Tuesday, November 24, 2015

We couldn't have even done this if it wasn't for you

*taps mic*

Rachel and I are both Boston-bound in January for ALA Midwinter. So we thought it might be fun to have a Unified Library Scene meet-up.

Okay, so that sounds fun right?

We've been writing this blog for about fifteen months, and we've gotten a lot of great feedback from people about the community we're trying to build. And what better way to build community than to meet face-to-face?

So let's do that. Let's get together during ALA Midwinter and have a drink (alcoholic or not) and a snack and talk about things that are awesome.

We're still in the figuring things out stage of the event, but we'll keep you informed as it develops. If you're interested in getting periodic updates on the event, you can fill out this Google form. You can even volunteer to help us figure out the logistics of the event if planning things is your jam.

And don't worry. It won't be super awkward, I promise.

Stay positive,

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Jams (11/20/2015)

Hello, friends of the Unified Library Scene! It seems like this week took a lot out of all of us and we're losing steam as the end of the year draws near. But, look--here comes the weekend! And what better way to celebrate than with a couple of A+ jams?


So I watched this video earlier this week and, unsurprisingly, this has been in my head all week. My cold cold heart melts completely at 2:34 for obvious reasons. Also, I'm at the party, throwing my hands up but going "no not really."

I heard this morning that apparently the Gorillaz are working on a new album. Which is cool because Plastic Beach was a really fun record.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Whatever I fear the most

Michelle Millet and Jessica Olin, two librarians I admire and friends of the Unified Library Scene, wrote an article for In the Library with a Lead Pipe a couple of weeks ago about gendered expectations for library leaders. It is a really interesting article and you should read it.

Michelle and Jessica hosted a #libleadgender chat yesterday on Twitter. It was really interesting and you can read the Storify of the chat to get a sense of the questions that were asked and the issues that were raised.

One of the questions that was raised was a 'what would you do?' question about a specific scenario: How do you deal with an older generation of women who actively block your work because you are younger and female?

Like Rachel, I think it's fair to say that I've leveled up to being a Mid-Career Librarian. It's always shocking to me to realize that I've had my degree for over ten years because I always feel like I have so much more to learn, and I often defer to people who I believe have more experience than me. More often than not, I feel like a kid at the grownups' table, especially since I've moved into middle management and gotten involved in leadership in ALCTS and in participation in the Program for Cooperative Cataloging.

And also like Rachel, recognizing that I have moved into the middle part of my career comes with certain responsibilities. Most important of those is that I think it's my responsibility to support my Early-Career colleagues and clear a path for them to succeed. 

I have chosen to develop my personal learning network on Twitter, and doing so has introduced me to a wide variety of library professionals, many of whom are new to libraryland. I have had the pleasure of meeting Early-Career Librarians who are smart, forward thinking, and creative. And, assuming that we don't drive them out of librarianship, these Early-Career Librarians are going to transform our collections and services in ways we can't yet imagine.

Here's the thing: it's sometimes really challenging for me to stand supportive and not get in the way of my Early-Career colleagues. Their ideas challenge me and make me feel uncomfortable. In my worst moments, I worry that I'll be made obsolete and that my opinions don't matter anymore.  But just because I encounter resistant places within myself, doesn't give me a free pass to stand in the way of progress.

I wrote this tweet during yesterday's #libleadgender chat:
I do not think it's hyperbole to suggest that librarianship is losing some of our most talented Early-Career colleagues to other industries. We don't support our future leaders as well as we should, which leads to them finding an industry that will.

I think, if we're honest with ourselves, it's because we let our fears get the best of us. We let our fears about being made obsolete drive the conversations about what librarianship should be. We let our fears about our voices not mattering lead to us shutting down good ideas, blocking good projects, and standing in the way of good initiatives. We cling to how we've always done it, because that's good enough.

Mid-Career colleagues, it is our responsibility to work through those fears. Rachel wrote in April about how the future is out there and we have to go whether we like it or not. Our guides to this future are our Early-Career colleagues. So let's work harder to give them the space and support to try new things.

