This list below is just a start. There are many resources to be found, in Duke University Libraries and beyond, to educate, inspire, and call to action. Please feel free to email me (email@example.com) with any additional resources you find helpful, and I will add them to the list.
May 29th will mark the last day of Rosalyn Raeford’s forty-three-year career at the Duke University Libraries (DUL). Ros is the Head of the Resource Description Department. The department is responsible for creating and stewarding the metadata that make discovery of library resources possible, as well as shelf preparation of physical materials. When Ros joined the Duke library staff in the late 1970s automation of library cataloging existed, but it was deep in the background. Its tangible output was the card catalog, local access points were added manually in aid of user discovery and access. As time and Ros’s career went on, the interplay between the technological and the manual trended more and more toward automation. Yet, a lot of manual work was still involved in cataloging, as catalogers worked on printouts that were then converted to computer format through data input. During these years of change, Ros was there not only to witness, but to shape the trajectory of DUL’s approach to resource description.
Ros began her career as a clerk-typist responsible for typing local access points, such as call numbers, on printed cards. This regularly entailed typing unique access points per title on multiple cards. Though critical to the user experience, it was not the most enlivening work. Ros always found ways to make it fun, for herself and her colleagues.
Next for Ros was working with the Demand Cataloging team. This group managed a huge backlog of books by boxing them for storage, creating a paper trail on boxes and on catalog cards, and retrieving titles for cataloging when library users requested (or demanded) a title. Think a very low-tech Library Service Center. Ros really began enjoying her job when she became a copy cataloger, working directly with materials to assign call numbers, and then moving onto subject heading work. Ros remembers that the more complicated an item was, the more she enjoyed it.
About eight years after Ros joined the library staff, at around the time computers first became part of cataloging, Ros became the supervisor of the Pre-Cataloging team. It was in supervisory work that she found her “true love.” This true love encompassed both people and process, and that is where the magic happened. Ros saw opportunities for workflow efficiencies that leveraged both available technology and the skills of her colleagues. An early efficiency that Ros envisioned and worked with colleagues to realize was automation of call number creation for copy cataloging. Cataloging work was done exclusively in a DOS environment with command prompts. Another efficiency that Ros conceived of was cataloging in a Windows environment. She and a colleague designed a Windows-based system that a third colleague programmed. Thus, the Cat Editor was born.
Automation, efficiency, and process saved time and created an environment that freed up resources to tackle bigger things. Remember that the more complicated something was, the more Ros enjoyed it? Ros has led many large projects over the years, but the project to reclass DUL’s collection from the Dewey Decimal Classification system to the Library of Congress (LC) Classification system stands out because it enabled efficiency on a massive scale. Until late 2004, DUL was one of a very small number of large academic libraries that used Dewey. At various times over the years, the library had looked at switching to LC Classification. Arguments for the benefits of switching were never compelling enough to effect the change. Switching to LC was always deemed too expensive, too undoable. Ros made it happen! She analyzed and synthesized in-house cataloging statistics to show that upwards of 85% of catalog records had LC class numbers. Ros showed that by using LC classification, it would be possible to move the bulk of materials more quickly through the cataloging workflow and into the hands of library users.
The LC Reclass Project was a multi-year project that began in 2004 and transformed DUL’s collection and how we catalog. Once LC classification was in place, Ros was able to lead further process changes, namely shelf-ready processing of new monograph titles and working with vendors to provide cataloging when it was not feasible to do in house. A philosophical change also ensued that led the Resource Description Department to its current approach toward cataloging: follow national standards and avoid local practices. Certainly, elements of this approach were already there prior to LC reclass, but the project pushed us further in that direction.
Now cataloging is on the brink of a fundamental shift in the creation and use of metadata to linked data. Ros will not be here to lead us through this sea-change, but her approach to people and process will continue to inform how we embrace and manage it. We will thrive, and library users will benefit as a result. Ros said that in her first days at Duke, she felt smarter just being here. Well, DUL and Duke are smarter, too, because Ros was here. (Recommended reading: Dennis Christman’s January 31, 2020 post titled A Linked Data Primer.)
Now for a parting gift from Ros, here are some of thoughts in her own words.
On joining the library and what stood out to her at the time:
“The first few days that I was there I remember walking out on campus and just being awestruck. I remember just this really warm feeling of just being on Duke’s campus. … I felt smarter just being there.”
On being a manager:
“Being a manager was like the best thing that could have happened to me. And, being a manager in a process-oriented environment. It’s my ideal thing because it was a breeding ground for creativity. There was no limit to what you could do.”
