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As I was completing my internships in library school, I always found it useful to keep track of my progress and accomplishments with an internship journal.  Often this is part of the requirement for credit, but I think I would have done it regardless.  Otherwise I’m not sure that I would remember all the projects I worked on.  I decided to do the same kind of thing with my research assistantship, though on a weekly rather than daily basis.  I probably won’t post it every week, but here are the highlights from week 1:

1. Logged into the Bunting catalog (VISIC), learned how the database operates and compared the cataloging view and public view

2. Compared the metadata in the catalog to metadata in the VIRCONA database

3. Explored the functionality of VIRCONA

4. Compared images in ARTstor to what is in the catalog

5. Cataloged image sets from Universal Art Images (Abstract Expressionism and Picasso)

All of these things were useful and helped to familiarize me with the database and the procedures of the department.  The most satisfying was the process of cataloging – so nice to get back in a workflow state.

It’s exciting to see how during the past few years the VRA community has become more collaborative and standardized.  Initiatives such as CCO, CONA, and the new cataloging wiki are all part of a process that has been evolving since before I became aware of these issues, but just in my short experience with visual resource management there have been many new developments. 

The larger cultural resource management community is paying attention.  Just recently the Getty Foundation awarded the Visual Resource Association Foundation a grant of $26,400 to use towards “Implementing CCO:  Standards and Best Practices.”  The idea of this project is to develop an international standard that will provide training and guidelines for combining with existing standards.

This obviously signals a greater interest in cross-institutional standards, and the support, means, and interest to implement them.

The Free Range Librarian recently had an interesting post about “Standards 2.0” in librarianship.  Obviously “2.0” has become a catch-phrase for any forward-looking idea.  I’m working on “Heather 2.0” right now.

What is interesting in Schneider’s post – which ends up being kind of a manifesto and what we should be aiming for in the application of current standards and the development of future standards in librarianship (such as collaborative models and looking at standards as works in progress rather than ending points) – is that we have entered a gray zone where these issues are less and less clear cut.  In large part this is due to the other 2.0 buzzwords.  The OPAC of the future aims to be collaborative, integrative, and branch out to the larger  world online.  Standards don’t play very well with these goals.  Particularly (notoriously) clunky library standards such as the AACR slam right into a brick wall when faced with collaborative and interactive models of information retrieval and display. 

It will be interesting to see if RDA changes this environment at all (this is a good overview from Ariadne), but librarians are not known for being particularly flexible in this regard.  Or any regard, really. The article mentions that RDA is about “simplicity”, but it’s also about other un-2.0 things like “structure” and “consistency”.   On the other end of the opinion spectrum, RDA was also criticized for its lack of structure and standards by – surprise, surprise – Michael Gorman in the December 2007 issue of American Libraries.  Gorman reacts to user-generated metadata and uncontrolled vocabulary as though it were the devil’s work, as though any catalog not ordained by Lubetzky and written in the stone that is the AACR2 will burst into flames imminently. 

Maybe we could just leave the standards in their present form, call it AACR2.0 to make it sound like the future, and make everyone happy.  In other words, implement the same cosmetic and meaningless changes that have hindered forward motion in librarianship for too long.

I’m in the process of weeding through the issues and blog topics I saved in the past few months and haven’t had a chance to ponder or research thoroughly. Thanks to a (rather dated) post by Jessamyn West at librarian.net, I was reminded of the Open Library project. As this is an idea still in demo form, it may still be somewhere below the radar. In any case, it’s a fascinating project. A little idealistic for sure (going so far as to make the statement that “the ultimate goal of the Open Library is to make all the published works of humankind available to everyone in the world.” And declare peace on earth. And teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Uh huh.).

Despite its high-flung goals, Open Library does combine several important elements of the best of Library 2.0 brainstorming. It seeks to create an entirely open-source and collaborative universal catalog on a wiki model. In other words, “Imagine a library that collected all the world’s information about all the world’s books and made it available for everyone to view and update.” “It would link to places where each book could be bought, borrowed, or downloaded.” Unlike most current cataloging models, they seek content contribution from the user community (building upon the ideas of progressive libraries that are now implementing tools on their websites that enable blogging, tagging, etc.). This is a powerful dynamic. Power to the people, indeed.

But what about standards? We all know the dystopian fantasies surrounding folksonomy run amock. The proponents of Open Library propose a schema developed on the MARC model called “futurelib“, which is viewable in draft form. Of course, content contributors could not be forced to follow the standards, but I suppose we’re going on the wiki-ish assumption that everyone has the same good intentions.