Stay positive,

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday jams (11/13/2015)

This week was pretty great over here on the blog. On Tuesday, Erin wrote a post on using alternative thesauri. Yesterday, Rachel wrote about being a mid-career librarian. It's time to celebrate a job well done with some jams.

Did you know that Missy Elliott released a new track? And did you know that the track that she released has an amazing video? You're gonna want to listen to this a couple of times today, so clear your schedule.

I just want to point out all of the things about this track and this video. All of them. I mean. Life.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Be What You're Like

I attend the Charleston Conference every year, and this year it made real to me changes in my professional life. I knew that I was in a more administrative role now, and I knew that I had strong connections throughout the library community and with the surrounding industries. It wasn't clear to me until last week that I didn't really understand or believe those things. Being in a place I've been before many times and seeing how the experience has changed made me come to terms with where I am in my professional identity and allowed me to confront what that means more directly.

I believe that our personal identities are set at times and, although malleable, tend toward a blend of ideal and reality. In my head, for instance, I am a 24-year-old tae kwon do black belt who hasn't been practicing a lot but can still do everything I could at 18. That's simply not true, but I want it to be and it informs how I want to live in the world (and impels me to make steps toward being, you know, fitter). I am really not sure what my professional identity was to me before last week, but I think it was set somewhere around "I pretty much have some things figured out and I'm doing okay." At the conference, I realized that a lot of people know me, and know me for some of my ideas. I realized that I have important things to say, and that I am in a position to say them, which I was not three years ago. Not the same position. I realized, basically, that I have levelled-up to Mid Career.

Being in a place where it was obvious where I am in my career and who I am professionally made me realize I have a new range of responsibilities.

To Say Something: People know who I am and listen to the things I say. I no longer have the ability to defer my thoughts or opinions to those "more suited" to speak on issues that I am knowledgeable about. It is important that I stand up and say something, knowing that I have a voice that many others do not.

To Do Something: I need to, in my daily life, do more to make sure that my personal work and the values of the organizations in which I work adhere to my values and the values that I want the profession to uphold. In some areas, this is quite a lot of work. In others, it isn't too much. All of the areas are important.

To Support People: As much as I adore being asked to share my opinions on important issues, it is important for me to share my platform with others. I think we need to listen to the experiences and advice of early career librarians as often as possible, and I am no longer that voice, I am the one that makes sure that voice has a platform. As I move more and more in administrative circles, I am further separated from the doing of things, and I will have less authority on which to speak about some issues -- even as my voice grows. I have a plan to work with any (any) early career librarian who wants to speak or write on issues that I find important. I have a plan to seek out voices that others are not hearing. To keep saying things that not everyone has heard and everyone needs to hear.

These things important to do on their own merit, but they also help me stay focused on what drives me in the profession when confronted with a mountain of tasks every day. Taking time to talk on twitter or over gchat with early career librarians invigorates me. Presenting sessions that end with "you need to do more of this" and translating that into "we are going to do more, you and I and anyone else" is something I'm striving to continue doing.

So, what about you? Where are you in your career and what responsibilities do you have related to that position? Are you comfortable there?

Keep Rockin'

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Through the storm we reach the shore

Last week, I wrote a blog post that tried to answer the question: Is there a better alternative to the SACO process of LCSH review to ensure that change happens?

After I put the question into context by talking about the SACO proposal process, I wrote about how the Program for Cooperative Cataloging and the ALCTS CaMMS Subject Access Committee could change their process to become more inclusive.

This week, I want to talk about how alternative thesauri could be used instead of, or in conjunction with, LCSH.

Metadata creation using MARC as a content standard allows for a variety of thesauri to be used in the topical subject access field (field 650). If using a thesaurus other than LCSH, a cataloger can enter a term source code in $2 of field 650 to indicate which thesaurus the term comes from. This list is lengthy, though not exhaustive.

MARC also allows catalogers to employ a local subject access field (field 690). This field allows a cataloger to create a local subject term or to choose a term from an existing thesaurus not included on the term source code list. As with field 650, catalogers should document the source of the heading in $2 of field 690.



