Collections Services was pleased to welcome Zhuo Pan (潘倬, Pān Zhuō) on August 14, 2023 as Resident Librarian for Resource Description. It has been a busy and engaging three months for Zhuo and the Resource Description Department and we are glad Zhuo was here to share them with us. Zhuo received his Master of Library and Information Science at the University of Washington earlier this year, where he also served as a Library Data Specialist in the UW Libraries. Zhuo received his Bachelor of Library Science from Wuhan University. Though new to Duke in Durham, Zhuo is returning to the wider Duke University community. He worked at Duke Kunshan University Library, both as an intern and as Library Assistant for Technical Services. In his current position, Zhuo forms one-half of the inaugural cohort of DUL’s Residency Program, which seeks to enable recent graduates of an MLIS or related graduate program to gain experience in a highly specialized area of librarianship.
In his position as Resident Librarian, Zhuo describes materials to make discovery possible through the Duke University Libraries Catalog. His work also contributes new and improved records to WorldCat, which is a catalog of library resources from all parts of the world. Because catalogers must learn to use subject knowledge across a variety of disciplines and to apply complex international standards when creating catalog entries, gaining expertise is a long-term process and hinges on training and mentoring. Zhuo brings to his current position experience both with hands-on cataloging at Duke Kunshan University Library, as well as experience with the international set of elements and guidelines for creating metadata for library resources from his position at UW libraries. It has been gratifying to build on Zhuo’s knowledge and experience by working to describe books awaiting description. During his first three months, Zhuo acquainted himself with internal workflows, policies, and the tools and documentation that support these. He also spent significant time assessing and categorizing materials in the Chinese language cataloging queue. This facilitated a training strategy focused on specific types of description, starting with literature, then transitioning to comics and graphic novels, and moving onto local history. For a snapshot of Chinese language books cataloged in the last 3 months, check the catalog. Zhuo provided description for over half of new titles added during this period. The Monograph Acquisitions department, where books with records that are complete in WorldCat at the time of receipt are processed, provided description for the remaining portion.
Most recently, Zhuo has worked on books about art and photography. This is an especially complicated area of description with many special requirements for noting creators and subjects associated with artistic works. In addition, art and photography books often reflect their discipline, meaning they get artsy with how the physical book is presented. This adds an extra layer of challenge to describing the physical resource. Zhuo has come across books that are portfolios with loose plates of images, books with pages that fold out to create larger-format reproductions of photos, and even a book that is sealed in its entirety and needs to be carefully cut open before he can describe it. Following are some photos of recent art books that Zhuo has encountered. I particularly enjoyed working on the book that included parallel texts in Chinese and Russian languages with Zhuo since we each got to use our particular linguistic strengths to describe it. This partnership is just one example of the myriad ways that original catalogers constantly work together to use combined expertise in resource description. Here is looking forward to many years of working with Zhuo to provide timely and inclusive description of library collections.
Hello. I’m Robin LaPasha, a library associate in the Non-Roman Languages Unit of Duke Libraries’ Monograph Acquisitions Department.
From the start of college at the University of Montana, I was drawn into the hobby of ‘international folk dancing.’ I have been learning East European and Balkan folk music, dance and crafts ever since—songs, tunes, dances (and folk costumes) from Russia west to Poland, and down through the Balkans to the Mediterranean. It led me to switch my major to Russian. After finishing that degree, my spouse and I moved back to the East Coast, to Durham. I got a master’s degree in Russian from UNC-CH, where I also worked as a student assistant in Davis Library. Then I completed a PhD in Russian literature from Duke, after a fall semester of dissertation research in Moscow libraries.
I started working at Duke Libraries in 2001, in the Perkins building, Acquisitions department. I handled a wide variety of languages and materials, but later I worked more specifically with Slavic vendors, setting up Russian and Ukrainian orders and copy cataloging. We moved from Perkins to the Smith building, and Duke’s Slavic collections added a Polish approval plan, and also expanded the original Russian approval plan to also provide Russian fiction, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and some Kazakh and Kyrgyz selections.
