Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The best you can is good enough

I recently began my year-long tenure as Chair of the Continuing Resources Section of ALCTS. I am really excited about this opportunity and l hope we can produce programs and initiatives that are relevant to your interests, dear reader.

There are a bunch of committees, interest groups, and award juries that work in the Section. And as Section Chair, I'm ultimately responsible for the work those groups produce. The way I figure it, the buck stops with me. As the Section Chair, I feel like it's my job to provide those volunteering in CRS the support and resources they need to be successful. But it's also my job to step away after I've done that and let them do the work they want to do, trusting that the volunteers I placed are capable of doing amazing things.

When the buck stops with you, it's easy to feel the pull toward inserting yourself in every. last. detail. of whatever process you're responsible for. And the tighter the deadlines, the more it feels like it would be easier to do a job yourself than delegate it to other people.

In some ways, I don't think that pull toward micromanagement isn't as different in cataloging as it is in leadership.

We often pull records into the local catalog from the national database and begin tinkering with the metadata because it isn't recorded in a way that suits us. We reformulate notes or change capitalization because we want a record to look pretty, even though the majority of the fields in metadata records are formulated in such a way that they can be indexed by our library software.

Shana McDanold blogged about this topic back in April and I think her advice is sound. When editing metadata records locally, put your efforts into fixing what is wrong and adding value in the form of controlled data elements. Tinkering with records to "make them pretty" should be given lowest priority.

I think catalogers feel a pull toward editing records because we feel that what we put in our local library software reflects on us. The buck stops with us, and we want the metadata we present to our users to be of the highest quality. Accepting records that do not contain incorrect information as-is gives us more time to add value to those records or, if no value can be added, focus on creating metadata records for resources that have no records. And I think that uncovering hidden collections is one of the most compelling pieces of value that a cataloging department can add to a library.

I attended a pre-conference at ALA Annual about real world applications of linked data. Our first speaker, Jenn Riley, talked about this desire to locally tinker with metadata. In the linked data world, libraries will be linking to data that we didn't create. And we won't have the option of tinkering with that data to make it "pretty." So, as Rachel reminded us back in April, you have to get used to this.

In my role as CRS Chair, I have committed to not micromanaging my Section's volunteers. I will give them everything they need to be successful and then give them the space to be awesome. I'm certain it won't be easy, but it's what I've committed to do. I will also make sure I am not micromanaging metadata. I will fix errors and add value and then move on. Maybe you would consider joining me?

Stay positive,

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