Helen Williams: From Cataloguer to Manager

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’.

Further details and booking: https://beginningcataloguing.teachable.com/p/general-seminar-march

N.B. Subscribers to Beginning Cataloguing Monthly will receive a discount code for this seminar in the next issue, which will be sent out at the end of February. It is free to subscribe to BCM, and we never use your email address for anything other than sending out the newsletter itself.

Event Report: Ahava Cohen on Internationalising RDA

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 RSC has a page on its website dedicated to its Internationalization Principles, which opens with the paragraph:

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?

If you are interested in these issues, you might like to read the report Ahava prepared for the RSC on Western and Christian Bias in RDA. If you are active in cataloguing and have encountered examples of bias, you might contribute to this ongoing survey Ahava is running.

As Violet Fox said to Ahava on Twitter after her seminar, “Thank you for sharing your efforts so far. I’m glad to have you leading this important work!”

Katharine Schopflin on Organisational Knowledge

Katharine Schopflin speaks from the podium at the SLA Europe Conference

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.

Further details and booking: https://beginningcataloguing.teachable.com/p/general-seminar-february

Image: Katharine speaking at the SLA Europe Conference in September 2019.

German Bookbinders in London in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Dr Karen Limper-Herz

We are delighted to welcome Dr Karen Limper-Herz to lead our Book History seminar in February.

Dr Karen Limper-Herz is Lead Curator, Incunabula and Sixteenth Century Printed Books at the British Library. She is the Hon. Secretary and a Vice-President of the Bibliographical Society and a faculty member of Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.

A number of German nationals or craftsmen of German origin worked in the London book trade in the 18th and 19th centuries, for example, as bookbinders, publishers or booksellers, and they were often rather successful. This talk will look at some of the most important German binders in London during this period and their influence on the binding trade at the time. It will be richly illustrated with examples of their work.

This is an entirely synchronous seminar: no preparation in advance (except for the speaker, obviously), no recordings afterwards, just an expert speaker talking on Zoom for around half and hour followed by group discussion and chat.

Further details and booking: https://beginningcataloguing.teachable.com/p/bookhistory-seminar-february

Event Report: LGBTQ+ Publishing History

On 13 January, I attended the Book History Seminar on UK LGBTQ+ Publishing History.

The speaker was Christopher A. Adams, a writer, bibliographer, and doctoral student whose dissertation subject is British queer fiction publishing from 1945 to 1967 (when homosexuality was partially decriminalised in British legislation). This was a really fascinating talk on the hidden history of queer books in Britain. We were given lots of examples which were immediately added to my reading wish list, and we had ample opportunity to ask questions as well.

Continue reading “Event Report: LGBTQ+ Publishing History”

Event Report: Print Making Techniques in Book Illustration

After the winter holiday, Yvonne Lewis shares what she learned at Krystle Attard Trevisan‘s Book History Seminar in December.

Curiosity about the holdings of the National Museum of Malta aroused my interest in this seminar. I’ve been to many talks on print techniques over the years, so was expecting to come away as baffled as ever about how the ink ended up on the paper in most cases. It is very difficult taking someone’s spoken or written description and turning it into images of how the processes work in your head. Letterpress I can imagine, but it gets more complicated when the speaker is trying to describe the various different offset techniques.

I was pleasantly surprised to come away feeling much more enlightened. As background introduction, Krystle took us clearly, but rapidly, through the many centuries of printing history, from Chinese woodblocks, through the various hand-presses, to modern photographic printmaking. Each phase was accompanied by close-up images of the finished product, plus supporting material on individual techniques. Both were extremely useful in showing the difference between copperplate and intaglio for example.

In her day job, Krystle is in the process of cataloguing c. 4,500 prints. As she demonstrated, use of a microscope or the zoom feature on a modern phone allows her to investigate the images more closely in order to identify the technique used. This must be invaluable as many of us have struggled in the past to be confident in our assessment of images when the maker has been a master of their technique. I do hope that Krystle will do more talks or seminars on printmaking techniques. Although images of her slides are imprinted on my brain, I’m sure a refresher will be required at a future date. One day, perhaps, a good excuse to visit Malta.

Yvonne Lewis

Book History Seminar: LGBTQ+ Publishing History

Our next Book History Seminar will take place on Wednesday 13 January at 1pm.

In this live-only seminar, we will discuss factors affecting the publication and circulation of LGBTQ+ fiction in postwar Britain. We will examine how obscenity statutes and laws criminalising homosexuality impacted everything from a book’s text, to its cover design, to how and where it was sold. Examples will be drawn from the speaker’s personal collection.

Continue reading “Book History Seminar: LGBTQ+ Publishing History”

The Unwritten Book (General Seminar)

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.”

Continue reading “The Unwritten Book (General Seminar)”

Dr Ahava Cohen on Internationalising RDA

Ahava Cohen

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.

Registration: https://beginningcataloguing.teachable.com/p/general-seminar-december/

Printmaking Techniques in Book Illustration

Join us online on Tuesday 8 December for our next Book History Seminar, in which Krystle Attard Trevisan will share her curatorial and research expertise in printmaking techniques in book illustration.

Krystle is the first art historian in Malta specializing in historical prints and book illustration. Her ongoing doctoral research includes cataloguing and studying the only intact 18th century print collection in a public museum of over 4,500 prints amassed by one man. She has also started hunting for Incunabula in Malta with a team of other researchers. She has recently joined MUŻA, the Malta National Community Art Museum that houses the national collection of art, where one of her tasks is to research the prints and rare books that have remained unstudied for years. Her passion is to teach about the importance of printmaking in the history of art and of the book through public outreach and object-based study.

This is a live-only seminar – no preparation in advance (except for the speaker, obviously), no recordings afterwards, just an expert speaker talking on Zoom for around half and hour followed by group discussion and chat.

Full details and registration: https://beginningcataloguing.teachable.com/p/bookhistory-seminar-december