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Cataloging and coding: more similarities than you might realize

I’ve talked about Code Academy before and it’s a great starting point if you don’t know how to code, or need a quick refresher. However, there is no pressure since it’s not a real project so my completion level is fairly low. I’ll do a lot sometimes when I’m really in the mood but normally I can find something more interesting or pressing to do–like blogging!

At ProQuest HQ, we have a really cool Library Volunteer Program set up that does Summer of Service with local libraries and school libraries. This spring, I joined the planning committee and got asked to update the internal wiki pages with HTML. My coding nerd was very happy indeed! Cleaning up and writing HTML code, what’s not to love! At the UMich Law Library, I worked a lot on HTML websites so it was returning to something very routine for me. Since the project had a deadline and a purpose, I poured my time and effort into making it not only look good for the users but tidying the backend code with the HTML viewer. (Now that I say this, I realize that I don’t use HTML view when doing my blogs. lol Not that I ever do anything complex for posts but that’s the next time to do–hack my WordPress blogs with my own code!)

Now, in the title I promised “cataloging and coding”, so here you are: let’s talk about similarities between them. Most obviously attention to detail, for coding that entails closing all the tags that you open and pairing them up correctly, while with cataloging it’s getting MARC indicators right and finding out things like the title proper and actual date of publication. Both are an art and a science–there are rules and standards yet flexibility and interpretation are encouraged and well used. Also, for the majority you work alone but still work with others from time to time, to engage, make decisions or work together on something. I’d also wager that both require being either tech savvy or tech willing; for cataloging it’s mainly software use and online research skills, while for coding it’s programming and probably online research skills as well. Also, both have robust Internet networks–usually ListServs for catalogers, and web forums for programmers/coders/developers.

However, there are many differences. Coding requires more technological knowledge, like knowing computer programming languages (and yes “languages” is appropriate because they are like foreign languages with their own vocab, rules, and patterns). Cataloging can be and is done by paraprofessionals without Master’s degrees; more complex stuff is done by professionals usually but now with vendors such as ProQuest (like me!) creating I-Level records, shelf-ready items that are fully cataloged are appealing to a lot of libraries these days. Also, coders and catalogers are generally two very different nerd types–geeks versus bookworms; happy hours might not be very fruitful between the two, one cares about the latest Doctor Who episode and the other cares about the 50 Shades of Grey kerfuffle in Florida. Okay that’s not entirely an accurate depiction but many people see those distinctions. Lastly, coding builds something, like a website or iPhone app, and cataloging records information for an item so it can be found. The purposes are very different as well as the end products.

But at the end of the day, I believe if you can do one that you’d be good at the other. Come on you coders, leave loftily FaceBook and come work for a library! Hee hee! Or if you are a cataloger, taking a programming or web coding course; you can always start on Code Academy!

For me, the future looks exciting and bright, with the possibility of cloud cataloging. What a perfect combo of coding and cataloging! Granted that like most ILSs, the code will only be viewed by the Systems Librarian but still I can dream.

P.S. GREAT NEWS! I’m attending ALA Annual in Anaheim after all! Woot! If you read my blog and will be there and want to meet up, drop me a line–or maybe I’ll bump into you at a cataloging or e-book session! If you do happen to sit next to be during a session, though, be warned, I’ll talk about MARC indicators, subject headings, and perhaps even the dreaded RDA. Plus, I’m signed up for a session entitled “Creating Library Linked Data: What Catalogers and Coders Can Build”! It looks so cool and I can’t wait (see, there’s that nerdy side again)! And to think, I planned this post before I knew I was going to ALA and found that killer event. Yea for serendipity!

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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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MARC21 must die–according to one internet user

Aren’t life’s serendipitous moments amazing? I find it fascinating when things in my life suddenly collide. This time: cataloging and Code Academy.

First, have you heard of Code Academy? It’s a website that teaches people code in a simple yet robust manner in order to make the world more code/tech literate. Be warned, once you start it’s easy to get hooked! When I do get around to logging back in and coding again, I usually do a bunch of exercises in a sitting. The chunks are broken down really well so it’s easy to come back to and you do quite a few exercises in a whole lesson. More lessons are added to the site, especially since I started a couple of months ago and now it’s becoming a bigger website.

Today I sat down for the first time in a while and picked up the coding again. After I finally finished another segment (yes!), I stumbled upon an MARC21 lesson. In the description, the submitted says:

This is a project to build a short script to read a raw MARC record and display it in a more readable format. I hope that it gives cataloguing coders an idea of what a MARC21 record looks like under the hood and helps clarify the cataloguer’s opinions as to whether MARC must or mustn’t die. (HINT: it must). For more information about this project, MARC21, and a HTML version of the finished code, see http://www.aurochs.org/aurlog/2012/03/20/marc-viewer-codecademy-project/. However, do note that 1. This project was designed for someone who has done the first few weeks of the Code Year course. By necessity it introduces some new things and an attempt has been made to explain them and encourage the cataloguer to enter the actual lines of Javascript that make up the programme. In any case, the Hints always contain the correct code needed to proceed. 2. Output will often consist of many lines, so sometimes you will have to scroll up in the console to see what has happened. 3. Some lines (including line 1!) will always produce errors, although the script will still run. This is because MARC uses BAD and DANGEROUS characters. BAD and DANGEROUS characters are of course common in the world of cataloguing (mentioning no names…). #catcode @Orangeaurochs

Ha! The purpose of this lesson is to show catalogers just how ugly and messy MARC21 is and how it should be replaced already. I’m sure Orangeaurochs has to be an RDA supporter, since that too calls for a replacement for MARC21. On Twitter, I found his professional blog with a post that explains his Code Academy project a bit more–sweet! Also, he has more links to MARC21 information as well, for a more in-depth look, it seems. I haven’t been following the #catcode on Twitter but perhaps I will now, having gotten back into this once again.

I enjoy Code Academy and I hope you will try it out if you haven’t already. The website makes it learning code accessible to all, and there has been much refinement in the systems and interface that I’ve noticed over the months I’ve used it. Plus, the Q&A tab is very useful so check it out if the hints and tinkering still leave you stumped!

Code literacy–add that to your resume and job skills; it’s not too difficult, promise.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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