Here at the Smith building, I order books at the request of our Librarian for Slavic, Eurasian, and Eastern European Studies. As my colleagues do, I select a vendor, and place firm orders for the titles. For approval material, I review the offers from our contracted vendors (along with my selecting librarian), we usually approve (order) most or all of the titles if they are within our plan parameters and budgets, and I pay the invoices. I also communicate directly with the vendors concerning requests and problems (shipping errors, damage, etc.). On the more ordinary levels of cataloging and physical markup of the books, I copy-catalog the books (or send them along for more extensive cataloging), and I train student assistants to apply the labels and markings needed to prepare those books for use in Duke’s libraries.
As far as the “days” of my work, I appreciate the camaraderie in Smith. There are many kinds of good things happening, which stretch across our library’s receipts and processing areas. The first situation is obvious in a library context—every few months, someone in Smith opens a newly-arrived box in their normal receipts and finds what turns out to be a visually unusual and interesting book. Immediately we all huddle around for a few minutes to see it; the urge is irresistible. Or, a morning dog visit to the parking lot is declared, and many of us exit Smith bays 9 and 10 for puppy appreciation.
The second kind of a good thing we have in Smith building is that our teams work smoothly and generously across the departments. For example, on behalf of our selecting librarians, we in Non-Roman languages occasionally place orders with our vendors to be received by other teams (such as ERSA) or vice versa, and Resource Description team members help with original cataloging for our rush titles… it is an appreciated sharing of skills and labor across our Smith bays.
For my own job in particular, although I enjoy both reviewing the orders and processing the boxes of books that follow, I most of all want to get those books ready for transport to their next library destinations—for their next reader.
Our Slavic approval plans begin with Russian, but do not end there. There are multiple vendors, plan agreements, budgets, and languages. The materials have diverse topics in most languages. Those languages are (alphabetically) – Belarusian, Kazakh, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian—and many, many more.
Please join us next week to learn more about these positions and ask questions.We are offering an information session over Zoom where we will share more information about the university, our library, and these residency positions. No registration is needed–just click the link at the listed date and time.This is in Eastern Standard Time. Participants can login as anonymous, attendee names only seen by panelists.
The Duke University Libraries (DUL) Residency Program will be a three–year program providing enhanced professional development and mentorship to enable two recent graduates of an MLS or related graduate program to gain experience and expertise in a highlyspecialized area of librarianship. As a member of the ACRL Diversity Alliance, DUL is launching the Residency Program as part of our organization’s commitment to “diversify and thereby enrich the profession” and “to build an inclusive organizational culture supportive of Black, Indigenous and People of color (BIPOC).” Two Residents will be hired in tandem to create a cohort experience every three years.
This program seeks to provide meaningful work placements in specialized fields of librarianship, aligning the professional goals of residents with the strategic goals of DUL. To this end, the residency program will guarantee professional development funding to Residents to fund travel, conference attendance, presentations, etc. related to skill building and their ongoing career trajectories. Additional professional development will also be offered to residents through both DUL and Duke–wide programming. Formal and informal mentorship opportunities will also be provided to Residents. While an offer for regular employment is not guaranteed after the three–year program, Residents will be placed intentionally with the goal of their positions becoming regular, ranked librarian positions if successful during their three–year terms. The pilot years of this program(FY 2023–2026) will begin with recruiting two librarians, a subject specialist in South and Southeast Asian studies and a resource description librarian with a focus on specialized language cataloging.
