The old site is redirecting here and will continue to do so for some time. I’ve also added an SSL certificate and begun work on accessibility concerns. I’m by no means done.
I’m planning some content for the next couple of months. Ideas for posts include rewriting position descriptions for professional catalogers, impressions from a first-time ARLIS/NA conference attendee, and posting a faculty diversity statement.
Indiana Library Federation Annual Conference session participants shared many stories about how they explain what catalogers do. I captured notes from that discussion and included them in my slides (below). From those notes, I derived cataloging competencies. Those cataloging competencies include Research and Analytical reasoning–which is no surprise–as well as Judgement and Building trust. Building trust came up in the context of catalogers being trusted experts. Other stories showed that library users trust the authoritative information available to them in the library catalog.
My sincere gratitude to those who came to the session and shared their stories and ideas. I left feeling inspired and in awe of my fellow catalogers working in Indiana’s libraries.
The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS), a division of the American Library Association, endorsed the document “Core Competencies for Cataloging and Metadata Professional Librarians” in March 2017. Whether you are a supervisor, a full-time cataloger, or someone who catalogs only under duress, core competencies can help you draw a direct correlation between quality cataloging and superior service. In this interactive session, participants will learn what core competencies are, how to use them in strategic planning and advocacy, and how to write core competencies that are appropriate for their own workplaces.
To view my speaker notes, view the presentation in SlideShare and click on the Notes tab.
Linked data, RDA, and shelf ready processing are relatively recent developments in a long evolution of library technology, metadata standards, and technical services workflows. Although change has been a constant fixture of the cataloger’s reality, change is nonetheless disruptive—sometimes, bridges burn.
This session takes a historical view of cataloging and metadata creation from the time of Cutter to the dawn of semantic search. The evolution and interplay of technology, metadata standards, and workflows—the tools of our trade—will be considered. What were the roles of catalogers during times of transition? Which personal and professional strengths have proven invaluable over the last century? How does any of this help our community interpret developments in linked library data or user-centered resource discovery?
The presenter will propose a framework for interpreting changes in library technology, metadata standards, and technical services workflows. By viewing such changes through the lens of cataloging core competency, our community might navigate into new territory and cooperate in the building of new bridges.
To view the speaker notes, open the presentation in SlideShare and click on notes.
The theme that jumped out at me at ALA Midwinter 2015 Meeting was the theme that I’ve been most engaged with in my recent work: the fundamentals. Fundamentals of cataloging, of metadata interoperability, of core competencies, of data models, and more. There were many moments during the conference when I thought, “Yeah, this is why I love what I do” and there were a few times when I thought, “Oh, there is a fundamental disagreement in how to accomplish task X–how will our community reconcile this in order to move forward?”
I returned to work excited and optimistic. However, without any post-conference recuperation time, I’m not too confident in my ability to write a cogent summary of my trip to blustery Chicago, so this post will be brief. Below are the highlights from selected programs I attended at ALA Midwinter 2015.
Note: there’s nothing here about the committees and interest group I’m serving on–I know, sorry, I was tweeting the heck out of those events. Once the ALCTS CaMMS Competencies and Education for a Career and Cataloging Interest Group [agenda] and the ALCTS/LITA Metadata Standards Committee [agenda] discussion summaries are posted, I’ll link to them (sign-in may be required).
FRBR Interest Group
An interesting debate that pretty much came down to: is FRBR dead yet? To which the rejoinder seemed to be, is RDA dead yet?
I think the tension lies in the FRBR model’s founding in the entity-relationship model (think relational databases) and the push to move library data to the linked web of data.
Question: What would a catalog made by researchers look like?
Comment: Better cataloging tools. That is all.
Concern: Adding identifiers to MARC record authorized access points in a local database? There’s got to be a better way to scale linking work.
MARC Formats Transition Interest Group
BIBLFLOW project at UC Davis Library works to launch BIBFRAME support in Kuali OLE using Blacklight as a discovery layer. Presentation slides by Xiaoli Li.
National Library of Medicine is researching a BIBFRAME Core vocabulary, drawing upon the PCC BIBCO Standard Record and the CONSER Standard Record profiles. NLM plans to experiment with EAD and MODS mappings and work with Jackie Shieh to test the proposed BFcore vocabulary. Presentation slides by Nancy Fallgren.
The discussion revealed ideological tension in how BIBFRAME development should have proceeded. Some see BIBFRAME’s robust vocabulary as a deterrent to widespread adoption across multiple domain areas (music, audio-visual, archives, and cultural heritage communities). Others argue that robustness is needed in order for data to be semantically unambiguous and that reuse of existing vocabularies is too risky.
