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CIG Conference 2010: Changes in Cataloguing in 'Interesting Times'

Rhiannon McLoughlin reports on a three-day conference on cataloguing in a time of financial stringency, held by the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group at Exeter University, from 13-15 September 2010.

The focus of this conference was initiatives to get through the current economic climate. Cataloguing departments are under threat of cutbacks as never before. Papers on streamlining, collaborative enterprises, shared catalogues and services, recycling and repurposing of content using metadata extraction techniques combined to give a flavour of the new thrift driving management. The continuing progress of the long awaited Resource Description and Access (RDA)[1][2] towards becoming the new international cataloguing standard was another hot topic.

Monday 13 September

Keynote: Facing the Future

Biddy Fisher, CILIP President

Biddy Fisher opened by paying heartfelt tribute to Bob McKee, previous Chief Executive Officer of CILIP, who died earlier this year. She also referred to the fireworks generated on her blog in the run-up to this conference showing the controversy surrounding cataloguing these days! [3] Biddy aimed to focus delegates' minds on the new need for advocacy for their positions. There is no doubt that the so- called 'back-room' professions are under attack. She warned that all sectors are likely to be affected.

A slideshow of the results of this year's survey 'Defining Our Professional Future' showed that the majority of information professionals themselves believe that the heart of the profession has now moved away from cataloguing and indexing and towards the seven pillars of information literacy as outlined by the Society of College National and University Libraries (SCONUL) [4][5]. In a world where everyone is used to the simplicity of a Google search where does this leave the catalogue? What were previously regarded as core skills of the profession are no longer recognised as such by the public. Biddy's message therefore was to 'Take heed of the new heart and make sure your heart is there as well'. Cataloguers need to have the information literacy agenda at the forefront of their minds whenever new ideas are being developed.

The brutal economic downturn and the results of 'Defining Our Professional Future' are causing a radical rethink of CILIP's future role. CILIP needs to evolve to become the campaigning organisation its members now desire. However, it is equally vital that practitioners involved in cataloguing develop a positive campaigning voice for themselves. In particular, we need to show those who seek to cut out the back room how this will endanger cultural heritage: popular digitisation projects cannot be accomplished if there are no data on which to base them.

photo (39KB) : Biddy Fisher, CILIP President and Alan Danskin of the British Library at the start of the conference

Biddy Fisher, CILIP President and Alan Danskin of the British Library at the start of the conference

RDA Discussion Session

Alan Poulter, University of Strathclyde, CILIP representative of Joint Steering Committee for the development of RDA As CILIP representative of the Joint Steering Committee (JSC) for the development of Resource Description and Access (RDA) Alan had a message for all CILIP members: you're being too quiet! He wants to act as a gateway between CILIP and its members and urged people to be in touch. To this end, he will be setting up a wiki as a forum for discussion of ideas.

For a tense moment it appeared that he would get no comment at the conference either! But audience nerves soon dissipated and a spirited discussion ensued. What emerged is that RDA is still at the test stage. Delegates were reassured Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2) records will co-exist alongside the new RDA ones. The underpinning Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) model was also discussed.

The free trial of the RDA toolkit finished at the end of August 2010. Following the official test period until the start of next year it is hoped that the Library of Congress will sign up to begin using RDA and have a positive domino effect on other national libraries to join in as well


photo (39KB) : Alan Poulter of the University of Strathclyde and Alan Danskin of the British Library enjoying a break

Alan Poulter of the University of Strathclyde and Alan Danskin of the British Library enjoying a break

Standards Forum

Alan Danskin, Metadata Standards Team, Collection, Acquisition & Description British Library

Alan Danskin presented the conference with feedback from survey called 'RDA in the UK' conducted by the BL and CILIP CIG group. It seems that all share in the nerves of getting to grips with the new rules and that FRBR is a primary cause for confusion! Whilst most of the 78 survey respondents were aware to some degree of RDA and the models underpinning it, few felt confident enough to say they understood it or could explain it to someone else despite their having attended CILIP briefings. The survey highlighted training needs. Crucially, the reasons for adopting RDA must be explained to all staff, whilst naturally cataloguers will need the most in-depth training. The full results of the survey will be posted on the CIG Web site.