The main question I have is how this project is going to come anywhere close to its goal of making available the world’s entire published works. The only material available for freely accessible digitization would be work out of copyright, which is a very limited amount of material. At this point, I don’t see how they can go much further than attempting to aggregate all the world’s bibliographic records in one place. Kind of like a universal WorldCat. Still noble, but falling short of the ultimate goal. The availability of a catalog record certainly does not equate with access to the “published works of humankind.” Of course, they do say “bought, borrowed or downloaded.” But how much of a contribution to literacy is it to provide an Amazon link, particularly for the citizens of Third World countries who presumably are the primary focus of this project? Am I missing something?

I was unduly honored and proud to be asked to advise and work on the gallery’s upcoming library reorganization project.  Finally I get to be a “real” librarian! Sort of.

 As I mentioned before, the collection of art-related books and catalogues is one of the main reasons that I was drawn to this job.  I spend time every day doing research in the library.  It is expected that all staff make the effort to become more conversant about topics related to the collection, so reading on the job is not only accepted but encouraged.  I know that’s the stereotype of what a librarian does, but it’s actually a reality in this job.  How great is that?

Anyway, when I first heard that we would be revamping the library and organizing a card catalogue that has not seen the light of day in several years, I had many ambitious visions of the subject analysis I would do and the classification system I would undertake.  The truth of the matter is not quite that exciting.  Though a great collection for localized research in art history and the art of the southwest, the library really is not large enough to warrant a huge amount of effort.  In the past, the card catalogue was created with cards for each title, author, and subject.  I don’t know who did the subject analysis or what standards they used (likely the Art & Architecture Thesaurus), but there’s probably little need to add to it.  The consensus is pretty much to take the path of least resistance for the shelf organization.  Classifying each title would be too time-consuming.  It’s easy enough to find books on the shelf based on a blanket category such as the art of New Mexico or artists by last name. 

 While I’m a little disappointed not to be able to, say, put the whole collection in an OPAC, it is a good lesson in scale and practicality.  There is a balance that needs to be found in all libraries between findability and effort.  How much effort will it take to make the collection as accessible as necessary? Though it would probably also be fun to classify my own bookshelves, I realize that life is short and some things just aren’t worth the effort. 

I am finally able to take a breath after a crazy few weeks of getting over the learning curve of a new job, finishing school and moving.  I have moved now 3 different times this summer.  I am ready to be settled – at least for more than a few weeks at a time. 

It hasn’t quite sunk in that I am now officially a LIBRARIAN.  I am tempted to make business cards just to have an excuse to stick the MLIS after my name.  I haven’t had much chance to celebrate, but it is a relief to realize that all my efforts have finally come to fruition.  I’m excited to be part of the club.  I even broke down and joined ALA.

As my path to this point has been a meandering one, this blog will probably continue to branch out in unexpected directions.  Hopefully I will have a bit of a chance in the next few months to catch up on some reading and professional development.  I particularly want to explore some issues relating to the convergence between libraries, museums, and my new area of expertise – galleries.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the ArtSystems GalleryPro database that we use at the gallery – it’s a relational database that rivals some of the ILS systems I have worked with.  It’s really quite robust and displays images as well (similar to FileMaker Pro).  I’m looking forward to working with it some more and pondering the applications of some of its functionality for future ILS incarnations. 

I definitely have a better grasp on Voyager after realizing that is a very strictly hierarchical database built upon the Access relational model. Unfortunately, rather than setting up the acquisitions/checkin workflow in a systematic step-by-step manner, the Voyager manual leaves the user to his or her own devices in figuring out the order in which the steps must be completed. If you miss one step, you can’t set up a record. It’s kind of like parsing an XML document – as long as the tags are perfect and nested in a precise hierarchy, your document will appear. If not, you must keep going backwards through the steps until the missing link is identified. This is somewhat different than how the Innovative Millennium system is set up, and takes some getting used to.

We ended up having to create a ledger and allocate periodicals funds before any titles could be maintained as serial records. If I had known this from the beginning, the process would have been much simpler. Now it should be fairly straightforward process to add the individual titles as line items. Why couldn’t they just explain that in the manual (another gripe from my inner indexer – the Voyager help manual is very poorly indexed and hard to search). I ended up creating a workflow document for the library to make the process much easier in the future.

As Eumie pointed out today, teaching myself a new ILS and creating a module from scratch will look pretty good on my resume. So…I guess frustration is a fair price to pay.

I also cataloged several records and created holdings and item records. It’s amazing how much I can get done if I only have to work 2 days a week and recuperate with long days hiking. I’m all for abolishing the 5-day work week, at least here in New Mexico.