Linked Library Data Interest Group
Victoria Mueller [slides] described a BF/Schema.org strategy that games page ranking in order to push libraries to the tops of search results lists.
Nancy Lorimer [slides] gave an update on Linked Data for Libraries (LD4L); project is using various data sources: bibliographic information from MARC, MODS, and EAD sources; person/corporation data from VIVO, ORCID, ISNI, and VIAF; usage data from circulation statistics and citations; utilizes OCLC’s works identifiers; project continues to provide use cases for BIBFRAME and linked data and will result in the development of a Hydra head.
Sally McCallum reported that LC has engaged a RDF expert to review BIBFRAME.
Beecher Wiggins revealed LC’s plan to launch a first phase of a BIBFRAME pilot in the spring: 25-30 LC staff will catalog a diverse set of languages/scripts and formats; staff will create a BIBFRAME record and a MARC record so that production factors may be evaluated.
Paul Frank was confident that the learning curve for learning to use the BF Editor would not be steep and that the true challenge would be figuring out workflows–for instance, where/how authority work would occur.
Nate Trail reported on LC’s efforts to build infrastructure to support BF:
LC has a contract with Smart Software Solutions to create a GUI for customizing (I think) the configuration of the BF Editor so that it is easier to create profiles (one profile for dissertations, one for streaming video, etc.).
LC has entered into a contract to get SRU ready for use on a triplestore.
LC was looking into using Fedora 4 with elastic search in order to power a BF search/display.
Phil Schreur (Stanford) reported on collaborative as well as in-house work in BF:
Reported on the very recent formation (first meeting was the prior day) of a cohort of six institutions that will cooperate in launching BIBFRAME at their institutions: Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and the Library of Congress; the goal, according to Schreur, “Move toward production [of BIBFRAME] in some way, whatever that means.” Group will utilize the tools developed by LC, shared cloud space, and shared resource files (that is, BIBFRAME works and instances). Each institution would work in the context of its own ILS.
The work at Stanford will focus on realigning workflows; Stanford will target vendor-supplied bibliographic records that are handled by acquisitions staff and convert MARC to BF; original cataloging work will be completed entirely in BF–among the questions to work out are do they need to BF to MARC converter? how will they complete authority work? analyze a switch to FAST instead of LCSH (which doesn’t scale to the linked data environment); Stanford will also launch a domain-focused project to produce BF data for recorded performance music.
Ted Fons (OCLC) outlined a high-level strategy for increasing libraries and library data on the web: model things of interest to the web; make things available in structures familiar to the web (Schema.org); improve library workflows by improving discovery (how to do this wasn’t addressed) and reinventing cataloging (cataloging workflows certainly, not sure if Fons also meant reimagining cataloging policy). Fons cited the recently released white paper, Common Ground: Exploring Compatibilities between the Linked Data Models of the Library of Congress and OCLC[link].
Eric Miller (Zepheira) asserted that libraries must shift focus from creating data (minting URIs for vocabularies, etc.); to creating linkages, declaring relationships between data points.
I originally wrote this post for my personal blog, since I’d done this research purely for fun. Ultimately, the post landed on my professional blog, as it lends insight into certain aspects of the metadata work I do. If you like solving mysteries, learning about history, and using visual media to explore issues of race, gender, class, politics, and a whole lot more, read on.
A tweet led me to this photograph from the National Archives: Evelyn T. Gray, Riveter and Pearlyne Smiley, Bucker, Complete a Job on Center Section of a Bomber.
While scanning the image for clues that would identify the aircraft, I started to notice details about the women pictured. Where was this photo taken? Why does this photo seem to be telling a different story than the one this color transparency tells? Who took the photo? Were other photos taken at the same time—and were those photos also digitized?
Research & Metadata Creation
Whether you’re flipping pizzas or creating metadata, the art of doing any job well is figuring out aspects of the work that waste time and fail to lend value to the product. The most difficult pieces of information to obtain when researching archival photographs are the names of persons pictured and the provenance of the photograph. If these details are known, many other pieces of information fall into place. Place names are also incredibly helpful to know when chasing down facts about an image. Figuring out the one- to two-year span in which a photograph was taken may not be too hard, once other facts are known.
Given the information I already had available (the names of the persons pictured), figuring out the photographer’s identity was the first mystery to solve.
Getting to the Source Material
The first rule of image sleuthing is to seek out the original source, if possible. This is often not easy. There’s a long history (long before the internet) of people copying and using images without first obtaining permission or crediting the source/creator. Fortunately, Slate Vault’s tweet included a link to the institution that holds the original image. Seeing the physical artifact would have been optimal; however, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, MD was a little far for a Sunday drive. From the comfort of my couch, I navigated to the image in NARA’s digital repository.