Resident Librarian for Resource Description The Resident Librarian for Resource Description works collaboratively with the Original Cataloging Team and with other library colleagues to assist in the creation, management, and configuration of DUL metadata for description.The Resident Librarian will gain experience in applying international cataloging standards to resources in multiple formats and across all subjects in a way that promotes inclusive and effective access, with a focus on a language or languages from the following collecting areas—Middle Eastern (e.g., Arabic, Persian, Turkish), East Asian (Chinese, Korean), Central/South/Southeast Asian languages (e.g., Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, Sanskrit, Uzbek, Kazakh), or Slavic languages (e.g., Russian, Ukrainian). The resident will gain experience working collaboratively on projects and utilizing open–source tools that support better discovery of library resources. View the job posting and apply:https://library.duke.edu/about/jobs/resourcedescriptionresidency
Resident Librarian for South and Southeast Asian Studies The Resident Librarian for South and Southeast Asia serves as the primary liaison for faculty and users in the interdisciplinary fields of South and Southeast Asian Studies at Duke University. The Resident Librarian develops and manages the collectionsfrom and about South and Southeast Asia, and provides specialized reference assistance and instruction. The Resident will gain experience working collaboratively with library staff, students, and faculty through teaching, research consultations, outreach related to library collections, and other special projects. View the job posting and apply:https://library.duke.edu/about/jobs/southsoutheastasiaresidency
Earlier this year, the Collection Strategy & Development department was added to Technical Services. After his arrival, Joe Salem, the new Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs, affirmed that this organizational change, which mirrors existing structures at many of Duke’s peer institutions makes strategic sense moving forward. It brings together collection strategy and stewardship around the lifecycle which is now wholly represented in the division. It is important to mark this change to update the framing of collections holistically.
Since its inception, the modern Duke Libraries as part of a comprehensive, research institution grows daily as scholarship continues, formats change, and culture evolves. Our work is supporting the full resource lifecycle which enables a range of scholarly pursuits. The six departments in the division (Collection Strategy & Development, Conservation Services, Continuing Resource Acquisitions, Metadata & Discovery Strategy, Monograph Acquisitions, Resource Description) are responsible for overarching collections stewardship – strategy and analysis, licensing and acquisition, access and description, and preservation to extend the life and reach of Duke University Libraries’ (DUL) collections.
Within this division, it is important to highlight that we are tasked with working across the collections spectrum. We provide support directly or indirectly for nearly all collections-related programs. We support general and special collections, in English and on average over 80 non-English languages. Of course, we support all formats – physical and online. We provide collections management and/or cooperatively work with all Duke affiliated libraries, and we keep DUL’s collections networked through extensive engagement with its many consortia partners.
With these things in mind, I wanted to note two changes that are effective immediately. First, the Continuing Resource Acquisitions department will now be called Electronic Resources & Serials Acquisitions (ERSA) to provide a more overt understanding of that work. And finally, Technical Services is now named Collections Services. It is a good amalgamation of where we’ve been as well as where we are now. Updates to the directory, website pages, org chart, etc., will all be made in the coming weeks.
Hello! My name is Adam Hudnut-Beumler, and I am a Serials Management Associate in the Continuing Resource Acquisitions Department. When not at work, I love going to bar trivia, playing sports, binging podcasts and hiking. But how did I get to Duke?
In 2017, I came to Durham right after college to start a PhD in American Religions at Duke’s Graduate Program in Religion. During that time, I got a summer job as a student assistant working in the stacks and at the desk at Lilly Library. Somewhere along the line, I realized I liked contributing to the library more than studying critical theory, so after three years I pivoted my career aspirations to the library. Gratefully, in February 2021 I started as a Serials Management Assistant with CRAD. I am also thankful for the support of the department as I also attend the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science. My coursework allows me to acquire data science skills of use to academic libraries and our patrons.
I began my current responsibilities around the start of May 2022. Placing orders, paying invoices, and handling vendor communication make up the core of my job. I also copy catalog and manage the receipt and labeling of Duke’s Government Documents collection. Working constantly between DUL’s order, subscription, item, and holdings records in our current ILS Aleph, the job also requires a diligent eye to ensure our periodicals and serials data and metadata are correct and up to date for our users. As our department looks to the transition to FOLIO next summer, I attend weekly meetings with my Serials Management Team members to advocate for greater serials and periodicals acquisitions functionality.
Recently, I brought my library school learning into my job for CRAD’s annual subscription renewals review project. Starting with the spreadsheets of our open orders provided by our major vendors, I added a column that lists all past-due issues aligned with each order row. I used the principles of database querying I learned in a course this summer to develop a working knowledge of the Aleph Reporting Center. I created a report of all periodicals with elapsed expected arrival dates, and then read that data as a .csv into a Python script which could combine multiple issues’ data into single lines for each order number. After transforming the data, I read the .csv back into Excel and used the VLOOKUP function to join my claimable issues table to our renewals spreadsheets on the order number. With this data readily available, we can identify our problematic subscriptions at a glance and achieve a thorough claiming of the materials DUL promises to provide its patrons.