Given the freedom that MARC gives catalogers with regard to employing a variety of thesauri, a potential better alternative to the SACO proposal process is to circumvent the use of LCSH entirely. Or, perhaps, to augment the flawed thesaurus with other controlled vocabulary. Using alternative thesauri gives libraries the opportunity to bring language into their catalog that is both more inclusive and more culturally responsive. Alternative thesauri are also a way to negotiate around the fact that LCSH is slow to change when language changes. 

A shift toward using alternative thesauri in MARC records requires buy-in both from the cataloging community as a whole and from individual libraries. As a cataloging community, we need to accept that disciplines and communities often have a better understanding of their organization and of their lexicon. As individual libraries, we need to understand that investing the time in identifying appropriate alternative thesauri for types of material and subject areas is a valuable investment in creating a more inclusive search environment.

If our goal as libraries is to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable space for our users, I would argue that metadata is as important as how we change our policies, practices, and spaces.

Stay positive,

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday jams (11/06/2015)

Rachel is busy being awesome at the Charleston Conference, so I'm holding it down over here on the blog. It's Friday jams time so put on your dancing shoes, friends of the Unified Library Scene.

Stay positive,

Jam the first:

Jam the second:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I don't want to be part of the problem

The #critlib community had a chat yesterday about "dismantling the white, upper class, cisgender, & colonial LCSH." You can see the questions here. I was unable to participate in the chat, but I wanted to say something about one of the questions.

Is there a better alternative to the SACO process of LCSH review to ensure that change happens?


Okay, the SACO proposal process.

SACO is the Subject Access Cooperative Program, which is part of the Library of Congress-lead Program for Cooperative Cataloging. Members of the program may propose new subject headings or classification numbers for review and approval by Library of Congress staff. The process for reviewing subject headings and classification numbers is, roughly, a ten week process that crosses two departments in the Library of Congress.

In weeks 7-8 of the proposal process, there is an editorial meeting that determines whether proposals are approved, not approved, or changed according to existing subject cataloging policies. Summary of decision documents are posted online and are unbelievably interesting to read.

So that's the current process. Does that make sense? Have I explained myself clearly?

I think there are two possibilities here: create change from inside the system or develop vocabularies outside of the system entirely. Let's talk about the former and maybe come back to the later on a different day.

Idea #1:
Given that the SACO program is under the umbrella of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging, I would love to see the Program for Cooperative Cataloging think about how the SACO proposal process could be reimagined. Library of Congress, of course, has a significant interest in how these proposals are vetted because LCSH is a thesaurus that they use to describe material in their collection. But I think that Program for Cooperative Cataloging members also have an interest in how these proposals are vetted because the expectation is that Program for Cooperative Cataloging members will use LCSH in the records they create. I think it would be valuable to have the input of the cataloging community--especially margainalized groups--when considering new and/or changed headings and classification numbers. There are already elected representative positions within the Program for Cooperative Cataloging. Perhaps those elected roles could extend to the SACO process.

Idea #2:
The ALCTS CaMMS Subject Analysis Committee brings together a variety of constituencies, including the Library of Congress, to discuss issues related to subject access. There are several outside organizations that have representation on this group, including the music and legal cataloging communities. I think that one way to change the system while working inside it would be to form a group that meets the criteria for eligibility to have a representative position on the Subject Analysis Committee. I would be especially like to see groups formed from inside ALA's Black Caucus and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table.

Catalogers, as a group of people, do the best they can to perform subject analysis on the material that comes across their desks. But, like everyone else, we do so with the privilege and biases that form the basis for who we are. We talk a lot about "cataloger's judgement" in the field of cataloging, but we talk less about "cataloger's bias." As someone who is white, middle-class, and cisgender, my records reflect a certain context. Cataloging, like the rest of librarianship, won't ever be neutral. But understand why the system is broken and how we can fix it might help us create systems that are better suited to the needs of our users. The #mashcat and #critlib communities are asking us to do better, and I think we can.

Stay positive,