Some things don’t change

My last post was on my return to technical services. I went the route of digital repositories and product/project management. It’s been such a wild ride where I’ve learned so much and am bringing that experience back to TS and specifically cataloging and metadata. There is so much that has changed. Yet, there’s one aspect that is painfully the same and that is how undervalued my unit is. Just recently, a colleague was complaining that catalogers or metadata librarians just fill out forms all day – something an inexperienced child could do. Granted, there is that aspect of the job where yes we fill out fields. This is not some random haphazard approach. Data entry as my colleague termed it is based on national and international standards and best practices. For me, it must acknowledge how this information will be displayed, used administratively, and managed perhaps in a multiple of systems. It’s not just the ILS but how users find materials through ILL, how you know how to batch update records, or use analytics for creating metrics. And yes, I have been known to slip into the copy cataloging coma. However, this is a small part of my work which is rather trying to figure out all these dimensions of how metadata is created and managed to support access, discovery, and browse in a multiverse of systems. When I think about my library, one idea that comes to mind is that we are information brokers or we provide information for our community. People come to us for resources. We have an entire public branch of staff devoted to helping getting people to that information. And yes, sometimes those resources are elsewhere. That information, the resources, or the contracts that allows us access to those resources passes through technical services. We are a core function. Our summers and spring breaks are just as busy as when the university is in session. And yes, our work is distilled to data entry. Data entry is important. Consistent and accurate data entry is vital. Being a core function, our jobs are more nuanced and complex than data entry. The value of our work is allowing us to be information brokers and purveyors of resources. As our technology and resources change, so should our approaches to creating and managing data. At this juncture, I have two questions. Why is it that my current unit is still undervalued? Why is metadata and cataloging still in some circles stripped of its wonderfully complex tasks and contributions to our library mission. As I rekindle this blog, I’d like to start thinking about what makes metadata and cataloging complex. If you have ideas, please share your thoughts as well.

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