Friday, May 28, 2010

Something to look forward to

In a couple weeks or so, I will have a new computer, my first desktop PC in 8 years. I've been saving up for it for two years and can't wait to get it - I hope everything goes ok. It took quite a bit of time on the phone to get the whole "being shipped to a different address than the billing address" part to work out, but I'd rather deal with that than having to take a couple days off, one day for the monitor and one for the computer itself, just to wait around for the FedEx guy.

The nifty thing about having to order this over the phone (because of the address complications) is that I discovered that I get an additional discount for working for Tarleton, so the whole thing was $100 cheaper than I originally thought it would be. Yay! It's not just Dell that gives us discounts, it's HP, too.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The reference desk, aka the research vending machine

I'm sure people who work at the reference desk more regularly than I do have had this happen to them plenty of times before, but the Unshelved comic for today reminds me of one particular experience at the reference desk I had. I don't know how much of it people retain, but I usually try to make sure that I talk about what I'm doing as I do searches for people - maybe they're actually paying attention, maybe they're not, but usually they at least stick around and look like they're paying attention.

This one particular time I'm thinking of, the person didn't even do that. I started to do the search based on what they first told me when they walked up to the desk, looked up to ask for some clarification on a few things, and saw them walking away to go sit at one of the computers. Which automatically made me think, "so, what am I, the research vending machine?" I managed to get the guy to actually come back to the reference desk (I also offered to help him do stuff at his computer, on the off chance he was worried he might lose his computer to someone), and then I found out that he was actually part of a two-person group. The second person stuck around with me to watch me search and clarify things as I searched, and the first person walked off again.

I wonder how common this sort of thing is? I had never had someone come up to me before, tell me what they were researching, and just go to a computer while I was in the middle of searching databases for them.

I can't remember at what time of year this happened. Maybe it's more common during finals time?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wiki updates on series searching

Today I updated our Staff Wiki with all kinds of new information about series title searching, although a lot of it won't really be true until the database gets reindexed (after the reindexing, I'll be adding another illustrative image to the stuff I wrote in the wiki). However, I'm really excited about the recent changes Tracy and I did - I hope they'll make our series title browse more useful. At the very least, the changes cleared up a lot of inconsistencies we had in our settings - always a big "yay" in my book. It's no wonder I had so much trouble wrapping my brain around the way our series browse searching works.

Unrelated to the actual content of the wiki page ("Catalog Records", which should probably be renamed, but I can't figure out what would be better), I'm also happy I managed to add a table of contents to the page. I have a feeling the page will get pretty unwieldy in the future, and a table of contents should help deal with that a bit.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

RDA Update webinar

Today's Amigos "RDA Update" webinar was quite good, although a bit (more than a bit?) biased against RDA. It's the first RDA presentation I've attended that included a list of some of the primary changes RDA is making to bibliographic records (although, since RDA has not officially come out yet, even this is still technically preliminary).

Whether the general cataloging community will implement RDA is still up in the air. If it doesn't, I doubt we'll adopt it either. I'm still waiting to see how things will go with the Library of Congress, how SirsiDynix plans to adapt to it, and whether we can afford it (although recent changes to the pricing may help with that, as long as everyone at DSL is ok with only one RDA Toolkit user at a time - the paper version is a last resort, because it's monstrous and doesn't have an index).

Although RDA obviously directly affects me, because cataloging is a big part of my job, it will affect others at DSL as well if we implement it. Those who do some cataloging will need to know about it and how it differs from AACR2 - part of the reason why it's a little frustrating that I'm always the only one at RDA information sessions. I suppose I'll need to put together training sessions or something.

It's not just people who catalog who will be affected, however. RDA will very much affect how our records look and, if SirsiDynix gets its act together, it will very much affect how searching works. Yes, that means reference librarians will have to know what's going on, too, and even users (for whom most cataloging changes probably usually go unnoticed) will likely realize something has changed, even if all they consciously notice is the superficial changes.

Here's what we can look forward to so far (warning, cataloger jargon-heavy - I'll need to do a less jargon-y list for the staff blog at some point). I don't mention FRBR at all, although it's very important. I'd like to look at a FRBRized demo catalog that was mentioned in the webinar before I bring it up in relation to RDA and the future of catalog searching. So, record changes:
  1. GMD (General Material Designations) in the 245 fields are going away. That means that something that was previously "Clinical microbiology [videorecording]." will become "Clinical microbiology." RDA assumes that you have an OPAC that graphically displays what an item is. If we implement RDA, unless we also implement item type graphics, I will have to edit every record that would previously have had a GMD so that it once again has a GMD, unless we can figure out some kind of workaround that can draw from the three new MARC field that will be taking the place of 245 subfield h.
  2. The "rule of three" is gone. Now, either every author/contributor will be recorded, or, at the very least, the bit that formerly said "et al." will say something like "and 5 others." Each library will have to decide for itself how many names they wish to record and how many they will wish to trace, potentially resulting in the need for even more local editing than is currently necessary. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this change.
  3. "Editor as author" is now ok. I'm assuming this means that an editor can be used as a main entry. Compiler can be used as main entry, too.
  4. All abbreviations that are not actually used on the item itself are abolished. Everything will be spelled out. "Ed." will be "edition", "Dept." will be "Department". You get the idea.
  5. Cryptic/Latin terms like s.l. and s.n. will no longer be used. Instead, "place not given" and "name not given" will be used (unless you're at a non-English speaking library, in which case you'll be cataloging in whatever language is spoken by your user base).
  6. Authority records will be changing, although I'm not quite sure how. They'll have more information in them, at any rate, although I don't know that anyone but catalogers will notice.
  7. There will no longer be any need to justify headings in records. That means that, if you think it's appropriate to add a name heading to a record, you can, even if that name is mentioned nowhere else in the record. It's a freeing idea for a cataloger, but it could also potentially cause problems in terms of record sharing and future record maintenance, since it would not be immediately apparent why the headings were used and what their usefulness, or not, is.

That's all I can think of for now. As far as the immediate use/understandability issues go, I'm most concerned about the lack of GMD, because of the way our OPAC is set up to display our records - true, I can choose to enter "hybrid RDA" records into our system, but I'd like to have to do less record editing, not more. As far as the rest of it goes, the thought of all that typing exhausts me. I can understand why some users might like some of the changes, but I, as the one responsible for doing all that cataloging, am not happy about the amount of time things will probably take. I'm not sure how many headings (for instance, authors) I'll prefer to have us trace - it wouldn't take too much time, if I did a sloppy job of it and didn't check each heading I added against available authority records, but it would take quite a bit of time if I did a good job of it.

I'm really interested to see what SirsiDynix will do after RDA is released. Of course, it may take a few years before anything happens. It's at least comforting to learn that SirsiDynix is one of the ILS vendors involved in the testing of RDA.