As is always the way, the best of the discussion happened after the introductory presentation, and it was great to hear from participants what is happening in their corner of the cataloguing and metadata world. The Chatham House Rule applies, and the recording captures only my initial presentation.
In it I talked a little about how cataloguing has changed over the years, beginning with the card catalogue days in which I began my professional career, and examining the core principles by which we still work. Perhaps controversially, I presented a view that while work to add large sets of metadata to catalogues and discovery engines is vital and important, there is still a need for cataloguing at the individual level. There are some materials whose metadata is simply going to be wanted by so few libraries that I believe they will never be cost effective for data suppliers to prioritise other than as a specific project for a specific client. (Note: data and metadata suppliers do undertake such work, and usually with the added benefit that fresh records are added to their wider pool).
We also talked a little about the National Acquisition Group’s report on the Quality of Shelf-ready Metadata (NAG, 2020), and discussed how in it we can see academic libraries following the same cycle we have seen in public libraries over the last 10-15 years.
I’ll be picking up this refrain in a little more detail in the article I’ve been commissioned to write for the next issue of Catalogue and Index, which, like all their issues, will be available open access. It will also contain a piece by Emma Booth on why Metadata Matters, as well as other articles on advocacy for our area of the information professions. I’ll pop a link to the new issue here, and, of course, in the newsletter when the Catalogue and Index editors let us know it is out.
Really looking forward to delivering 2 Quickstart Cataloguing sessions. The first is an introduction to cataloguing for people working in public libraries who come across books that don’t arrive shelf-ready with a pre-made set of metadata.
Note that membership of NAG is currently FREE for public library staff, so do join up to qualify for the member discount and also all the other benefits NAG offers.
Beginning Cataloguing always offers a discounted rate for organisations that support heritage professionals, and I’m particularly pleased to receive this commission from NAG, whose recent report on shelf-ready metadata (authored by Emma Booth) has been such a great contribution to our understanding of cataloguers’ and their institutions’ needs.
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 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.
We’re really excited about our newsletter, Beginning Cataloguing Monthly, which we’re sending to subscribers next Tuesday and which features a range of exclusive content not available elsewhere on our website, blog, or social media.
The lead feature is our Cataloguing Careers series, in which each month we ask a different person 5 questions about their route into the profession. We are absolutely delighted to feature Emma Booth as our interviewee this month. As well as being E-Resources Metadata Specialist at the University of Manchester Library, Emma is the author of the National Acquisitions Group’s report Quality of Shelf-ready Metadata, which is our Metadata Must-read for September.
The Metadata Must-read is one of the Beginnings Bookshelves, which also consists of a Classic Cataloguer, an Associate’s Choice of leisure reading, and a Body in the Library – a new book selected from our project researching crime fiction set in libraries. It’s one that we received as an Advanced Reader Copy, so is different from those on the @bodiesinthelibrary Instagram.
Beginning Cataloguing Monthly also includes a Typo Tip-off and a Metadata Muddle, for which you can suggest solutions and possibly win a free place at one of our upcoming seminars.
All this alongside listings of our events and recent publications, and a newsletter loyalty freebie or discount.