Know What You Know (and Know What You Don’t Know)
The next step in researching archival photographs is assessing the verity of the information provided with the photograph. Photographers are lousy spellers. Some misremember facts about who/where/what they were shooting. And some are flat out liars. Skepticism is encouraged. So what do we know for certain about this image?
The information about this image is provided by NARA–a trustworthy source (your friend’s Facebook feed? Not a trustworthy source: keep digging!). This photograph that was created by the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor. Context is extremely important when evaluating individual archival items. The NARA record indicates that this photographic print is part of the collection, Women Working in Industry, 1940-1945. Other materials in this collection may provide clues as to where the photograph was taken.
Had I not been so preoccupied by the bomber Evelyn and Pearlyne are working on, I would have looked at the series to find clues about location. However, there were a finite number of plants in the U.S. building bombers during WWII. Figuring out the make and model would dramatically narrow down the list of possible places that this photo was taken. On NARA’s digital collections website, I zoomed in on the photo to get a better look at Pearlyne’s worker badge: North American Aviation (NAA). Aha! NAA produced one bomber during the war. Evelyn and Pearlyne are working on a B-25 Mitchell assembly line. 
Only two North American Aviation plants built B-25s: NAA’s main plant in Inglewood, California, and a plant in Kansas City, adjacent to Fairfax Field. I had two possible locations and the names of both women in the photo. My next task was to play genealogist. 
I’m not sure you can call what I do genealogical research (any Finding Your Roots fans?) but I’m a fair couch genealogist and I love testing how much a “novice” is able to find with modest resources. I started with the easiest thing I could do—search via Google. I tried two searches:
“evelyn t gray” California
“evelyn t gray” Kansas
At least a two Evelyn T. Grays lived in Southern California and were about the right age in the early 1940s. I would have found more Evelyns, had I searched without the middle initial. An Evelyn T. Gray lived in Kansas City during this period. I couldn’t find obituaries for any of these Evelyns via Google. At this point, I might have pursued Evelyn a bit more (the section called Finding Folk describes how I might have done this) but I had another person to research and Pearlyne is a far less common name.
I played the ‘what does Google know’ game with the quoted search, “Pearlyne Smiley.” Predictably, all of the search results referenced the image that I was attempting to describe. Searching “Pearlyne Smiley Inglewood” got me nowhere; however, searching “Pearlyne Smiley Kansas” retrieved a hit on Newspapers.com. Even better, there was OCR  of the text available!
I used the browser’s find function, to confirm that “NAA” and “Kansas” both appeared somewhere on this giant newspaper page (“Inglewood” had no hits; “California” had two). I can see from the thumbnail image that there are eight columns of text on the newspaper page. The OCR program read the page faithfully from left to right, which meant that the text of the article was garbled up with junk characters from images and SHOUTY ALL CAPS MESSAGES from advertisements. While the results I got were very encouraging, I needed to see the scanned image of the newspaper page for confirmation. I clicked on the View Full Page button and lo! A paywall. I could not access the high-resolution image.
Licensed Databases at Your Library
Where the not-so-open web had failed me, libraries came through. My institution (a Big Ten research library) pays for access to the ProQuest Historical Newspaper database. I found the newspaper page (nice interface, ProQuest) and, with the digitized newspaper page before me, I confirmed that this photograph was taken at the Kansas City North American Aviation plant. *throws confetti*
This confirmation also means that I can safely disambiguate the identity of Evelyn T. Gray of Kansas City from the other Evelyn Grays I found living in California around the same time. I used a couple of the sources listed below, under Finding Folk, to confirm that Evelyn was born in 1909 and died in 1999. She is buried in Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Kansas City. Confirmation of place means that I can now move onto refining the period in which this photo was taken.
Dating Photographs Using Primary and Secondary Sources
The challenge of narrowing the date range from 1940-1945 (as given to us from the name of the series to which this photo belongs) would require research. The photograph appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier on January 30, 1943. According to Wikipedia, the Kansas City plant began producing B-25s in December 1941—that makes for a 14-month span. Can I narrow this down? When did women begin working the line at the Kansas City plant?
In the course of verifying the location and employee demographics of the North American Aviation plant in Kansas City (a fascinating topic that deserves more research), I found a relevant article from the journal, Kansas History. The article by Richard Macias (see References below) is worth a read, as it provides contextual information about black workers and the war effort. The part that is relevant to dating this photo: women began training in factory production work in March 1942 (Macias 255). March 1942 to late January 1943: an eleven-month span.
Here I got stuck. I found an online store/WWII digital archive containing Skyline, a magazine published by North American Aviation. According to this website, the July 1942 issue has an article with the title, “The Camera Looks at North American – Photographs from all the plants.” Was this article referencing the Women’s Bureau visit to the plant or was this a completely unrelated general interest piece? It’s a stretch. A quick search of WorldCat reveals that the Smithsonian holds this particular magazine; the Smithsonian catalog confirms that the specific issue is available. I could try to get a copy of this article through interlibrary loan but I’m sensing a dead end. Seeing the physical item held by NARA might help; however, it’s unlikely that useful information scrawled on the back of the photograph wouldn’t have been recorded in the catalog record when the photo was digitized. There may be other information in the series of archival materials in which this photo lives and that may be worth checking into if I’m ever in the area. There’s a good chance that this photograph was taken in late 1942.
Share the Love (Sharing Metadata)
Metadata is a love note to the future, as Jason Scott (@textfiles) once said. If you’ve assembled some research about an image, share it! The National Archives encourages Citizen Archivists to add searchable tags to their digital collections. Social tagging is a different activity than the subject analysis that cataloging and metadata professionals engage in (a fine topic for a future post); both activities are useful for discovery, so I used both tags (what the photo is of) and terms resulting from subject analysis (what the photo is about).
I contributed the following tags, using a combination of terms taken from thesauri and natural-language terms that people are likely to use in a search: Women in war, Factory workers, Airplane factories, B-25 Mitchell, Kansas City (Kan.), “North American Aviation, Inc., of Kansas”, NAA, “Gray, Evelyn T., 1909-1999”, ca. 1942, World War II, WWII. The terms I chose and why I chose them (why “Factory workers” and not “Hairnets”?) are topics for another time.
The Work isn’t Done!
Feeling inspired? Disappointed/incensed that none of my tags addressed race (#blacklivesmatter)? Did you find Pearlyne’s birth and death dates??  There’s plenty more to add to this and many other primary sources. Create an account at NARA and start tagging.
For quick, “couch genealogy,” Ancestry.com is the resource to beat. However, Ancestry.com is pay-to-play. Fortunately, most public libraries pay for a subscription. If your library doesn’t provide access to Ancestry.com, head over to one of the many websites that search the Social Security Death Index. My favorite free-to-search option is GenealogyBank.com. You’ll receive the following information from search results: first, last name and middle initial; birth and death years; state of last residence; and state in which the social security number was issued. If you want to see more about a person in the results list, you’ll have to sign up for a subscription. Another free resource for finding dead people is findagrave.com.
Note though, that even official documents, such as birth/death certificates, marriage licenses, census records, service records, and yes, gravestones, are susceptible to error.
Department of Labor. Women’s Bureau. (1940-1945). Evelyn T. Gray, Riveter, and Pearlyne Smiley, Bucker, Complete a Job on Center Section of a Bomber. Records of the Women’s Bureau, 1892-1995. Retrieved from http://research.archives.gov/description/7452275
Good programs at the International Conference on Dublin Core & Metadata Applications–my thanks to all of the folks who organized, sponsored, presented, and attended. My notes are a mess but I pulled together some take-aways, with a few news items summarized eloquently by other DC-2014 attendees. For my own future reference, I’ve included a list of papers that I look forward to reading.
Conference Highlights in Brief
The most urgent work ahead for DCMI and the library metadata community at large: defining BIBFRAME Profiles. Early implementers are testing prototype profiles but more work is needed.
RDF validation is another high priority. I’m certain now that I should have braved one of the special sessions on RDF Application Profiles, even if the finer details would have been lost on me. Also, because this:
OCLC & Friends continue to forge ahead with Schema.org. The Schema Bib Extend W3C Community Group has made considerable headway, proposing numerous changes to Schema. It has also released an extension for Schema.org, BiblioGraph.net. The implications of libraries devoting scarce resources to a commercially-supported standard were discussed in realistic terms; doubts and reservations were readily acknowledged.
Zepheira is offering linked data/BIBFRAME training for practitioners. Stanford announced its BIBFRAME plans:
Succession planning is making way for re-envisioned positions and new opportunities at Princeton, where initial BIBFRAME testing has been performed and BIBFRAME pilot projects will begin in the next calendar year.