I feel blessed to work with such a talented team. Our department head, Virginia, and our team leaders, Bethany and Abby, promote open collaboration and communication. We always have each other’s backs in CRAD. The other great thing about working in Technical Services broadly and CRAD in particular is the breadth of materials and areas of the library our work touches. Digital and print, humanities and sciences, East and West Campus,all corners of Duke University Libraries and its offerings intersect with CRAD. Getting to know colleagues across DUL divisions is an added bonus of that variety. With that variety comes a lot of complexity, and the job forces you to have a good memory for DUL’s many codes and abbreviations. SMT work takes you across Aleph modules—Acquisitions, Cataloging, and even Circulation regularly—and requires learning of multiple vendor websites, Caiasoft for LSC records, and external programs like WinSCP and OCLC Connexion. It is work that turns you into a jack of all trades (and master of some). Using those skills to work with colleagues in other TS departments is always a treat—Smith Solidarity! No one does it quite like TS.
This year the Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN) annual meeting was held on July 11th and 12th, and some of our very own staff presented.
Below, please find summaries and slides for two of the presentations we were proud to give and watch!
Continuing Resource Acquisitions colleagues Bethany Blankemeyer, Virginia Martin, and Abby Wickes presented on integrating FOLIO into existing e-resource management (ERM) workflows at Duke University Libraries. The presentation kicked off with an overview of the FOLIO library management system and the workflow improvements the department has experienced after implementing the Licenses and Organizations apps in 2020. Because DUL did not have an ERM system before implementing these FOLIO apps, the department benefited right away from centralized places to manage this data. The department uses the Licenses app to store data about e-resource license agreements, and the Organizations app stores information about providers and vendors the library works with (which had previously been tracked in a variety of spreadsheets.) The structured records for Licenses and related documents make it much easier keep track of information about them, including related Organizations and Amendments, term start and end dates, and various coded terms such as inclusion of confidentiality or ADA language. The department has incorporated these apps into existing Trello workflows to ensure the FOLIO records are kept up to date. In the near future the CRA department also expects to implement the eUsage and Agreements apps, which will also provide workflow efficiencies. Currently the department supports routine and ad hoc cost per use analysis by manually gathering COUNTER reports for major content providers on a quarterly basis. When the eUsage app is implemented, the majority of the usage stats will be gathered automatically and more frequently via SUSHI, which will be much less work. The Agreements app has functionality unique to FOLIO; it’s a place to store information about deals that also acts as a connecting hub for many different components of provider and vendor relationship information, such as relationships between licenses, holdings, and Acquisitions apps. DUL is planning a full FOLIO implementation in July 2023, at which point apps including Orders, Receiving, Invoices, and Finance will replace the current Aleph ILS. This will be a big change, but some benefits include a cleaner, more modern user interface, templates for order creation, improvements exporting acquisitions data, and more robust options for moving POs between instances. Overall, the department is looking forward to having acquisitions and e-resource management data in one system.
The Monograph Acquisitions Transition Team (Stephen Conrad, Bronwyn Cox, Sara Biondi and Fouzia El Gargouri in absentia) with Bill Verner and Natalie Sommerville reflected on the process of change in libraries, and how their experience ingesting and adapting to a new workflow might translate to a larger stage.
In January 2021, physical processing workflows from one department were relocated into Monograph Acquisitions. In order to facilitate this reorganization, planning was done by the heads of the original and destination departments, and a transition team convened to learn the workflows, describe them in documentation, and train their peers in executing them with a minimum of disruption or dissatisfaction.
This was a successful change for the department; it originated with a clear destination, grew out of a strong sense of established trust in Monograph Acquisitions, fundamentally empowered staff to guide the change on their own, and was fully supported beginning to end by management. These strategies, and others that were based in deep respect for the expertise and knowledge of staff were crucial, and shed a little light on how larger-scale challenges and changes might be managed successfully across the library.
