Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Relationships matter: on #mashcat and building the unified library scene

I moderated the second #mashcat Twitter chat last week and it was really fantastic. You can read the Storify of this chat here and poke around the site a little more to learn about the #mashcat movement.

I wanted to talk about building relationships between catalogers and library technologists. Because if you give me the chance to talk about any topic, I will want to talk about building relationships between the major players.

I felt like the conversation was really constructive, but the downside was that I was too busy moderation to answer my own questions. So...I'm going to document them on the blog. 

Q1: What do you see as areas for mutual concern for catalogers and library technologists?

Creating an encoding standard for bibliographic data (by which I mean any data that lives in your ILS) to replace MARC; creating better user experience by building systems that better leverage metadata; finding ways to migrate library-created metadata into the wider world of the Web.

Q2: How can we build consensus in these areas? What stands in our way to building consensus in these areas?

I think that the 'us vs. them' mentality that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago can definitely stand in the way of building consensus. The perceived scarcity of resources can also stand in the way of building consensus.

I think we can build consensus by creating safe spaces to have difficult conversations and to learn from each other. Creating safe spaces often means setting ground rules and creating boundaries about what is (and isn't) acceptable. Becky Yoose pointed people to social rules section of the Hacker School Rules.

Q3: Terminology is often a barrier. How can we move past our specialty’s jargon in conversations with our colleagues? What strategies have you found effective when communicating with your colleagues on the “other side of the house?”

Someone in the chat pointed out that jargon itself isn't the problem. It's the confusion it causes. 

An effective way to eliminate confusion created by jargon is to always offer a definition or explanation of a word or acronym you use in conversation, even if it seems unnecessary or redundant. Don't assume that someone else knows what you know. Even more, don't assume that someone who doesn't know what you know will feel comfortable enough to ask for clarification.

On a related note--check for understanding when you're talking before moving on. Make sure that you're on the same page with the person you're speaking to.

Q4: What technical skills do you think are important for both catalogers and library technologists to possess?

A rudimentary understanding of both cataloging rules and library software; data literacy/data modeling; logical/algorithmic thinking; project management; communication; creating documentation.

Q5: What is the most effective way to share those skills? What would an effective skillshare program look like to you?

I think it would be cool if there was a skill share wiki for people in libraryland. I know that ALA Connect has an Opportunities Exchange, so maybe that's one way to share skills? Anyway, I think it would be cool to have a place where you list what you know and what you want to know. You could find your skill share match. In the absence of that, I think that free or low cost workshops and webinars are a good way to share skills.

Q6: What are the particular challenges for people with feet in the cataloging and library technology worlds? How can the #mashcat community support them? 

I suspect that people with feet in both worlds end up translating the concerns of one side to the other a lot. When it goes well, I suspect it facilitates a lot of productive conversations. When it goes poorly, I suspect it ends up doing nothing to end the 'us vs. them' mentality.

I think we can help support people with feet in both worlds by not pushing back against them and wanting them to be more like us. Instead, let's listen with open minds.

Q7: What do you want to say about building relationships between catalogers and library technologists that I haven’t asked? 

It's hard but important work. We can't build the future of bibliographic description and encoding in silos, which is what I feel like we're doing now.

Stay positive,

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