And we discovered that we all harbor a love-hate relationship with FRBR:
DC-2014 Conference Paper Reading List
I didn’t attend these sessions; however, they inspired intriguing back channel chatter. My post-conference to-read list, in no particular order:
I have an extraordinary number of browser tabs open, which must mean the ALA Annual 2014 Conference is over. I escaped Vegas as quickly as possible and I’ve been traveling the west (the National Park Service? THE BEST). I’ve been jotting down notes on ALA Annual 2014 that I’ll record here.
BIBFRAME. Are you in? WHY AREN’T YOU IN???
I learned bunches more about microdata. The Understanding Schema.org session was great. Dan Scott and Jason Clark have GOT THIS. See the session’s description and links to presentation slides. Highly recommended. I look forward to future discussions with my discovery folks.
In the realm of not-metadata, the LLAMA President’s Program, “Leaders as Followers: You don’t have to be in Charge to be a Leader” presented a management philosophy akin to one I’ve been trying to live for the last year. Carrie Messina pushed staff empowerment to the extreme through institutionalized storytelling. Lots to think about from this meeting. I can’t change the entire culture of the library but I can change the culture of my own cataloging unit…
There are countless sessions I will need to catch up on. I had to miss every big BIBFRAME session due to one service commitment or another.
The LC BIBFRAME Forum was recorded, so that should be up for viewing within the month. Most of the BIBFRAME sessions at ALA 2014 are listed at LC’s page.
CaMMS Forum program, “Translating BIBFRAME, or, What is all this #$%!?: Making its potential mutually intelligible to catalogers and coders alike”
I gave two presentations at ALA Annual, one on competencies for catalogers, the other on authority data for a linked data future (co-presented with Indiana’s PCC Coordinator). I have lots of notes, comments, and follow up questions to think through–maybe I’ll post them here at a later date. I’m so grateful to everyone who shared their ideas with me!
Annual report time looms. A couple of weeks ago, I did some statistical prep work (hello, spreadsheets!) to help get things rolling. One particular statistical trend stood out.
The chart below (click to enlarge) represents the percentage of new authority records I created versus existing authority records I edited in the second half of 2011 and in the years 2012 and 2013. Quite a turn around, eh?
At the end of September 2012, I trained in RDA cataloging for print books. At that time, the Cataloging Division adopted a new policy for authority work performed by original catalogers: ALL authorized access points appearing in bibliographic records coded RDA must have accompanying name authority files coded RDA.
The number of new NACO records I created didn’t go down (that number actually increased); the number of NACO edits to existing authority records skyrocketed. After enacting the new authority work policy, my average monthly NACO contributions increased by 310%.
The line graph shows how the number of created records and edited records fluctuated over time. A general fall in NACO statistics in August-September and in November reflects my transition into a new job and preparations relating to our section head’s retirement, respectively.
Hashing out the pros/cons of this particular policy change is beyond the scope of this post. The immediate takeaway for me: policy changes can have big consequences, the kind that inspire fist pumps or headdesks. Having a way to measure the impact of a change on timeliness and productivity–before the change is made–is fairly critical. Judging the impact of a policy or procedural change on the overall value of service seems significantly harder.
I thought I’d post a Wordle from a report I wrote recently.The report is the result of a couple weeks of collaborative brainstorming with four colleagues concerning the future of library authority data. Going through the brain acrobatics of imagining a recordless linked data environment that weaves together authority and bibliographic data was surprisingly enjoyable. In retrospect, I realized that I consistently used the phrase “authority data” rather than “authority metadata.” One person’s metadata is another person’s data I suppose. <stale NSA joke omitted/>
On my writing list before the end of the year: cataloging policy and procedure and then my annual report. It’s a good thing I’m finally feeling better. Writing with medicine head and little sleep is no fun at all.
In a clear, accessible writing style, the authors provide a broad overview of the many facets of information literacy: cultural literacy, network literacy, media literacy, government literacy, and financial literacy, to name a few. Each chapter concludes with exercises to help readers engage with the topic and a list of resources for further study. This introductory text will be frustrating for those wanting an in-depth treatment of a particular aspect of information literacy, though such was not the authors’ aim for this book. Welsh and Wright accomplished what they set out to do: develop a teaching tool for information literacy instructors.
The strength of this work is the authors’ inclusion of context for each topic, which serves two purposes: 1) to situate the topic (ethical literacy) in a socio-historic context (university accreditation and faculty tenure) and 2) to relate the topic to a specific library instruction context (fair use and plagiarism). The example from the chapter on ethical literacy reveals the text’s noticeable bias toward academic libraries; however, many other chapters explore themes that are relevant beyond the academia. School and public library professionals may use the themes explored in this text as a stimulus for further thought.