A Cataloging in Publication record (CIP record) is a bibliographic record that the Library of Congress provides to publishers. It is included on the verso of the title page of the book, facilitating the processing of the book by libraries and book dealers. The Library of Congress also distributes these records weekly, in machine readable form, to large libraries, bibliographic services, and book vendors around the world.
Publishers submit applications to the Library of Congress (LoC), and the LoC creates the CIP records for the books, which are then sent back to the publisher. This is a service offered to publishers at no other cost than sending a complimentary copy of the books summited for CIP to the LoC. Only U.S. publishers are eligible to participate in the CIP Program. To qualify for the program, every publisher must have a list of at least three titles by three different authors, and these titles must have been acquired by a minimum of 1,000 U.S. libraries.
The program was established in 1971. A year later the LoC partnered with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to provide CIPs. Through the years, other 32 United States libraries have joined the CIP Partnership Program of the LoC. Duke University Libraries (DUL) joined in 2008 and agreed to provide the CIPs for the books published by Duke University Press (DUP). In most cases, the partner library catalogs the books published by its own institution. For many years the CIP Program focused only on print publications. From October 2011, the program broadened its scope to include titles published in electronic and print format simultaneously. All partners libraries are NACO and BIBCO members, thus guaranteeing the quality of the cataloging.
When Duke joined the CIP Partnership Program in 2008, the Library of Congress provided a Windows based Text Capture and Electronic Conversion (TCEC) application called On the Marc. This software was developed by Library of Congress’ staff to produce MARC21 records from electronic data. The manuscript files submitted by publishers provide the source of the electronic data for the CIP records. On the Marc was configured specifically for use with the OCLC Connexion cataloging client. After the cataloger completed a preliminary record using On the MARC, the record was sent to the OCLC Connexion client, where the cataloger completed the full cataloging of the ECIP. Afterwards, the record (or records) were uploaded to a Duke University server directory as an OCLC Connexion “Local Save” file and harvested by the LoC.
In May 2019 the LoC CIP Program launched a new, more user-friendly, customer service application, the PrePublication Book Link (PPBL).
Things work slightly different in PPBL. The publisher, in our case DUP, submits the CIPs applications that are then picked up by one of the two, at the moment, cataloguers at DUL in charge of creating the CIP records. In the PPBL app, “My Group’s CIP” includes all active CIP applications of the institution, and “My CIP” includes all active CIP applications picked up by each individual cataloger.
The information included in the CIP application is the Library of Congress Control number (LCCN), title, status, priority (This will be used to indicate the CIP is a RUSH request by the publisher this field, 1-Critical.), subject, assignment group, assigned to, print month and year and date it was created.
The CIP Program requires that a single galley file in PDF be attached to the CIP Request in PrePub Book Link.
Once the cataloger accepts the CIP application, she changes the status to full cataloging and proceeds to open the MARC Editor in a new browser tab, where some editing is available (e.g. adding the 505 table of contents).
After that, the record is downloaded to the computer and, from there, imported to OCLC to complete the cataloging.
Once the bib record is completed following the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) guidelines, we export it to a file created specifically for that record using the LCCN, and delete the MARC field tags 001, 003, and 049.
Back in the PPBL, we upload the record using the Partner Cataloger MARC Upload feature and ingest the record in the catalogue VOYAGER of the LoC. If all works well, a success message will be displayed. At this point, we are ready for the final steps in the process: adding the Call number to the PPBL and sending that information to Dewey, the next assignment group, by changing the status from “full cataloging” to “Dewey”. By clicking “save” once the status has been changed to Dewey, the CIP is automatically deleted from the side of the PPBL that we have access to.
There are significant differences in workflow between On the Marc and PPBL:
In On the Marc the cataloger sent the bib record directly to OCLC. Once they were ready, she saved them on a specific file to be harvested by LoC. By contrast, in the PPBL application, the records are downloaded to the computer and imported to OCLC; once they are completed, they are again downloaded to the computer, and uploaded by the cataloger, one by one, to the PPBL and to the VOYAGER catalog.