On automation and its opportunities:
I was fascinated about how to make things more efficient and what could be automated. … We were automating and most people hadn’t even thought about it.”
On having fun at work:
“I love planning and problem-solving. And I think that for me that was what the LC reclass project was. The fact that so many people had looked at doing it and it got abandoned at least four times. … I don’t know how you describe it. It was almost like a competition. Like when I played basketball; it was like sports. I’m competitive. I was like, ‘okay this can be done.’”
On linked data and the future of cataloging:
“Something major is about to happen. Another major shift in how we think about metadata, another major shift in how we think about discovery.”
“If you can give catalogers something else to embrace that taps into their intellectual value, that taps into their skill set regardless of how those skills play out, I think they will embrace it.”
Even as the Duke University Libraries remain closed, there is no shortage of library resources to be enjoyed remotely. We asked the Technical Services staff to share how they are using the libraries to make the most of their time at home. Here are some of their responses:
“My family has enjoyed Naxos Music Library. It has over 2.3 million tracks!”
(Natalie Sommerville, Team Lead, Monographic Original Cataloging)
“I’ve been playing mandolin for a few years now, and I like to check out music from the library to work on. I’m pretty slow, so these two should be able to tide me over for some time. Also, both of the Fantastic Beasts movies are on Swank Digital Campus!” (Dennis Christman, Metadata Transformation Librarian)
“I have an issue of one of my favorite manga at home. It’s volume no. 2 of ‘Yotsuba &!’ The series shows the zany antics of a young girl (about 5 years old, I think?) in Japan. It’s a slice-of-life comedy that always makes me laugh and puts me in a good mood. I brought the volume home in case I need help feeling joyful in these times.” https://find.library.duke.edu/catalog/DUKE005833895
(Will Hanley, Electronic Resources Management Specialist)
“I really needed a break from all of the terrible, frightening news, and I REALLY needed to laugh, so I decided to check out Swank Digital Campus. Swank has a pretty good selection of films in a number of different genres, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up on some I’d always heard about, but had never seen. I decided upon ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (I know, I can’t believe I never saw it either!), and really enjoyed it. I needed something lighthearted and fun and that fit the bill. I may check out ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, and I noticed Swank also has ‘Eat, Drink, Man, Woman’, which I saw years ago and really enjoyed.” (Ellen Maxwell, Library Original Cataloger for Monographic Resources)
“I am using Duke’s OverDrive (in conjunction with Durham Library’s – it’s great, you can combine access to both in the OverDrive Libby app) to find ebooks for leisure reading on my Kindle.
Birds of the World is a great database for those of us who have become amateur bird watchers while at home. We have a great view out of my living room window onto a bird feeder and watch the birds come and go all day. I even spent some time trying to learn to identify bird songs this weekend (not super successful on that one).” (Virginia Martin, Head – Continuing Resource Acquisitions)
“I have stacked on my dining room table around 20 books from DUL that I am using to write an historical article. It will be entitled, “Selling Virginia: promoting English emigration in the seventeenth century” and will be published inAdvertising and Society Quarterly.
I’ve taken photos of many of the images of promotion literature included in these illustrated texts (all public domain, of course.) They included broadsides, official documents, lottery headers, etc. Many people don’t realize how rich our collections are in older texts, and the value they provide.” (Beverly Dowdy, Coordinator – Government Documents Processing)
We have been thrust into strange and unsettling times. Due to events not of our choosing, we in the library are all working from home now. For some, working from home is something they’re used to as a part of their work routine. For others, like me, it’s a completely new experience. Here are some thoughts I’ve had during this first week:
Embrace new technology. A fortune I once got read “keep your mind open to new possibilities.” I am finding that is good advice for the current situation. Embrace opportunities to learn new technologies that will help you do your job. I am learning to use Zoom and Microsoft Teams and am having a great time with them, and I like seeing and interacting with my co-workers.
Take time to take care of yourself. During the day, take time to do things that are good for your soul and your body. Get out and walk or jog in the sunshine. Vitamin D is good for the immune system, and walking is great exercise. And while you’re at it, maybe give a wave or say a kind word (from a safe distance) to the neighbor you may have never spoken to, since they are home as well.
Don’t give in to fear. Try to stay positive, and let go of those things that you have no control of. I have found that I have had to limit my time on social media, because otherwise all the horrible news can lead to feelings of panic, which can keep me up at night. I am also trying to just be grateful. I am grateful to be working for the Duke Libraries, I am grateful to have the wonderful people I work with, and I am grateful, especially, for my family.
Hang in there folks, this too shall pass. We are all doing great work and learning new and wonderful things, both about each other and ourselves.