A MARC21 update followed. Documentation summarising RDA-related format changes (up until May 2010) are available on the Library of Congress Web site [6]. There was also discussion of the limitations of MARC21 and the future possibilities of XML.

Tuesday 14 September

The Wisdom for the Cataloguers: Using Collective Intelligence to Assign LCSH

Gary Steele, Electronic Services & Systems Librarian, The British Museum

photo (29KB) : Gary Steele of the British Museum presenting his paper on collective LCSH

Gary Steele of the British Museum presenting his paper on collective LCSH

Prior to the conference Gary sent an email to participants asking them to assign Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to a particular book. 15 people had responded producing a total of 23 suggested headings. This nicely illustrated his point that inconsistencies are endemic and indeed legitimate interpretations of LCSH rules. Gary's solution is to harness 'the wisdom of the crowd.' This phrase term comes from James Surowiecki's theory of the same title [7]. Surowiecki's work champions the aggregation of ideas to help decision making.

LCSH are well known to have shortcomings, not least being U.S. biased. Users increasingly search with keywords and natural language. The new web and next generation catalogues can often show up glaringly the inconsistencies in LCSH assignation both within and between libraries.

The solution Gary has devised is a computer programme using open source software which aggregates records from different catalogues. This is called Collective LCSH (cLCSH). He demonstrated the software using the same book example with which he had begun his paper. The programme supported a simultaneous search of 20 library catalogues for the same item in order to compare LCSH headings that had been applied. From here it was a short hop to being able to choose the most common headings. During question time the audience were keen to think of other uses for the software and Gary happily concurred that there were several he had not thought of himself! This could be a very good training tool to be able to check the veracity of novice decisions or it could be adapted for checking classification numbers.

Improving Performance in Cataloguing and Technical Services Workflows

Stuart Hunt, Data Services & Digital Production Manager, University of Warwick Library

Stuart Hunt's paper on Business Process Review (BPR) came with an up-front health warning: 'coming to a library near you whether you like it or not!'

Using the University of Warwick as an example, Stuart showed the value of applying Japanese business management techniques to cataloguing or metadata workflows. Warwick employed a company called Processfix in 2007-8 which conducted BPRs across the University. The Library held Rapid Improvement Workshops (RIWs) in 2008-9. Stuart demonstrated examples of BPR tools. It is vital to use them to get a holistic view of what is actually being done first. Critical success factors can then be found. As applied to Technical Services, time can be measured as the speed of availability, quality as the right book at the right time, and quantity as having an adequate number of copies appropriate to user needs. The RIWs led to improvements in the library's performance; for example, where previously shelving a book took 48 hours, afterwards it took 4 hours!

A further useful tool is a generic Japanese management tool called a process map. A wall gets covered in brown paper and everyone in the department is asked to stick up 'post-it' notes about each activity they perform. From the results a flow chart can be constructed to identify functional areas.

Tellingly, management is often less helpful at this point as it is too focused on future visions, whereas other staff can identify more easily with what current practice actually is. The aim is to distinguish waste in the process. Waste can be defined as anything that does not add value. Examples might be defective goods such as downloaded catalogue records which do not match the item you have on your desk, or items being transported by a circuitous route through the building. In the case of a technical services workflow, the aim is to achieve a balanced rhythm of items moving through system and the removal of bottlenecks.

Stuart also showed how the application of the FRBR model can help with identifying user needs [8]. FRBR gives recommendations for basic levels of functionality of records which in turn help them become measurable.

