RDA, including the great AACR2 to RDA examples, but we could expand this!  Barbara Tillett’s absolutely fantastic webcasts are there as are other training sessions but why not add more for other standards, etc.? I mean, actual recorded classes. I’m not asking Library of Congress to do this, I think we should do it, us, the catalogers. I think we  can.

If everyone takes a small part, it becomes doable. It becomes easily sharable. It becomes us.

Ta da! Librarian!

March 23, 2011 8 comments

When people discover you are a Librarian, they often react with shock and awe. Then quickly assure you they too like to read.

Of late, I have been in a few new social situations. OK, the social situation is not new (I am, contrary to the cataloger stereotype, quite outgoing) but the people were new-to-me.

At a concert, I was dancing along to a mighty fine tune. A new friend turned to a stranger and pointed to me saying “She’s a librarian!” Both then looked at me with shock and awe.

At a wine tasting, I was asked what I did for a living. I stated librarian (quite proudly of course). The gentleman did a double take then said “Oh I love reading!”. We had quite a nice discussion about ebooks versus print. He even whipped out his library card to show me, stating “I always carry this with me”.

On a plane, the young lady sitting next to me asked what I did. I stated “Librarian”.  “Oh!” she exclaimed, “I love libraries!” She explained as a college student she really appreciates going to the library and all the resources available for everyone (said she in awe).

I love this. I love that family/friends often call me to settle bets over trivia questions (“Carol, what’s that plastic thingie on the end of the shoe lace called?” “That would be an aglet.”). I love that every day I get to help someone and in doing so, I get to learn something new or see a new point of view.

I became a librarian because I love learning. I love sharing knowledge. I saw Desk Set at an impressionable age and thought “that’s for me!”

Meeting new people and having their reaction of “WOW” to learning your profession helps me keep going when the struggle becomes burdensome. When I read the news stories of libraries closing, budgets being slashed to nothingness, and when I hear other disparaging remarks. We are a profession of service. We are a profession of organizers of knowledge. We are a profession of understated wonder. We will survive and we will evolve and we will carry on.

Here’s more that found joy & struggle in our profession: JoeyAnne’s What’s in a name and The Cataloguing Librarian’s Second career, and the great Life Stories of Librarians Oral History Project. What’s your story?

336, 337, 338

September 28, 2010 2 comments

Or, the RDA types Content, Media and Carrier.

In my last post, Systems and Cataloging, Céline and Jason had some quite wonderful and thought provoking things to say. Go on, go read it and don’t neglect the comments this time!

Céline says what I have heard previously (she also says new stuff and states all quite beautifully), that is RDA is geared to separate the rules from the format. MARC is the format whereas AACR2/RDA are the rules. AACR2 bleeds into MARC (or vice-versa) quite a bit and part of the purpose of RDA is to separate the rules from the format.

Except, of course, that it doesn’t. Did you see the title of this post? Are you a cataloger? Your mind went immediately to MARC and the new fields.  Except these are really RDA elements (attributes?) shoved into new MARC fields. Guess what? Many already refer to them as 336, 337, and 338 instead of  “Content, Media, and Carrier types” . This will continue to happen so long as we have MARC. It is the nomenclature of cataloging and has been for quite some time. Vocabulary is quite a powerful thing.

It’s easier to say “245” than “title and statement of responsibility”.  We (that is, catalogers) tend to use the tags to describe whatever rule OR field we’re working in. Jason did it in his comment – he talked about the Desc which is what OCLC calls the 000 (or ‘leader’) position 18. He didn’t say “the descriptive rules utilized to create the cataloging record.” I do the very same thing.

I know we want to separate the rules from the format but it ain’t gonna happen whilst we still talk about it all using MARC tags or OCLC labels instead of the actual name of the type, attribute or element.

And please know, I am not dissin’ MARC. I rather like MARC. I like that I know MARC, I like that is it easy for me as a cataloger to determine what MARC field has what information and where to record the information I gather about the item I am cataloging. But I do recognize MARC has outlived it’s usefulness. When the majority of libraries stopped using cards, MARC was fairly outdated and continued to be so. I know there are better ways to record the information we currently record in MARC – heck I can look at ANY database program and see so much more is available because of the way the data is recorded.

However, I think that until the ILS, Systems folk and catalogers all get on board and all together we create a new place to put the information … well, I just don’t see the change a’comin.  I hope I’m wrong (and I probably am, I’m truly not that bright).

Psst…if you wandered on this post looking for information on how to use the 336, 337, and 338, go on over to the Library of Congress MARC Standards for the 3xx fields. Honestly you should just go ahead and bookmark the Library of Congress MARC Standards page for reference in the future…

Systems and Cataloging

September 26, 2010 15 comments

Recently I blogged a wee bit about RDA on the web and digressed into a “systems versus cataloging” paragraph or two. Céline commented

 I have recently started having some thoughts/conversations where I definitely see a crucial disconnect between systems and cataloguing, sadly.

Tis true, both “crucial” and “sadly”.    This is not a recent disconnect. It has been there quite a long time. Systems do not always understand MARC and Catalogers do not always know how to program. Some do though, on both sides, which gives me hope.

Jason Thomale’s article in the recent Code4Lib, Interpreting MARC: Where’s the Bibliographic Data?, is a wonderful place to start to see how the Systems person “sees” cataloging.  It is clear as you read the article that Jason did not understanding how MARC worked, the interdependencies, the meanings of the fields/subfields (and the ‘common’ interpretations versus the actual definitions) when he first created algorithms to search the catalog.  He did a marvelous job, his thinking was sound and he tried (which is more than many will ever do). He concludes acknowledging that his knowledge initially was lacking and thus problems occurred in his algorithms.

Back in a library I worked in (name shielded to protect the innocent), the previous cataloger had insisted that keyword searching should only search the 6XX tags. OMG. Really? Yes. Really. When I came aboard in cataloging (to replace said cataloger) I was told the online catalog was basically worthless and not really utilized. I discovered the search problem and worked with Systems to repair the search algorithms. Our hit rate hit the roof (well, in comparison to previously).

Catalogers and Systems need to work together to ensure the best possible searches are executed. Catalogers need to learn how to explain MARC to Systems and Systems needs to understand the Cataloger can help.

So – how will RDA help us make better catalogs? Can anyone explain that to me? I’m seriously lost on how changing the cataloging rules will help the ILS get better.