I attended the Canadian Library Association’s annual conference in Victoria British Columbia on May 28th to the 31st. The setting and the spring weather were wonderful.
Notice that I haven’t used the usual abbreviation of CLA seeing as for some of my readers the abbreviation CLA stands for California Library Association. The two large library associations which are both commonly called CLA has definitely confused me in the past. Of course, in thinking about RDA, I see another situation where limiting the use of abbreviations where the audience for either a metadata record or a piece of writing moved from the local to international sphere.
This was my first time attending CLA and I wasn’t quite about what to expect. In the previous two years I had attended ALA Midwinter and had come to enjoy the highly specialized meeting and presentation topics as well as the fast pace of the event. In looking at the CLA line-up I was a little concerned that I may not find enough there of interest to me to justify exceeding my professional development account to attend. In the end, I was quite pleased with the conference topics, various discussions I was able to have with other librarians and the ability to network with Canadian librarians and library assistants in general. Rather than turn this post into a review of the ups and downs of the conference, instead I would like to focus on two sessions which I believe were of particular concern to those following this blog. Specifically, I attended a preconference on cataloguing non-print materials in RDA and a session which presented some research on RDA implementation across Canada.
I’ll start off with the preconference session. This session was a full day one presented by members of the Pan-Canadian Working Group on Cataloguing with RDA. In addition to getting some hands on practice with the content being provided, I also appreciated getting an opportunity to talk to both librarians and library assistants from across Canada who catalogue and copy catalogue non-book format resources. It was particularly interesting to hear about their successes and challenges with cataloguing their materials and their progress or lack thereof in implementing RDA locally. I also learned more about the diversity of approaches across library sectors in terms of training for and the assignment of copy and original cataloguing. Rather than do a play-by-play of the fine details of what I learned at the preconference I’ll do a bullet-point summary of my high-level learnings. For those who would like to look at the details, they have been posted by the preconference presenters at this website: http://cla.pwwebhost.com/conference/2014/ . This is my summary:
· Non-print resources have some particular characteristics which are relevant for discovery and retrieval for patrons who use those resources. A generic appropriate to RDA won’t generate useful records for these patrons. As a result specialist communities of cataloguers have been putting together supplementary guidelines for RDA cataloguing for specific formats or types of resources.
· With non-print resources for which contributors such as performers, directors or illustrators are equally or more important than those persons or organizations who would traditionally be found in a 11x MARC field, without the guidelines and an understanding of the ways in which these resources are used, it is very difficult to create a truly useful discovery record.
· RDA’s focus on controlled access points result in a highly useful record but can mean that a significant amount of work in terms of verifying names and uniform titles, for example, can go into creating a single record.
· Based on those who attended the preconference, there appears to be a fairly wide gap between late-career specialist library assistants who do copy cataloguing and limited original cataloguing of non-print formats and the newer metadata librarians who are expected to handle all resource formats and metadata schema. The gap is not so much an age gap, although one does exist to some extent, the gap appears to be with regard to training and experience, vision of cataloguing and metadata creation and an understanding of the role and future of the metadata created today. Because I attend such specialized meetings and sessions at ALA, I don’t generally get the opportunity to see the evidence of the gap. The librarians who attend those specific sessions at ALA are generally doing the same sort of work and see themselves headed in more or less the same direction. This definitely was not true for this preconference and listening to the divergent views and ideas about RDA reinforced in my mind the idea that what has traditionally been considered technical services in libraries is on the upward curve of a massive change.
The rest of what I learned are details which can be read in the documents posted on the website I mentioned previously.
The second session I would like to discuss was called RDA Implementation in Canada (see http://cla.pwwebhost.com/conference/2014/thursday.php#147 ). The session was largely presented by the same people who presented the RDA preconference session. The presentation focused on data collected through a survey done by the Pan-Canadian Working Group on Cataloguing with RDA in the months leading up to the conference. I found the outcomes of the survey somewhat interesting. In general, RDA implementation in Canada is quite low. Exceptions are in academic libraries with Western Canada being a leader for RDA implementation. Those libraries which employ a member of the Pan-Canadian Working Group on Cataloguing with RDA or have a library school associated with them tend to be the most likely to have a robust RDA implementation while libraries in the North and Ontario are significantly behind the rest of the country. Some of the major struggles with RDA implementation appear to be the general lack of resources (time, information, funding, etc) to get staff trained and supported during an implementation.
Questions asked during the presentation and attendee discussion afterward were quite very interesting. Among those libraries who have not taken any significant steps toward RDA implementation, the problems associated with not doing so are becoming increasingly evident. One librarian from a northern special library reported converting RDA records to AACR2 and stripping out valuable RDA coding in the process. It seems that even the smallest bit of information about RDA, what it is, how it works and the ultimate goals associated with it are greatly appreciated by those working in libraries who are somewhat isolated from the bigger picture of what is happening in the LIS field.
In looking at the survey data and listening to the discussions, it appears as though the University Library is among the leading edge libraries in Canada in terms of RDA adoption and moving metadata creation towards the emerging international standards. While this is definitely a good feeling, reflecting on the work that it took our cataloguing group to get to this point and the lack of time and resources some libraries have, there is a concern about what it might take for the majority of Canadian libraries to “catch up”. Of course, not all libraries will ever catch up but if we want to continue to have an exchange of metadata to support the research, teaching and learning needs of our users, we do need to have interoperable metadata and much of that metadata needs to come from small and specialized libraries.
There were other very interesting sessions I attended and even a technical services round table session but I thought that these two sessions were the most important to blog about.