Event Report: Beginning Copy Cataloguing

Jennie-Claire Kent

In her blog post on Concetta La Spada’s July Masterclass, Jennie-Claire Crate, University of Kent, reflects that there is always something new to learn in the world of metadata.

I started working in academic libraries 17 years ago, moving into my first metadata role after 3 years. It is well over a decade since I graduated from UCL’s Information Science course, and in that time I’ve managed a metadata team, written papers, delivered training on cataloguing, and presented at conferences. What would I find of interest in a beginner’s class on copy cataloguing?

Well, there were several reasons behind my decision to enrol on Beginning Cataloguing’s July masterclass with Concetta La Spada. Firstly, following a career break I find myself back as a metadata library assistant, dealing with shelf-ready records from vendors daily, and I thought it would be useful to see how metadata from our shelf-ready suppliers is created. With all the current interest in shelf-ready metadata standards (for example the recent survey and recommendations outlined in NAG’s Quality of Shelf-Ready Metadata report) it feels important to understand the cataloguing process from end-to-end so that we can encourage constructive dialogue between metadata suppliers and their customers. This relationship between supplier and cataloguer feels even more crucial in these times of post-Covid belt-tightening in universities, when time constraints in cataloguing teams mean that records that don’t meet the customer’s standards often have to go into the catalogue uncorrected and there is little time to report quality issues back to the supplier[1]. If we understand the full lifecycle of the records created by our suppliers and get workable standards in place, then we can work towards getting things right first time more often.

Having worked in several different libraries I know that every office has different metadata standards and procedures. There is always something to learn from other people’s workflows though, and Concetta proved this to be true. It is so easy to get into the habit of sticking to tried and tested tools and ways of working without passing a critical eye over our procedures from time to time to see where things can be made easier or more efficient, and the packages and skills demonstrated by Concetta in this masterclass could definitely make changes for the better in my daily tasks. Despite being interested in metadata for years I’d never heard of TLC’s BiblioFile, free software that is central to Concetta’s job and which looks as though it has the potential to be very useful to me in my work too. I have already downloaded it and look forward to exploring its functionality. Additionally, watching Concetta switch effortlessly between multiple packages made me acknowledge that I need to refresh and enhance my Excel skills. The class was also a reminder that I would like to spend more time exploring all the various tools available for free in Terry Reese’s open source MarcEdit package. The series of YouTube tutorials Terry has created during lockdown make this so straightforward that I really have no excuse, and I know there are easy-to-use tools there that could potentially make my work so much easier.

The copy cataloguing masterclass turned out to be a valuable experience for me, especially as the recording of the event being made available means that I could attend it whenever there was time in my schedule. Concetta was clearly very knowledgeable and her demonstration was easy to follow and helped to reveal some of the mysteries of supplier cataloguing. It has reminded me that mid-career library workers can still take away information of real value from beginner’s level training sessions, and in fact it can only be a good thing to refresh our skills, see where we can update our skillset, and learn new workflows in the process. I have realised that my continuing professional development is as important as my initial training, and I am going to take the time to concentrate on this as I move on in my career – starting with August’s masterclass on e-book cataloguing!


[1] NAG report pp 15-16.

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