Helping people build their own libraries

A few years ago, Dan Chudnov summarized his mission as a librarian in one simple statement: “Help people build their own libraries.” I think this statement summarizes nicely my research interests into social discovery tools. For the past five years or so, I’ve been arguing that library catalogues need to be more dynamic and have the potential to be an environment where people can interact with each other and library staff, and discuss and share their reading, listening, viewing, etc., interests, via social tools such as tagging and posting reviews. Social discovery tools have the potential to foster a sense of community amongst library clients. My local public library serves clients that are scattered over a municipality that includes urban, suburban, and rural areas. Not all residents of this municipality are fortunate enough to have easy and close access to a library branch; a number of these residents cannot visit easily their local library because of health, limited mobility, lack of available and convenient transportation, and so forth. From a cataloguing perspective, client tags allow me to determine the extent to which my assigned LC headings reflect the language of the client, as well as their perception of the content of the item. Tags can not only complement the descriptions offered by the LC subject headings, but allow the expression of the the different cultural perspectives of the community, which is particularly important in Canada, where cultural pluarity is an essential and encouraged aspect of our society.

Teaching cataloguing again

After a two-year absence (sabbatical and new administrative duties), I’m delighted to be teaching cataloguing again in the upcoming academic term. Over the past two years, I’ve redesigned the suite of metadata courses we offer at SIM. Given the growing importance of metadata, I thought that our MLIS program needed to provide students with more opportunities to study the theoretical and practical applications of metadata. The core course provides the theoretical framework, but trying to squeeze the practical applications into one course was proving inadequate, especially given the developments in FRBR and RDA, and the growth of multi-media items that our graduates will need to handle in a variety of environments. Registration numbers for both courses are high; in fact, I’ve had to employ waiting lists; I’m gratified that my interest in this topic is reflected in students’ choices.

Probably the biggest question I’m facing, which is, I’m sure, true for all cataloguing instructors, is how to balance two cataloguing codes: Students must now be familiar not only with AACR, but also with RDA. How much time to devote to the two systems? I’ve decided that the first-level course will focus on only AACR; given that most library records exist (and will continue to do so for a long time) in this format, it’s important that they have a firm understanding of this standard. The second-level course is still heavily biased towards AACR (with emphasis on multi-media), although RDA will be covered to a limited extent. It’s not clear at the moment how LIS schools are going to handle the two standards; will we need to add a third course exclusively on RDA? Since RDA has a strong basis on AACR, this may not be necessary but, given the complexity of RDA, this may be wishful thinking on my part.