Our general seminar for May will be led by Beginning Cataloguing Associate Binni Brynolf, on the ever-green topic of ‘Systems Matters.’
Binni has worked in libraries for more than twenty years, mostly in systems and team leadership roles, and is currently employed as a Digital Resources Librarian.
They have a track record in selecting and implementing new library management systems and over the years have established strong relationships with software providers, and in the seminar they will discuss the things we need to consider when choosing, designing or updating our library systems in order to ensure all our services are accessible and inclusive.
We started this month with a seminar led by Helen Williams (LSE Library) on making the move From Cataloguer to Manager. Harriet Notman has written this event report summarising some key points.
Helen Williams, Metadata Manager at LSE Library, recounted her career journey from public libraries, to business research, to working in higher education and specialising in metadata, to becoming a manager. The seminar was broken down into three parts. Helen’s background, how she moved into a management role, and how the role changed over time. Helen ended her seminar with a look at strategic focus in her department.
Helen started her career working in public libraries in her local area. After her degree in English Literature, she worked for small charities and then studied for her library qualification. Her first professional post was at the Institute of Directors, having been offered the job due to her research skills. Broken down this job was approximately 80% business research and 20% acquisitions and cataloguing. Even though cataloguing was only a small area of focus for this research role it gave her enough experience to draw upon to move into a more specialised role in metadata.
Helen worked for the Institute of Directors for 3 years and then applied for a position as an Assistant Librarian for LSE’s bibliographic services, which she remained in for a number of years. Helen had found her niche in cataloguing and metadata. She instilled in her talk that metadata is a fast-paced area of librarianship. There are constant changes in this field and this allows those who work in this field to build up their skills.
Moving Into Management
In 2014 Helen applied for a Metadata Manager role at LSE. At this point in the seminar Helen gave some great advice on job applications. Her main message was to apply for jobs that you are interested in even if you don’t meet the full skillset. She emphasised that doing this works well for moving up the ladder. No one may apply who has the full skills listed in a job description. Helen also highlighted that employers may be open to training and development for areas that you are lacking in as an applicant. She also mentioned the importance of transferable skills and to be honest in your interview, but to draw on comparable experiences. For example, Helen hadn’t managed in a library environment before, but had at a children’s holiday club. She drew upon this experience and it paid off.
Helen was successful in her application and became the Metadata Manager. An internal move was good for Helen as it meant already knowing the place and the people, but of course she was now in a different role with different responsibilities. It wasn’t only metadata that she managed, but people too. Helen explained the layers of her role from running a vital part of the library, to advocating for her team, alongside focusing on the wider remit and institutional strategy. Building an external support network, Helen found, was extremely useful for moving into a management role. Having others to bounce ideas off, talk to about new challenges, and ask for advice, was very important.
People managing is one of Helen’s biggest joys. An important part of management is knowing your strengths and weaknesses and being aware of these whilst managing. Also, in moving to management Helen not only had line manager responsibilities, but multi-layered managerial responsibilities. Managing people who also managed other people. One aspect Helen emphasised was how important communication is. Even things as simple or as small as letting your team know there’s no new developments in an area you’re working on is vital to ensure your team know that you still have oversight of a project. Again, something as simple as making sure your team can see your calendar and know where you are is lets your team be aware of where you are and so they can find times to contact and talk to you. Making time for your team is something Helen makes sure she does frequently. Not just in terms of work, but also getting to know people personally. Helen promoted that being interested in your colleagues led to a feeling of being more valued and engaged.
Alongside being a metadata manager Helen advised us to take full advantage of exciting opportunities that present themselves. This also helps grow your network and support group. Helen has managed to gain some fantastic opportunities in the library world, including sitting on the Cataloguing and Indexing Group (now Metadata and Discivery Group) committee and writing peer-reviewed articles. Recently, she found herself to speaking at a research library conference for Latin America in Chile (from the comfort of home) with an audience of 750 attendees. How the role changes
In terms of how the role changed over time it was fascinating to see Helen’s growth in responsibilities as her career moved forwards. Before being in a managerial role cataloguing was a large part of what she did at LSE. For example, creating records from scratch and being very hands on with systems. With the move into a management role there came with it a broader view of department and more of a focus on horizon scanning and developing projects. Helen no longer created metadata records and did a lot less with the metadata collection. She did, however, allow others the space and support to develop as experts in their area. Helen knew she had to let go of aspects from her previous role to allocate her time and progress as a manager.
