Friday, November 19, 2010

Listen. Just listen.

There is this meme that is currently circling the part of the Internet that is ruled by librarians: librarians get no respect.

People far and wide have linked to Molly Kleinman's blog post as evidence for their Dangerfield-ian cry.

It stings to read that the perception of librarians in academia is that they are risk averse.

If you're a cataloger, you feel this pain even more acutely when you read the part in Kleinman's piece where the computer science professor called author, title, and date information "useless metadata."

It feels really grim when you put these two arguments together, right?

Risk averse catalogers who are obsessed with metadata.


There has been a call-to-arms that catalogers will get street cred by being more outspoken among their colleagues about what they do. The logic seems (to me, anyway) to be that if we tell people why what we do is important, they'll value the services.

I heartily agree with the idea of getting out of our echo chambers. In fact, I advocate regularly for catalogers to get as much face time with public services staff and end users as possible. How else are you going to learn about the needs of the user?

I think that the best way for us to advocate is to join in the conversations that our front-line staffs are already having.

Maybe it's hard to see how user experience or assessment or information literacy affect you as a cataloger. But think about how much you can bring to these conversations. Who knows the catalog better than you? Who uses it more than you?

I would suggest starting by figuring out what is important to your front-line staffs right now. Maybe it's patron-driven acquisition or scholarly communication. Start by attending a meeting that you've never attended before and listen. Just listen.

Then, educate yourself on these topics so that you can speak intelligently about them with the staff you hope to connect with. You don't have to become an expert on the topic, but at least learn what the core issues are. Even if learning about instructional design won't make you a better cataloger, it will help you make in-roads with the reference librarian you've been hoping to work with.

We, as catalogers, own the perception that people have of us. And we have the tools to change it.

Be proactive. Be visible. Be awesome.

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