Empowering the Team in Interesting Times: Lean Kaizen

Robin Armstrong-Viner, Cataloguing Manager, University of Aberdeen Library & Historic Collections

Robin was unable to be present at the conference due to a personal emergency. Alan Danskin gave some background to Robin's Powerpoint presentation which built on the previous session.

At Aberdeen three pathfinder projects were conducted using Lean Kaizen which was developed by Toyota in 1950s. In Acquisitions, Cataloguing and Classification a Kaizen Blitz workshop was held over five days. One of the goals was to reduce by 50% the time that passed between a recommendation being made and an order being sent; and then to get the item to the customer within 1 working day of receipt for urgent items and 3 working days for all other requests.

Alan gave examples from the British Library where they have actually set up an annual in-house contest for the best continuous improvement projects.

The Need for a Retrospective Cataloguing Strategy

Dunia García-Ontiveros, Head of Retrospective Cataloguing, The London Library

photo (40KB) : Dunia García-Ontiveros, Head of Retrospective Cataloguing, The London Library

Dunia García-Ontiveros, Head of Retrospective Cataloguing, The London Library

The London Library is a private library dependent on subscription fees for its income. Garcia has found that librarians and even cataloguers are often unsure of the meaning of retrospective cataloguing! Most people believe that all the major work of putting items onto computer catalogues was done in the 1980s.

Grant holders are reluctant to put money towards retrospective cataloguing, preferring instead the sexier digitisation projects, although modifying fundraising terms to talk about 'opening up the collection' and making it more 'accessible' helps.

The London Library is far from unusual in having a backlog. In 1997 'Making the most of our libraries' drew on data from national surveys conducted in the 1990s to show 50 million records awaiting conversion and called for a national programme with a rather ambitious 5-year completion target [9]. The 1999 Full Disclosure Prioritisation Study also called for a national retrospective programme and set out a 10-year programme to complete 80% of work [10].

It was widely hoped that the launch of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) in 2000 (then known as Re:Source) would see it taking on the responsibility for a national strategy for retrospective cataloguing. However, this role never materialised and the MLA is now set to cease operating in April 2012 with no clear successor to its role. In the meantime some projects have gone ahead in a piecemeal fashion, largely within Higher Education institutions (HEIs).

Dunia, together with her colleague Maria Cotera and Ann Chapman from UKOLN, are now in charge of a JISCmail list proposing a new national strategy [11]. A new survey was launched in July 2010 together with Research Libraries UK (RLUK). Some 80 libraries had responded by the deadline of 1 October 2010. The running estimate is 10.6 million items outstanding. Most of the backlog comprises special collections. Non-book formats often have no kind of record at all. Information about the state of ongoing projects is also being collected, many of which are under threat in the current economic climate. The results of the survey will be published when finished.

UKOLN has proposed an Online National Register where libraries can both register their backlogs and update the information as they are completed. This would save effort having to re-conduct large surveys in the future. The ongoing challenge is getting people to understand that there are important collections out there which researchers would want to access if they knew of them. Currently institutions holding such collections are reluctant to let anyone access them due to security issues. Yet the question arises: with no records of what you have how would you know if anything went missing?

Cataloguing: A Problem Shared?

Sally Curry, Library Collaboration Programme Manager, Research Information Network (RIN)

The RIN is a small policy unit (funded by the 4 Higher Education Funding Councils, 7 Research Councils and 3 National Libraries) which aims to improve access to resources for researchers. In June 2009 it produced a report Creating catalogues: bibliographic records in a networked world, on which Sally Curry's presentation was based [12].

Universities have struggled with the pace of technological change in the past decade. Many researchers think they do not need catalogues and see the library as little more than a book store. The Creating Catalogues Report was produced after talking to all sections involved in catalogue creation. It asks sharp-edged questions as to whether current balance of effort is effective in meeting the needs of users.

Sally argued that the local adaptation of records in which so many institutions engage is not really needed. A shared HE catalogue is the answer. There are more than 160 university libraries in the UK. A shared catalogue would reduce costs significantly by cutting out inefficiency. At the same time a more user-focused enhanced service could be developed. The catalogue remains an essential tool but we need to adapt to the needs of our users rather than expecting them to change their research behaviour.

photo (28KB) : Queen’s Building Exeter University where the CIG Conference took place

Queen's Building Exeter University where the CIG Conference took place

All professionals involved, from publishers and aggregators to libraries, need to work together to establish high-quality records, particularly in the budding e-book market. Since researchers are interested in accessing journals at article level today, journals publishers are recommended to share article-level metadata.

There is also a need to simplify licensing to halt the current confusion over what records can be shared. A positive note is that the British Library is now making bibliographic records free to researchers and other libraries for non-commercial purposes. Similarly, sharing is the overriding message in the case of institutional repositories. Open Data and Data management are important upcoming issues. Funders are increasingly requiring grant holders make their data available to third parties.

Wednesday 15 September

One Ring to Rule Them All: CIDOC CRM

Alan Poulter, Lecturer, University of Strathclyde, Department of Computer and Information Sciences

Alan started with enthusiasm for the wealth of high-quality digital cultural content on the Internet produced by 'memory institutions' - museums, libraries and archives. The problem is how to make this terrific content more available. The difference in professional approaches, granularity of description and descriptive data structures combine to hamper cross-domain discovery. Since the differences are primarily at the level of data structure and syntax, the solution posed by this model is to map everything onto a schema with broad and universal semantics for the purposes of resource discovery.

CIDOC-CRM (International Committee for Documentation - Conceptual Reference Model) is a domain ontology for exchanging rich cultural heritage data [13]. It is embodied in the international standard 21127:2006. An XML application, it provides a kit to build your documentation. CIDOC-CRM has a class hierarchy of 81 named classes interlinked by 132 named properties. Alan demonstrated how events in CRM are the linking factors that drive the model. He demonstrated how specific photographs and documents all fitted into the model around the central event (in this case the Yalta Agreement) to which they were all related.

The FRBR/CRM Harmonisation Group has gone further to produce FRBRoo (FRBR object orientation) which is a mix of the FRBR and CRM models. CRM, he argued, has made the FRBR concept more fully rounded. The final aim is to produce a universal approach in the libraries and museums sector. CIDOC-CRM is a forward- looking model for the semantic Web.

Alan admitted that the CIDOC-CRM is complicated and needs more road testing. Trying to deal with such a comprehensive spectrum of information types is never going to be simple and he recommended Steven Stead's tutorial for beginners [14].

Repository Metadata

Dawn H. Wood, Research Officer, Leeds Metropolitan University

The Streamline Project was a 2009 JISC-funded project about extracting metadata to enable simple repository deposit [15].

Dawn began with an exercise where the conference delegates were asked to choose a few keywords for a picture of a rather bland-looking room. It turned out to be a hotel room produced as part of a package for training hotel staff, the title of the picture being 'Finding a lost key card'. The variety of audience keywords showed how it could easily have been used as a picture to illustrate something else.

One of the most important aims of building up digital repositories is to be able to re-purpose, reuse or recycle content or 'Learning Objects'. One of the current problems is the lack of good-quality metadata to enable people to pick out content they might need. Another major stumbling block is lecturer resistance to repositories. There is both a fear of criticism and also a problem with ownership. Lecturers also often produce content without proper referencing. In short, staff often cannot see the benefit of sharing items in a repository.

Dawn described the alternative Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as a 'dead end' because usually only staff and students on a particular course in a particular institution can access it.

The first part of the Streamline Project involved looking at what staff at Leeds University were actually doing when they used self-deposit repositories. It was found that lecturers entered very few keywords which tended to be either very specific or very general, or that they entered phrases or even put in the whole title of their presentation. This posed serious limits to keywords as a search tool.

The second part of the project entailed identifying ways of generating improved metadata in line with internationally recognised Learning Object Metadata (LOM) standards. The Streamline team created an automatic metadata generator which took details from course and module materials and generated keywords. Filters and using 'term frequency,' whereby the number of times that a word was repeated in a Learning Object was counted, (whilst removing small words such as 'of' and 'the'), enabled the production of a suggested keyword list. Testing showed that lecturers found it helpful at the least as a prompt to helping them pick appropriate keywords.

Intralibrary was the repository system chosen as a result because it was the only system at the time that allowed metadata to be uploaded from elsewhere.

Open Mic Session

An open microphone session was held in lieu of Robin Armstrong-Viner's second session.

Topics raised were


New software applications combined with the new austerity could see moves towards resource sharing on an unprecedented scale in the library and publishing world. Provocative ideas from this conference will help cataloguers and managers to ask themselves hard questions about which of their activities really support the new user-focused models.

Presentations from the conference are available from the conference programme webpage [16]


  1. "RDA: A New International Standard", Ann Chapman, October 2006, Ariadne, Issue 49
  2. "RDA: Resource Description and Access", Wendy Taylor and Helen Williams, April 2010, Ariadne, Issue 63
  3. Fisher, B., 'Biddy's Blog' (2010) http://communities.cilip.org.uk/blogs/biddy/default.aspx (accessed 18 September 2010)
  4. CILIP (2010), 'Defining our professional future: Report to CILIP Council'
    http://www.cilip.org.uk/get-involved/cilipfuture/Pages/default.aspx (accessed 18 September 2010)
  5. SCONUL (2004) 'The seven pillars of information literacy model',
    http://www.sconul.ac.uk/groups/information_literacy/seven_pillars.html (accessed 18 September 2010)
  6. Library of Congress (2010) 'RDA in MARC' http://www.loc.gov/marc/RDAinMARC29.html (accessed 18 September 2010)
  7. Surowiecki, James (2005). The Wisdom of Crowds. Publisher: Anchor
  8. IFLA (2008) 'Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records: Final Report'
    http://www.ifla.org/files/cataloguing/frbr/frbr_2008.pdf (accessed 17 September 2010)
  9. Byrant, Philip, Editor (1997). Making the most of our libraries. British Library RIC Report No 53.
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/services/papers/bl/blri053/ (accessed 17 October 2010)
  10. Cultural Heritage Consortium (1999) 'Full disclosure prioritisation study'
    http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/acrossuk/worknat/full/fdabout/fulldisc-priorityreport.pdf (accessed 17 September 2010)
  11. García-Ontiveros, D.,Cotera, M., Chapman, A. (2010) retro@jiscmail.ac.uk (accessed 25 October 2010)
  12. Resource Information Network (2009) 'Creating Catalogues: Bibliographic records in a networked world'
    http://www.rin.ac.uk/our-work/using-and-accessing-information-resources/creating-catalogues-bibliographic-records-network (accessed 17 September 2010)
  13. CIDOC, CIDOC Documentation Standards Working Group (DSWG) [online] (2006) 'The CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model'
    http://www.cidoc-crm.org/ (accessed 18 September 2010)
  14. Stead, Steven (2008). 'The CIDOC CRM, a standard for the integration of cultural information'
    http://www.cidoc-crm.org/cidoc_tutorial/index.html (accessed 20 September 2010)
  15. Finlay, J., Gray, J., Wood, D. [online] (2009) 'Streamline: integrating repository function with work practice: tools to facilitate personal e-administration
    http://streamlinenews.wordpress.com/ (accessed 17 September 2010)
  16. CILIP CIG, (2010) 'Cataloguing and Indexing Group conference: the University of Exeter 13-15 September 2010'
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/events/CIG/2010/conf-exeter/programme/ (accessed 25 October 2010)

Author Details

Rhiannon McLoughlin
Senior Learning Centre Assistant (Library Support Services)
Exeter College

Email: rhiannonmcloughlin@exe-coll.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.exe-coll.ac.uk/

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