Cataloger Call April 5, 2007Posted by Minerva in cataloging, Library2.0, Web2.0.
With the advent of new technologies, in particular the rise of Web 2.0, libraries have seen a great deal of change. There are changes to services, changes to collections, and changes in staffing. These innovations apply to reference services in the form of instant messaging. For collections, there is an increasing focus on digital collections and electronic resources management. In staffing, libraries are looking more than ever for librarians who can implement new technologies and push them out to patrons.
Even the modes of communication within the profession has changed; librarians now use blogs, wikis, and social networks to collaborate on building new services and improving old ones. As inclusive as these new modes are, there are still many groups in the library community who have not yet joined the discussion. Catalogers are just one of these groups. Few practicing catalogers maintain blogs, and their voice is seldom heard in discussions about the nature of cataloging today.
It’s difficult to say why catalogers have yet to have a voice in Library 2.0. A lot of the professional interaction of catalogers is still carried out on email listservs such as AUTOCAT, RADCAT, and OCLC-CAT. Everything is discussed here: questions about procedures and proper use of MARC, job announements, conference notices, and yes, even metadata and the future of the catalog. Until now, this has been an acceptable tool for catalogers. However, the rapid changes regarding the catalog, and the recent developments and discussions about it require catalogers to add the innovations of Web 2.0 to their repertoire.
FRBR is in development. It has a blog to release new ideas and to discuss changes. RDA is being written by the Joint Steering Committee. The draft for chapter 3 was released in March 2007. There is now even a wiki focused on creating a Framework for a Bibliographic Future.
The Calhoun Report caused a great stir in the cataloging community since its release in early 2006. This report and the response by Thomas Mann were the subject of many discussion threads on the cataloging listservs. Additional reports by the University of California and Indiana University also received attention. The decision of the Library of Congress to cease creating series authority records created a furor. Now Roy Tennant’s recent Library Journal article, “Will RDA be DOA?” is the current hot topic of debate for catalogers. On all these subjects, catalogers have kept their displeasure, in large part, to the listservs.
These discussions are taking place with the new modes of communication brought about by Web 2.0, and for the most part, catalogers are absent from the field. Changes are being made with little or no input from practicing catalogers, who instead have over time walled themselves in the safe confines of email discussion lists. It is time for catalogers to join the larger discussion. They have much to contribute to the current debate and their experience alone should demand respect.
This is not a call to retire the listserv. Listservs are good for simple questions and answers concerning procedure. They are good to gather information on how colleagues organize their workflow. And they are still useful for discussing the pressing topics affecting cataloging today. In this forum, people can form their ideas and receive feedback from others in the community. But listservs are also private and insular. And many discussions amount to nothing more than preaching to the choir.
This is a call to catalogers to expand their circle. It is a call to action. Read librarians’ blogs. Start one yourself. Join the Library 2.0 group at Ning. Create your own Ning group for catalogers. Get a feel for what others are saying about metadata and the catalog. And add your own comments. If you don’t join in, the conversation will continue around you, and without you.