She grew her managerial skills by being able to have an overall view of her team and leave the team to be experts of specific areas themselves. Helen covers a lot in her role and explained to us some of the new areas she was working on in light of the pandemic, including looking at the library’s capacity for occupancy. Being in a managerial role can allow you to get involved with lots of different areas and usually at a wider, more institutional level.
Helen ended her presentation by explaining her Strategic Focus for her team. Having a strategic focus is about having an eye on the horizon and when to make appropriate changes, Helen explained. Metadata encompasses more areas than physical resource metadata, but for the LSE team links to research metadata, the REF, working with datasets, DOIs, and working with the digital library team. I came away from this seminar understanding Helen’s metadata expertise, and those of her team, is adaptable and can be applied to many different areas. Also, the importance of having a base of knowledge in an area and how that relates to managing a team and the skills to develop. Following Helen’s varied career showed just what career opportunities can be available.
Following the interest in Helen’s purpose tree that she shared during this seminar, Beginning Cataloguing is working with her and previous speaker Emma Booth (University of Manchester) as well as Jennie-Claire Crate (University of Kent) to develop a workshop on Demonstrating the Value of Your Metadata. Watch this space, our newsletter, Instagram and Twitter for further details when we have them.
I found the Organisational Knowledge seminar delivered by Dr Katharine Schopflin in February very useful and informative. From the very beginning of her presentation I realised very clearly that I did not really have an accurate idea of what Knowledge Management is.
Katharine’s presentation was very engaging and applicable to every organisation as, using her words, Knowledge Management is everywhere. It is centred on people and goes above and beyond the organisation of information. As the event summary on the Beginning Cataloguing blog puts it, “Knowledge Management claims to be the art of making organisations perform better by finding and exploiting employee knowledge and expertise and controlling the information they produce”.
A few examples where Knowledge Management is employed in an organisation are websites, directories, company drives. It is helped by technology, but technology alone is not sufficient for an effective Knowledge Management policy and engagement.
Katharine explained why it is important to manage knowledge. Effective Knowledge Management enables employees of an institution or company to find out the processes underpinning every aspect of their organisation. This is very effective in combating the ‘silo effect’: in today’s organisations people tend to focus on their own job and do not necessarily have the resources and time to engage with different departments, leading to individuals not having a clear idea of what other employees do and, in a similar way, people at the top of the managerial hierarchy do not necessarily know the details of what their departments do. The implementation of robust and effective Knowledge Management policies requires a culture change that will not happen quickly and can only happen if people in leadership start it by leading by example.
Katharine explained that it is common for organisations to employ knowledge managers but at the same time she stressed the importance of collective responsibility and how everybody can be a knowledge manager in their place of work. How to be a Knowledge Manager? Katharine provided examples of knowledge management activities that everybody is probably already doing without realising it. A few of these quick wins are: knowledge sharing in the workplace, projects showcases, clear links between activities and organisational priorities, and events.
Katharine concluded her presentation with a few aspirations that I re-write here as a takeaway for myself and the readers of the blog: an intranet, new starters process, projects follow up and transfer, active communities of practice, knowledge tools to help people work. These examples portray really well the interdependence between technology and peoples’ behaviours that was a recurrent theme throughout the whole presentation. I used the examples and tips provided to reflect on my role as an information professional and within my organisation, how I relate to colleagues in my team and in the rest of the library, my own knowledge sharing practices and how to make them more effective. Katharine’s talk also made me see some interactions with colleagues in a different light and has been extremely useful in making me more proactive bringing forward new ideas. This process of self-reflection has also highlighted some areas (in both my personal and professional life) I’d like to work on, and suggested ways to do so. Thank you, Katharine, for giving me so much food for thought!
The next seminar in our General Series will be led by Ash Green on 21 April.
Libraries and heritage organisations with a strong focus on collections and curatorship are now using technology to re-work and curate their physical collections in creative and engaging new ways. During this live-only seminar, Ash will showcase a variety of inspiring examples and highlight how online mapping and narrative tools can provide visitors with a new digital route into your collections.
Ash Green is a qualified librarian, with over 20 years’ experience working in public and academic libraries. This includes over 15 years cataloguing, classification, related acquisition experience, and systems work in this area.
They also have extensive experience supporting digital library services offers and resources, including website, social media, and app development and implementation.
We’re really looking forward to welcoming Helen Williams to lead our next General Seminar, on Tuesday 2 March at the earlier-than-usual time of 12 midday (UK time).
