Julie Renee Moore, catalog librarian in Madden Library’s Special Collections Research Center, has a passion for teaching cataloging to her peers and has become an expert in cataloging 3D objects for library collections. This is a highly prized and specialized skill that has become more important as libraries attempt to meet the needs of researchers working with materials other than books and paper documents.
We caught up with Julie after she presented to her peers from all over the United States at the OLAC @ 40 Conference on October 16th.
Hi Julie, can you tell us a little bit about the workshop you recently presented on “Cataloging Funny Formats during These Strange Times” and the OLAC @ 40 Conference through which you presented?
OLAC is the Online Audiovisual Catalogers, Inc., an organization that provides expert best practices and advice for cataloging special format (non-textual) materials. OLAC was founded in 1980 by the late, great special formats cataloger, Nancy B. Olson (1936-2018) (Mankato State, MN), so this was the special 40th anniversary conference. It was originally supposed to be held face-to-face in Dublin, Ohio; but of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was moved to the virtual mode. This first-ever OLAC virtual conference was October 13-16, 2020.
I was an invited speaker for this conference. My workshop covered three-dimensional objects cataloging which include non-published materials, board games, card games, puzzles, microscope slides, realia (naturally occurring objects), models or replicas, and kits.
What is cataloging 3D objects all about in the library world?
This is a huge question that I need to break down into smaller pieces …
- What does a cataloger do? As a catalog librarian, my work is to preserve and make accessible human knowledge and the memory of humankind, complete with all its stories, its expertise, its history, and its wisdom. It all must be preserved so that it illuminates the present and makes a better future possible. When I am cataloging, I am not only thinking of the students, faculty and staff who use my bibliographic records today, but also of those people who will use these records (or the data held within them) as pathways to these resources 100-500 years from now or more, no matter what the format.
- Why do we catalog 3D objects? The answer is the same as for any resource in the library, be it textual (a book, journal, or an electronic resource) or non-textual / special formats … we catalog in order to make these resources discoverable/findable in our online catalog; and thus, obtainable.
- The cataloging rules (nationwide standards) originally were created for textual materials (books and now e-books), with very little regard for special formats that are non-textual. That is where OLAC steps in to fill in the gaps. We expert OLAC catalog librarians step in to create best practices for other catalogers to follow for special formats materials. I was the chair of the task force that recently published Cataloging Objects Using RDA and MARC 21.
How do access to 3D objects in library collections support teaching and research in universities?
One of the most important and valuable assets of a library are the library collections. Much time goes into intentionally developing and curating each of our collections in order to meet the needs of our students and instructional faculty members. Our collections at the Henry Madden Library are rich. We have fine collections such as the Special Collections Resource Center that houses the most special, rarest, one-of-a-kind materials.
We have many three-dimensional objects in Special Collections. We have other specialized collections, geared toward certain types of materials, strategically curated for certain library users, especially students, researchers, and faculty members. We have a robust Teacher Resource Center that has been carefully curated for decades. Part of that collection includes a collection of 3-dimensional objects. Those materials need to be cataloged in order to be found.
Incidentally, the Teacher Resource Center is one of the highest circulating collections in the library. The TRC lends materials to students, student teachers, faculty, and Fresno Area teachers. These materials, especially the 3-dimensional, hands-on objects, are of great use to students and teachers alike in teaching our K-12 students.
You teach many workshops for fellow librarians in the CSU system and nationwide. What do you enjoy about teaching your peers?
I absolutely love teaching my peers! I can assume that they already come with a certain level of cataloging knowledge and expertise. Often, these catalog librarians could easily catalog a book, but they need to know how you jump from describing a book to being able to describe a set of microscope slides, a rock specimen, a human anatomy model, or a kit composed of a book, a music CD, a musical instrument, and a sculpture.
Helping them make that jump is great fun. With the OLAC group, in fact, I could assume that they already came with a certain level of cataloging knowledge of special formats, even. They often bring great real-life examples of challenging things that they have tried to catalog that they have questions about to such workshops.
You have now presented 3D Cataloging workshops three times in a virtual setting. How does teaching your peers virtually compare to in-person? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Of course, I prefer to teach in person. I love to engage with my students. I get a great deal of information from reading my audience, seeing their facial expressions, answering their questions on the spot, and etc.
Especially with 3D objects, when I teach, I always pass around my objects, so that they can see what it is that we are trying to catalog and describe. Usually in my workshops, I hand out physical things (something different for each person) so they can get actual hands-on practice in cataloging – which involves counting, measuring, describing coloration, and doing subject analysis.
My face-to-face workshops are usually limited to 20-30 students, so that I can work with each person. There is also time after the workshop or during breaks to meet with people who have individual questions that they might not feel comfortable sharing with the whole group. I definitely think that this face-to-face method of teaching is the most enjoyable and meaningful experience for everyone, mainly because of the interpersonal connections.
However, given the coronavirus pandemic, I have needed to take my show online. For me, I have noticed three main negative areas in virtual teaching:
- Not being able to see all of the participants’ faces, which makes it very difficult to get a read of the room.
- Timing. When you get to your 15 minutes or ½-hour or 1-hour point, the program usually cuts off automatically. I did one quick Screencast video last summer, and it had a 15 minute time limit … and the program does not care if you are only half-way through your slides or not, it cuts you off with no apologies! I re-recorded my presentation many times before I could squeeze it down to 15 minutes!
- Inevitably (with me), something always goes wrong with the technology! Always! Even with the OLAC workshop, where we practiced twice, I still had issues with technology (namely, my Internet connection at home died – so at the last minute, I had to change everything and move the whole workshop to my office in the Library, and then I had Internet, but I had issues with my headset/microphone and camera! Of course, trying to troubleshoot this during the presentation is not ideal.)
There are advantages to virtual workshops. My top three advantages are:
- It is super cheap for both the presenter and the participants (nobody has to spend money for airline tickets or hotel stays).
- Nobody has to wait in long lines for basic human needs during breaks, such as waiting in line for the restrooms or waiting in line for lunch.
- The registration and attendance for this workshop was much more (160 participants) than what I could have done in a face-to-face audience (20-30 participants). It is a way to take the joy of cataloging to the masses!
Anything else you would like to share?
In preparing for the workshop, I was working from home due to the pandemic, mainly using materials from my paleontologist-in-training son’s stash of geological wonders. (No Deinonychus dinosaurs were harmed in this preparing for this presentation!)
While these resources are similar to those in our library, they are actually my own things from home. I had planned to present from my home. It was ironic that when my Internet at home crashed, I had to drag all these things into my office in the library in order to give this presentation! That is life in our virtual world! It is always good to have a back-up plan!