As far as editing is concerned, the PPBL app constitutes an improvement but there remains quite a bit of editing to be done in fields like the 505.
For example, the software allows us to remove common words like “chapter” but we still have to remove and edit the text. In addition, some diacritics don’t translate well and the order of the title / author sometimes needs to be flipped manually, like in the example below.
The improvements from On the Marc to PPBL may seem unexciting. It is hard to imagine many of you bewildered by the specifics of the changes outlined above.
Questions about the usefulness of this enterprise may remain. After all, what is the point of what seems a rather convoluted process of information sharing. The answer is simple: to provide, through the coordination efforts of the Library of Congress, a public good in an efficient, decentralized fashion. Each record we upload to CIP is a high quality contribution to the rest of library world. Jointly, we cooperate, helping each other and staying true to the mission of organizing the dissemination of knowledge as presses are ready to share it with world.
When the new fiscal year started on July 1, two departments in Technical Services reorganized, and a new section was created within Resource Description. The section known as Shelf Preparation folded, with most related workflows moving to Monograph Acquisitions. (Follow this blog for more news on these changes soon!)
Corrina Carter and Lesley Looper (Team Lead) remain in the Resource Description Department, in the newly formed Bindery and Monograph Maintenance Section. Our new section name is descriptive of our broad work, but is a mouthful to say, so you can call us BAMM for short! (Think Emeril Lagasse or Bamm-Bamm Rubble.) You can email our new section at firstname.lastname@example.org, or individually, as usual.
What BAMM will be doing:
Bindery: creating bindery and preservation boxing shipments, coordinating bound volumes (including monographs, serials, music scores, and items with digi-covers) to circulation points and the Library Service Center, overseeing the annual bindery budget, working with Continuing Resource Acquisitions on periodicals binding, and serving as in-house consultants for care and handling consultations and referrals to Conservation.
Monograph maintenance: cataloging queue maintenance, ALEPH reporting, declaring monographs missing, lost, withdrawn, or reinstated, updating locations and call numbers, resolving AskTech tickets, cataloging documentation review, and special projects (including outsourcing coordination and metadata projects).
Student assistants will also be an integral part of our section, helping us move materials through the section and department workflows, and on to DUL circulation points and the Library Service Center.
Corrina has been working at Duke since 1988! She started in the Medical Center, and transferred to the Surgical Private Diagnostic Clinic (later called the Private Diagnostic Clinics) in 1990. Corrina joined Duke Libraries in 1994, spending all of that time working with the Bindery, with several changes, location moves, and position upgrades along the way! One of Corrina’s favorite Duke memories is attending the DUL staff appreciation lunches (especially at the Searle Center), and getting to use work time to attend them. (Way back when, those lunches included humorous plays put on by library staff!)
Lesley has worked at Duke since 2001 (all of it in Duke Libraries), first in Receipts Management (starting as Library Assistant and later as Section Head) within the Acquisitions Department, and then in the Cataloging Department (now called Resource Description). Later, she joined Shelf Preparation Section, before becoming part of the BAMM team. One of Lesley’s favorite Duke memories is attending the Rolling Stones concert in Wallace Wade Stadium in October 2005, and running into several DUL colleagues there. Lesley still enjoys visiting Wallace Wade Stadium for Duke football home games.
Duke University Libraries Technical Services Division’s (DULTS) Resource Description Department has recently composed and adopted a Statement on Inclusive Description, which begins:
The Resource Description Department of Duke University Libraries Technical Services acknowledges that the creation and management of metadata are not neutral activities. We further acknowledge that the framework of national and international standards in which we work has served to uphold white supremacy, marginalization of sexual orientations and gender identities, and colonialism, among other forms of oppression. While we will continue to work within the parameters of national and international standards and organizations, we pledge as creators and managers to make metadata more inclusive …
The metadata that describes the millions of resources Duke University Libraries makes available to users dates back to the early 20th century, and as society has changed, so have cataloging practices. In 2020, we have perspectives on inclusion and representation that perhaps our predecessors did not have in previous decades. Our Statement on Inclusive Description is our pledge to do better, not just as we move forward but as we look at some of our old metadata and think of ways to improve it.
