Beginning Data Manipulation

Hannah Hillen

This blog post by Hannah Hillen, University of Manchester, provides a summary of Concetta La Spada’s June Masterclass and some of the things Hannah learned from it.

The class interested me because I’m a Metadata Curation Assistant at The University of Manchester Library. I’m responsible for contributing to the provision of cataloguing, research data curation, thesis and eresource discovery and access administration. Although I have 8 years’ worth of library experience across different academic institutions, this is my first professional metadata role and I’m just over a year in. I’m still learning how to catalogue using RDA standards and the MARC21 format, with guidance from a team of experienced and dedicated cataloguing colleagues. Thanks to the ample spare time that was suddenly granted in a new working from home environment, and the shift of training events and workshops to online, I’ve recently had the opportunity to focus on my professional development, cataloguing skill set and engagement with the cataloguing and metadata community, conveniently from my laptop (and comfy working spot of the day).   

In 2019 I completed an MA in Library and Information Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. The CILIP accredited programme was a great introduction to the world of information and I developed valuable skills as a researcher, but cataloguing was only covered lightly in one module on information organisation. Over the past few months I’ve taken on extra training outside of my job’s daily tasks and at the end of July I will have completed the Library Juice Academy Certificate in Cataloguing and Technical Services. Studying the 8 modules has increased my knowledge on cataloguing and bibliographic models vastly, but I’m still seeking out further practical ways to learn. A colleague (and metadata expert) mentioned the name Anne Welsh, her library studies tutor and cataloguing guru. She linked me to Anne’s book Practical Cataloguing and the Beginning Cataloguing Online School. These resources seemed to fit exactly what I had in mind.

The first June Masterclass was offered for free via Zoom, so I jumped straight in. The host, Concetta La Spada, is senior Metadata Librarian at Cambridge University Press and the masterclasses are an opportunity to find out more about the standards and tools Concetta is using as a librarian working in the publishing industry. In Beginning Data Manipulation, Concetta talked us through her use of MarcEdit, the program created by Terry Reese, as described in her recent case study published in Catalogue & Index (available open access here).

Concetta came across as very knowledgeable and was easy to follow. Before the class, I was aware of some of the uses MarcEdit offers, but I have minimal practical experience. The class gave me a chance to see how straightforward it is to make significant batch modifications to data and how to create “tasks” so that the process becomes automated. Concetta explained the importance of understanding cataloguing rules to use the program effectively, for awareness around all scenarios that can be encountered. She positively reinforced the value of good quality metadata and demonstrated the MARC validator – a tool to pick up any errors, cataloguing or structural, within the selected batch, so that cataloguers can see which records are effected and modify the task they have created accordingly. As a new cataloguer this tip provided some peace of mind. During the discussion part of the meeting, other librarians were able to share their own experiences of MarcEdit. The masterclass provided a great introduction to MarcEdit and I have definitely been encouraged to consider what can be achieved with metadata through access to this freely available resource.

I’ve already signed up for the July Masterclass: Beginning Copy Cataloguing. I’m looking forward to Concetta sharing the tools she uses to train copy cataloguers at Cambridge University Press. The second class costs £6 to participate, which in my eyes, is a tiny fraction of the cost of previous online courses I have undertaken!

Joule Library, University of Manchester
The Joule Library, University of Manchester, where Hannah is based.

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