Helen, who is Metadata Manager at LSE Library, will describe her progression from assistant and cataloguer roles to positions with a strategic focus, which she describes as “‘beyond our walls’ involvement – having metadata fingers in as many pies as possible.” Highlighting the differences in skillset and expectation as you move up the management structure, she will offer experience-based advice on applications; the pros and cons of internal and external moves; and the importance of having ‘buddies’ at other institutions as part of early career development and the role this plays as you move into management. We’ll discuss making the leap from metadata management to team leadership, including people management and ultimately becoming part of the Library Management Team, with its wider remit and focus, increased institutional knowledge, and necessity of ‘thinking like an owner’.
As a background to a fascinating discussion on the Internationalising of RDA, Ahava shared that she fell in love with RDA as a student, but Hebrew language materials were not covered. Over the course of her PhD, she talked to RDA decision-makers and realised that until she started asking them about it, Hebrew hadn’t been on their radar.
Rather than seeing this lack of awareness as off-putting, Ahava realised that there was an opportunity – within the Israeli and Hebrew cataloguing communities and within the RDA cataloguing community. She’s now the Head of Hebrew Cataloguing at the National Library of Israel and the Chair of Eurig (the European RDA Interest Group), and its back-up delegate to the RSC (RDA Steering Committee).
The RDA Board’s vision for RDA is a global standard enabling discovery of content. Despite ongoing revisions to remove the Anglo-American focus present in the original RDA Toolkit, the Board acknowledges that this perspective remains in some elements and instructions. The Board is committed to improving the international focus of RDA.
It struck me listening to the rest of Ahava’s seminar just how much we owe her for her dedication to engaging with the wider RDA community, not just with regard to the languages in which she catalogues herself (Hebrew, Arabic, Cyrillic (Russian, Ukranian), and English), but in working to open out discussion beyond the groups who have traditionally engaged with RDA (and before it the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules).
One of the key surprises to some attendees at our seminar was that RDA triples (based in turn on RDF triples) do not equate to the structure of some languages, including Hebrew. So whenever we see a presentation that discusses subject, predicate and object (the three forms of triples) as intuitive, we should be aware that they are only intuitive for some, not all, language groups.
Other interesting examples included the measuring of timespans (midnight-midnight vs. nightfall to nightfall); capitalization (not all languages have capital letters), tribal names, and the numbering of leaves and pages. Ahava gave the example of the form Talmud leaf 1A, leaf 1B and so on, which is exactly the sequence any scholar in the field would expect it to be given, where RDA would give preference to a number of pages.
There are also issues around language “ownership.” Who “owns” French? France or Quebec?
Join us next week online to discuss Organisational Knowledge with Knowedge Manager, Author and Beginning Cataloguing Associate Dr Katharine Schopflin.
Knowledge Management claims to be the art of making organisations perform better by finding and exploiting employee knowledge and expertise and controlling the information they produce. But what does that actually mean in practice? In this seminar Katharine will look at how we actually use knowledge and store information in our everyday working lives. She will ask why it is so hard for organisations to find this knowledge and what they could do make it better.
Yesterday, Yvonne Lewis shared the story of ‘The Unwritten Book’ – the evidence William John Bankes left behind him of his travels, and, in particular, a set of lithography stones intended for publication in a book that was never printed in the end.
There are many reasons that these stones are both interesting and mysterious, but the greatest mystery is why they exist in the first place. Lithography was invented in Munich in 1798 by Alois Senefelder, and as Michael Twyman points out in his core text on the topic, “the lithographed book is almost as old as lithography itself” (p. 15). One of its leading proponents in Britain, Charles Hullmandel, set up his press in 1819, and so Bankes’s travels (circa 1815-17) coincided with the very earliest period of English lithography. Hullmandel’s marks appear on the back of the stones, and, as Twyman asserted in a paper he gave in 2016, “Hullmandel can be linked with the stones now at Kingston Lacy in several ways. First and foremost he owned them all, at least initially. Secondly, he made the drawings on some of them himself. And, thirdly, wherever a printer’s imprint appears on a stone it is his.”
Our final General Seminar of 2020 will be led by Dr Ahava Cohen, on Internationalising RDA.
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.
This session was led by Emma Booth of the University of Manchester, formerly of King’s College London and the LSE and author of the recent NAG report on Quality of Shelf Ready Metadata. Emma started by outlining her experience at Manchester and went on to talk about standards and systems and their bearing on the discovery experience of users. The presentation concluded with a discussion of the need and efficacy of advocating for metadata quality. Listening to this presentation and participating in the ensuing discussion gave me cause to reflect on my own habits, workflows and dependencies as a Cataloguer. I took away a number of actions and reminders for myself, a couple of which I’ve outlined here: