Beginning A New Pace

It’s been six months since Beginning Cataloguing opened for business, although we’d been gearing up and getting things ready for longer, of course. Today’s article provides a brief reflection on some things I’ve learned, in case they are of use to you.

1. Sometimes sense needs to be knocked into me, quite literally

As the title of this article indicates, the biggest change has been one of pace. Attending events for other sole traders and SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises), I’ve been struck by how many people say that they’ve never been so busy in their life, while for me, stepping out of academia has meant a welcome relief from a never-ending to do list and demands from an ever-increasing range of people.

That said, the first few of months I still pushed myself far too hard, imposing a workload whose ridiculousness only became apparent when I fell over in the dark going to the toilet in the middle of the night and gave myself a terrible concussion. Next week will be the first in which I try the normal 8 hour day at the computer screen, and even then, I’ve got Monday off as annual leave. They said it would take 8 weeks to be able to get back to the usual amount of screentime, building from none, through 30 minutes at a time, to a few hours at a time.

Which brings me to …

2. “Failure” and “Letting People Down” is OK when it’s inevitable

I spent a decade feeling I was letting people down. Stop. Think about that for a second. Ten years. And I promise, I’m not exaggerating. Moving from being a cataloguer, with targets that were tough but achievable and a to do list that could be cleared most weeks, to being an academic – a career whose many demands are well-documented as problematic – was not a sensible move for my personality type.

It was only when I hit my head and was incapacitated and so had to let clients know I would be (very) late delivering on some things that I realised I needed some slack in my schedule to allow for unexpected things like accidents. Guess what? Most people would rather receive something late than not at all, and when you can’t use a screen, you can’t deliver on projects that are 100% online. People understand that. (Thanks, people).

3. Everyone offers advice and will tell you what to do

The trick is working out whose advice to take. Fortunately, with the Covid situation there are so many small businesses starting up that there are also lots of professionals sharing experience-based advice. In particular, I’d recommend the British Library IP Centre‘s Reset, Restart programme, which has brought together a wide range of experts to run webinars covering topics from finance and funding, through marketing and even mindset.

Apart from that, I’d say find the friends who listen to you before they speak. Setting up a new business means seeing a gap in the market, and there are many people in comfy employment happy to tell you that no-one will pay for your product. Talking to people in other industries, that seems to be a common experience. I have a couple of close friends who listen first and then offer advice, and their words have been invaluable.

4. Everyone thinks they know what success is

One of my most common questions to friends who are experiencing a setback is “What does success look like to you now?” Whether it’s failing an exam or going through a divorce, we all seem to invest a bit of ourselves in what we are doing, so if those things go wrong it’s hard not to feel like a failure. But the truth is that success not only looks different to different people, but also to individuals at different points in life.

Two statistics that really helped me were supplied by my bank. Firstly, the majority of businesses don’t turn a profit at all in their first 12 months. Secondly, the majority of businesses don’t last more than 3 years. These two things are linked – banks will extend credit to new businesses as long as they believe in them. Most people will be funded in Year 1. Many will have that credit extended in Year 2. Some will have a further extension into Year 3.

So, if you are doing it and keeping going and especially if you are turning a profit you are succeeding in the hard financial terms of high street banking. And, ultimately, they are the people who will pull the plug whenever your business ceases to be viable.

5. People (or at least librarians) will put their money where their mouth is

This is where I get to say thank you to everyone who has supported us so far. I’ve been telling people for the last 5 years that I was planning this business, so if you’re one of the people who gave me advice during that investigatory stage, thank you.

Times are tough and, especially during furlough, it was hard for people to get money for training or to commission reports. If you’ve signed up for a seminar, workshop or online course, or if you’ve commissioned me to do some ghostwriting for you or run a metadata healthcheck before a systems / discovery layer upgrade, thank you.

If you’ve signed up to the newsletter, sent us feedback on it, entered its metadata muddle competitions, sent it on to other people encouraging them to sign up, or in some other way sent cheer (especially the last few weeks when I’ve been so ill with concussion), thank you.

If you’ve postponed an in-person training to the new year because of Covid, or waited for me to finish something I started before the concussion, thank you.

Finally, if you’ve agreed to speak at one of our seminars or to be interviewed for Cataloguing Careers in our newsletter, thank you.

One thing I’ve learned in the last six months is that libraries and librarians may not have much money, but you put it where your mouths are. Everyone who has encouraged me to go ahead with this set up has signed up for a training, commissioned us to do some work, or in some other way kept this little ship afloat without my having to go to the bank and ask for credit. The Micawber Principle is alive and well in the Beginning Cataloguing office (newly-decorated and pictured above).

Moving Forward

Next week, I have a couple of things to deliver to current course participants, and then my to do list says “Sort out writing schedule.” It’s taken six months and a very bad bump on the head, but now I can be on screen again, it’s time to get back on with the books.

Metadata Matters

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✨✨✨Huge thanks to Emma Booth for her brilliant lunchtime seminar on Metadata Matters. ✨✨✨ There’s so much Emma has learned in her cataloguing career since I took this photo a few years ago, and so many great projects she’s worked on @officialuom. I think you can see the focus and attention to detail even back then in this old photo. Heather Jardine (retired Head of Bibliographic Services at the City of London) always said cataloguing is about the attitude, and I think we saw that today – in Emma and in all the seminar participants. The passion for helping other people find things keeps our eyes on the details some others miss! Link to Emma’s Twitter in bio – she’s always happy to chat metadata and I can not recommend her highly enough as a presenter and seminar host. #inspiringcolleagues #metadatamatters #metadata #cataloguing #cataloging #cataloguer #cataloger #catalogersofinstagram #lunchtimelearning #ilovemyjob #beginningcataloguingseminars #beginningcataloguingonlineschool #beginningcataloguing

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Writing Soundtrack, 9 October 2020

Making Manuscripts with Sara Charles

Announcing the first of our Book History Seminar Series.

In this online seminar, Sara will explore the physical relationship between the animals and the human hands that made medieval manuscripts, and how our natural environment can produce all we need for the creation of a book. She will also talk about how going through the processes of manuscript production has enabled her to codicologically ‘read’ a manuscript much more effectively, and offer pointers for ways into historical remaking.

Sara Charles (Teaching Manuscripts) is a qualified librarian who is completing a PhD on Usuard martyrologies at the Institute of English Studies. Having first studied Codicology during her MA Library and Information Studies, she further developed her skills during her MRes in Book History, and began historical remaking as part of her PhD methodology in order to gain a deeper insight into the conditions under which the manuscripts she is studying were created. Since founding Teaching Manuscripts just over a year ago, she has given demonstrations and led workshops for schools, universities and the general public, and this year received funding from the Being Human Festival to deliver an online seminar and workshop on making iron gall ink.

Full details and registration.

General Seminar Series Autumn 2020

23 October: Metadata Matters, led by Emma Booth

Emma will draw not only on her experience writing the National Acquisitions Group Quality of Shelf-ready Metadata report but also on her experience as eResources Metadata Specialist at University of Manchester.

If you love (or loathe!) e-resources, cataloguing standards, library management systems, or “marketing” library services to your users (and senior management), join us to hear Emma’s current thoughts on why what we do is vitally important, and to share your own ideas in the discussion.

Emma Booth is e-Resources Metadata Specialist at the University of Manchester Library, and the author of the National Acquisition Group’s report, Quality of Shelf-ready Metadata.

Full details and registration.

Note: Subscribers to October’s Beginning Cataloguing Monthly should remember they have a 50% off coupon code in the newsletter.

19 November: The Unwritten Book, led by Yvonne Lewis

Yvonne Lewis is the longest-serving member of the National Trust’s team of book curators. As such, she has encountered just about every form of evidence of book collecting you can imagine. In this seminar, she’s going to present on John Bankes’s travels in Egypt, Syria and Palestine (c. 1815-17), which he meant to write up but never got round to. Yvonne will discuss his notes, drawings and a lovely set of litho stones held at NT Kingston Lacy.

Yvonne has worked in historic collections since graduating with her MA LIS in 1992. Over the years, she has taught hundreds of people how to catalogue and supervised many work placement students, often providing them with their first introduction to special collections librarianship.

Her research interests include 17th and 18th century private libraries, book ownership, the reading experience, and maps and globes. She has contributed many entries to the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) and Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC) and recently added to her knowledge of Bibliography and Book History by completing an MRes in Book History at the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

You can find out more about Yvonne on her profile page at

Full details and registration.

Subscribe to Beginning Cataloguing Monthly before Thursday 15 October to receive the subscriber’s 50% off coupon code in the newsletter.

9 December 2020, led by Ahava Cohen

Does RDA represent your culture?

Ahava Cohen leads the Hebrew Cataloguing Department at the National Library of Israel and is in charge of Hebrew policy for Mazal, Israel’s multilingual, multiscript authority database. As such she has a deep interest in making formerly Anglo-American cataloguing codes work for a broader range of languages and cultures. In 2019 she wrote a report for the RSC on the Western and Christian bias of the cataloguing guidelines; the report was accepted as part of the RSC’s focus on removing such biases and internationalising RDA. Ahava will discuss the work involved in identifying bias in cataloguing guidelines and the emotional labour of trying to reconcile the varying needs of language and cultural groups.

Ahava Cohen (Dr. RDA) is chair of the European RDA Interest Group (EURIG) and the backup European Region representative to the RDA Steering Committee (RSC). She graduated with a certificate in LIS in 2013 and her 2019 doctorate focused on the localization of RDA to a country which catalogues in four languages, three of which have yet to benefit from a translation of RDA. Her professional interest lies in balancing international standards with decolonizing and deassimilating the catalogue while maintaining the high production output required by busy cataloguing departments.

Full details and registration.

Book all three seminars for £30 (including VAT)

Beginning Cataloguing Rare Books: Ten Free Resources

It’s the last Friday of the month, so time for our Beginnings article.

With new course Beginning Cataloguing Rare Books launching on Monday, I thought it would be useful to highlight some free resources for cataloguing rare books.

1. Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Books) (DCRM(B)). The main standard for rare books cataloguing is maintained by the Rare Books and Materials Section (RBMS) of the Association of College & Research Libraries and is available to download in pdf form for free.

Continue reading “Beginning Cataloguing Rare Books: Ten Free Resources”

Beginning Cataloguing Rare Books

Open for Booking

Available from Monday 28 September 2020, 20-25 hours of online learning you can complete in your own timescale: reading, watching presentations, and undertaking some cataloguing practice.

There’s an introductory video here, and an outline of the curriculum here.

Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Books) (DCRM(B)) is the international standard for rare books cataloguing, created and maintained by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). It is freely available on their website.

In the days of Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules DCRM(B) was more detailed than AACR2, and so many libraries used AACR2 for their general collection and DCRM(B) for rare books. With the introduction of Resource Description and Access (RDA), general cataloguing has become more detailed and now, with the new version of RDA’s needing application profiles to be created before implementation, small libraries already using DCRM(B) are beginning simply to extend its use to their general collections. There is a helpful Statement on DCRM and RDA from the Bibliographic Standards Committee responsible for DCRM here, and an update on the DCRM RDA Revision here.

The Beginning Cataloguing course Beginning Cataloguing Rare Books: An Introduction to DCRM(B) is entirely independent of RBMS. It’s based on their publicly available materials at and our own teaching examples. We set it up to meet the needs of our existing clients and are opening it up to anyone new to rare books cataloguing.

Thanks to our existing clients and newsletter subscribers, whom we told about it yesterday, places are already flying off the shelf, and it looks like it will be our most popular course so far.

Note: Beginning Bibliography students should check their email for a discount coupon code.

Any More for Any More?

Beginning Cataloguing Monthly ships today: sign up by lunchtime for your copy.

The first Beginning Cataloguing Monthly goes out by email later today, and when it’s gone, it’s gone – you won’t see this content anywhere else on our web offering and we’re deliberately not keeping a public backfile.

Alongside listings of our courses and recent publications, here’s a little teaser, in the form of the pictures we’ve used as section heads.

Intrigued? Sign up by lunchtime to receive the full newsletter this afternoon.