Limitations of Cataloging Standards
Most academic and public libraries in the United States—and in many other countries—use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) as their main thesaurus to provide subject access to works in their collections. Medical libraries, by contrast, typically use Medical Subject Headings—MeSH–or a combination of MeSH and LCSH. Library of Congress Subject Headings are what most Duke University Libraries catalog users are accustomed to seeing, with familiar patterns like these:
Salvador (Brazil)—Social life and customs—19th century.
Library of Congress Subject Headings are not, however, always ideal, and can present some obstacles when trying to catalog inclusively. There is often a presumption of whiteness and maleness in LCSH; its default is frequently “straight, white, cis-gendered male,” and anyone that doesn’t fit into those categories can be seen as exceptional. For example, the LCSH “Chemists” is used for works about chemists of all genders and for works limited to male chemists; a work about female chemists gets the LCSH “Women chemists.” (There is no heading “Male chemists.”) Similarly, the assumption seems to be that “American literature” is written by straight white male authors: if a work is about any other subset of Americans as authors, the headings must be modified: “American literature—Women authors” or “Gay men’s writings, American,” for example.
Library of Congress Subject Headings also include some vocabulary that may be considered outdated, inaccurate, or offensive. You may have heard about the political controversy that arose when the Library of Congress considered a proposal to change the heading “Illegal aliens” to “Undocumented immigrants.” The change was blocked, and “Illegal aliens” remains the authorized LCSH even though many find it offensive. There are other terms in LCSH, again often dealing with marginalized groups, that some find questionable, such as “Problem children” and “Eskimos.” There is a process to propose changes and additions to LCSH, but it is extremely involved, can take a very long time, and can be blocked by external factors, lack of consensus on what a better term would be, and diminished staffing at the Library of Congress.
Finally, there are some areas in which Library of Congress Subject Headings just aren’t very good, such as terminology for LGBTQ people and culture. The default LCSH heading for anyone or anything non-straight is “Sexual minorities,” a term which may technically be accurate, but which certainly isn’t in common usage and also presents LGBTQ folks as an anthropological Other. Meanwhile, the term “Female impersonators” for the entertainers we all know and love as “Drag queens” is, if we’re being generous, quaintly outdated. And LCSH just doesn’t get specific at all for LGBTQ cultures and subcultures, making it difficult to provide appropriate access for works about them.
Making Library of Congress Subject Headings Work for Us
So, if Library of Congress Subject Headings are problematic, why do we continue to use them? Well, for most subjects, LCSH is pretty good. For many disciplines, it is extremely good. More importantly, it’s an internationally used standard. Most cataloging in the English-speaking world and beyond is done cooperatively—that is, libraries contribute bibliographic description for works they acquire to the WorldCat database, so when another library gets the same book (or DVD or anything else), they can just use the record that’s already in WorldCat rather than creating their own. It makes everything go faster: trying to catalog every monograph, periodical, map, streaming video, and e-book we receive from scratch to our own exacting standards would be an impossible task. Terms in LCSH are the international standard, and libraries have agreed to use it as our common language when describing what works are about and then sharing description of those works.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean we are limited to out-of-the-box LCSH. There are several ways we provide enhanced access to our resources by bending LCSH or by using other vocabularies altogether. In addition to actively participating in the process of proposing additions and changes to LCSH mentioned above, Duke University Libraries staff also provide more inclusive description in other ways. Perhaps most obvious to the user is our public catalog, which we share and develop with our colleagues in the Triangle Research Libraries Network (Duke, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, and UNC-Chapel Hill). DUL staff are able to customize what displays to the public, so even if the underlying metadata is standard LCSH, we can choose to make alternative terms both visible and searchable. For example, instead of the standard LCSH heading “Poor,” which reduces people to a financial status, we have chosen to display “Poor people.” Even though “Illegal aliens” remains in our behind-the-scenes metadata, library user see “Undocumented immigrants” when viewing the catalog. Continuing to use standard LCSH allows us to accept bibliographic records from other libraries without having to make manual changes to them locally, but our Search TRLN public catalog empowers us to display alternative terms our users say they prefer, or that we know through analyzing data, that they are more likely to search for.
