ALA MidWinter 2013: Solidarity Saturday

27 Jan

Sitting in Seattle right now, it is still hard to believe that ALA MidWinter is upon us–even having spent the day conferencing all around the city. Though enjoying seafood and 50 degrees, despite some drizzle, is enjoyable!

This is my first MidWinter but it is just as crazy and bustling as Annual, it seems. As co-vice chair for the Cataloging Norms Interest Group, I helped with our panel this morning and it had 60-some people attend. And that’s for MidWinter. It amazes me that thousands of librarians turn out for this mid-year event, though it shouldn’t because it seems to be gaining in size and clout each year.

Today, I attended four sessions, though two were closely related. That is a lot in one day for a conference. Cataloging Norms IG started off my day with two distinct presentations that dovetailed each other nicely. The first speaker, Harold Thiele, gave an in-depth look into the history and beginnings of cataloging, starting with Mesopotamia and Sumer up through RDA. He discussed how title main entry slow progressed and evolved to the form that we know in AACR2 and how with RDA the approach is more with its lack of main entry as we know it. Maura Valentino discussed the 21st century, focusing on metadata beyond that of description and how it affects workflows and process. Though very different, the two talks paired well together and truly gave a complete picture of how far cataloging and metadata have come.

The Catalog Management Interest Group focused on managing catalog workflows, content, metadata, and prepping for RDA field displays. This ended being a more practical session that I first anticipated. Sherab Chen spoke about his new role as an e-resource manager, focusing on personnel tips and his lessons learned so far. He balanced his talk well between a no-nonsence, realistic approach and having an optimistic, can-do attitude despite all of the work and problems that such a job entails. Next, Jessica Hayden covered demand driven acquisitions within an consortial environment. Not having worked in such a setting, I am fascinated by all of the collaboration and discussions that must go on in order for a consortium to function well, and yet there are myriads of benefits to such a arrangement. Also, the distinction of what is done at the consortial level versus local can create either more roadblocks or paved ways, depending on the situation. Sarah Beth Weeks, however, gave my favorite presentation due to her topic of using Google Refine to clean up data in the catalog. For a cataloger, the chance to provide more access and an easier search for the patron to find what they are looking for is the main goal that we all strive to achieve. At their college, rather than amend specific MARC fields to make them all uniform, they added the most common form of a term as a 9xx field for better access. Finally, Roman Panchyshyn closed off the session with his testing of RDA catalog display and how to best make it work for the patron. The 3xx, no surprise, were the oddest and trickiest to work with of the new fields. Since the 264 has a 2nd indicator to help define it, those were easier to display, as were the 502 field labels after a wording tweak. Next month, he will send of his recommendations, basically what he presented at the session, to Innovative in order to get their ILS to display RDA records and fields how they want them, and ensure that they are included in indexing for search results.

After a great lunch break–ALA plans out 1.5 hours over the lunch hour, thank goodness, for no sessions–a back-to-back linked data two part session began. The first hour was informative. Some of it I had heard in Anaheim at Annual but it was a good refresher and parts of it were new information, or said a different way. Eric Miller, president of Zepheria, discussed linked data, tying git in a little bit to Bibframe. Mainly he covered the underlying structure of linked data and why it is an important task to take on as a library community. If all of our libraries were linked data, search engines would include our books and items in the top results pages, allowing users more access especially if they begin their research in the web. Next, Richard Wallis from OCLC talked about all the different projects that they are a part of concerning linked data–mainly VIAF, FAST, Dewey Classification, and now WorldCat linked data. They hope to create a large, more prominent presence on the internet with library data, and are setting an example for member libraries. It is true that if all of the libraries work together, we could make a huge splash in online metadata and set president for all who are part of the web; we have the specialized knowledge and wonderful data, so we just need to make it accessible openly on the web through links that bring users back to the library websites and catalogs.

During the second part of the linked data session, two librarians showed the small-scale projects that they completed using linked data. Both approached the idea differently and created two unrelated yet amazing projects. Violeta Ilik linked her universities math department in Viewshare, allowing for new connections and analysis to be done on the faculty itself, including gender ratios and research areas. One of the coolest part of her data ended being the PhD. location of all the faculty, which displayed on a map. Jeremy Myntti used Viewshare for an entirely different purpose with a whole other type of data. His institution has an online collection of animal sounds recorded in several states. To get even more out of the data, he loaded certain information into Viewshare and was able to display not only a map of locations for the sound recordings but to show pie charts that broke down the kingdoms and genus. The link to the recordings for each animal was included so that a person could click and follow the link to the website with the player on it. Both Violeta and Jeremy said the from start to finish, their projects took no more than 1 hour to create the linked data. Though these were fairly small scale, the implications and ease of linked data are amazing to consider.

What a day! I love attending sessions that sound interesting and I always yearn to learn more while at a conference. That’s why I am here! However, there gets to be an overload point if you pack too much in, especially if you aren’t used to it. Thankfully MidWinter is slightly shorter in the sense that there aren’t as many sessions, so I can conference a bit harder today and tomorrow knowing that Monday will be fairly sparse and Tuesday I fly out before the crack of dawn.

So far it’s been a great conference. Let’s hope tomorrow can live up to today’s standards! We will see that that huge RDA afternoon session brings…

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