In DULTS, when we create original cataloging records, or when we enhance shared records in WorldCat, we also work intentionally to make sure our description is inclusive and accurate, especially for works by and about members of marginalized groups. For example, as we describe the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection with our colleagues in Rubenstein Library Technical Services, we make sure to provide specific subject access to works about women, African Americans, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and other non-“cis white straight male” characters. “Superheroes” may be the default Library of Congress Subject Heading for caped crusaders, but we make sure users are able to go beyond Superman and Batman by adding more descriptive subject headings like “African American superheroes” and “Women detectives” so characters like Storm, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones aren’t lost in the shuffle.
We have also begun exploring specialized thesauri to supplement Library of Congress Subject Headings when LCSH just isn’t specific enough to accurately describe a work’s contents. One controlled vocabulary we’ve begun using is Homosaurus, which calls itself “an international LGBTQ linked data vocabulary.” We’re able to enhance access to works by and about LGBTQ folks by using specialized terms from Homosaurus that LCSH just isn’t able to convey, such as “Bigender people,” “LGBTQ sports clubs,” “Transgender people of color,” and—yes—“Drag queens.”
Making our cataloging more inclusive takes time, but we think it’s worth it. We also realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Until the majority of other libraries that contribute cataloging to shared databases like WorldCat start taking similar approaches, not all of our resources will be cataloged as thoroughly and thoughtfully as we might like. But the principles we lay out in our Statement on Inclusive Description are a start. As we incorporate these tenets in newly created descriptive metadata going forward, we will also explore ways to enhance and improve our old records en masse in hopes of someday providing better, fairer description of all the millions of resources Duke University Libraries make accessible to our users. It’s a huge job, but we are committed to making it happen. It’s the right thing to do.
After months of lockdown during which most print-based workflows were interrupted, many of the Duke University Libraries Technical Services staff recently returned to glorious Smith Warehouse as part of Phase II of the Return to Work plan:
We are pleased to report that almost immediately our working lives went back to normal, with no inconveniences, disruptions, slowdowns, or meltdowns!
Or, wait, let me check my notes…
That is not what happened. In fact, like all DUL staff we have had to change almost everything about how we do our work in order to continue to get resources to our patrons while maximizing safety for our staff.
Only about 50% of our staff were approved to return to Smith. Included were only those whose work involves the processing of incoming physical material for Duke Libraries’ collections and by necessity must be done on-site. This included members of:
Continuing Resource Acquisitions
In advance of the staff’s return, Tech Services department heads reviewed the workstation layout in Bays 9 & 10, reconfiguring it like callous deities so that we could have at least one vacant cubicle on all sides of any single occupied workstation. In some cases, this meant that we had to uproot our staff from their comfy, familiar desks and send them somewhere new:
In addition to creating physical buffers between workers, we have somewhat staggered our schedules to minimize the number of people on site on any given day:
Once we had everyone spaced out appropriately (no double meaning intended), we established quarantining procedures in keeping with the DUL Protocols for Collections Handling.
Incoming freight is quarantined for 48 hours before being transferred to our box-opening area for unpacking:
Meeting rooms have been re-appropriated as quarantining and staging areas:
But what of the Catalogers, ask ye? (Ye were about to ask, weren’t ye?) Well, the Monographic and Serials Cataloging staff is currently working entirely remotely. We have set up a contactless system for each Cataloger to pick up boxes of books to take home for description on a regular basis. The boxes are quarantined for 48 hours before being released to staff and upon return:
The above-described space and process changes have been disruptive to the level of efficiency we have come to expect from ourselves, it must be said. And returning staff experienced heightened anxiety, having to acclimate to new routines in the midst of an already stressful RTW process. But taking the time to implement these changes systematically has allowed us quickly to resume the important work of getting books, periodicals, CDs, and DVDs out to the shelves and into the hands of our patrons. We’re pleased to report that freight shipments to Smith have resumed and that, having settled into our new routines, we’re up and running at speed now.
Sadly, though, our weekly Tech Services bathroom parties are now on indefinite hiatus: