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My time at ALA was spent going to sessions on cataloging/technical services along with sessions and a committee meeting sponsored by the Anthropology and Sociology Section (ANSS) of ACRL. Below are recaps of some of the sessions I found most meaningful this ALA.

RDA & Audiovisual Cataloging was the first session I attended at ALA in Chicago. This particular session was sponsored by the ALCTS Copy Cataloging Interest Group. Susan Morris, Special Assistant to the Director for Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access at Library of Congress (LC), reported about reductions in LC budgets and staff as well as RDA training for copy catalogers. Tricia Mackenzie, Metadata Librarian at George Mason University, explained and presented differences between cataloging AV materials using AACR2 vs. RDA. Ms. Mackenzie stated that the OLAC group (Online Audiovisual Catalogers) is currently working on best practices for DVD cataloging. Additionally, two librarians from Troy University spoke about their experiences cataloging AV materials in RDA for a multi-campus library and maintaining consistency in the process. Procedures were documented using a wiki. RDA training was provided not only to catalogers and acquisitions staff but to staff in public services because they are the ones who interact daily with patrons and will have to explain changes in the way resources are being displayed in the OPAC. Comparison documents of records cataloged in AACR2 and RDA were provided to help explain the differences.

Next-generation Technical Services: Improving Access and Discovery through Collaboration featured speakers from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and from the Orbis Cascade Alliance which is comprised of 37 universities, colleges, and community colleges in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Martha Hruska of UCSD briefly described UC’s ten campus system and its culture. She stated that funding cuts in the last five years averaged 20% and were not expected to be restored. Backlogs in cataloging and archival processing were growing (100,000+ items and 13.5 miles respectively), and for example in 2011, 1.8 trillion GB of data was created. The UC system needed to find a better, more efficient way to make their growing resources more discoverable as well as reduce work redundancy. In response to a question from the audience, the speaker indicated that centralization of services is not practiced in the UC culture, but collaboration is. Collaboration in collection development, technical services, and digital initiatives along with seeking financial and technical infrastructure for collaboration were established as goals by the UC system. Defining cataloging record standards served as the basis for collaborative cataloging work among campuses. Inventoried backlogs and examination of technical services staff members’ expertise helped in the development of a system-wide collections services staff. Building versus acquiring digital asset management systems software was investigated by members of the UC system. To accelerate processing of archival and manuscript collections, the Archivists’ Toolkit was deployed system-wide, minimal collection record specifications were defined, and “more product, less process” practices were implemented. Representatives from the Orbis Cascade Alliance discussed their experience with DDA ebooks collaboration. They identified challenges in the areas of workflow development, staffing, and levels of expertise. Foreign language materials catalogers provided assistance in cataloging select consortial libraries’ foreign language materials, but sustainability in this assistance was found to be problematic. Collaboration is slow and not always the answer. A safe environment is needed to expose one’s ignorance and allows others to query one’s processes.

Studying Ourselves: Libraries and the User Experience panel program was presented by ACRL’s ANSS in collaboration with the University Library Section. The room was packed with attendees. The first speaker was Dr. Andrew Abbott, sociology professor at the University of Chicago, who stated scholars do not use libraries the way librarians think they do or should do. “Aimless behavior” is the term he used, and librarians’ problem is to discover the logic in this behavior. What are the routines and strategies of researchers? Surveys have indicated that observation and interviews do not work, but self ethnography can be a discovery tool. He has taught classes in library methods in the social sciences. Moving away from exercises, the course is about project management, not in how to manage things. Library research is about finding something for which you ought to have been looking. Students are good at finding things, but they don’t know what to ignore. No student’s research project ends up being about the thing in which they came into the library to research initially. We (i.e. librarians) need to figure out how we do research in order to teach others. We should ethnographize ourselves and keep an accurate documented account of our habits. Expert library users don’t have an idea of how they do what they do. Having to think about and document our own processes would greatly assist in our teaching students how to conduct research and become expert researchers themselves. In 2011, Dr. Abbott published the article “Library research infrastructure for humanistic and social scientific scholarship in the twentieth century,” in Social Knowledge in the Making, Charles Camic et al., eds., University of Chicago Press.

Dr. Andrew Asher, Assessment Librarian at Indiana University, Bloomington, began his talk discussing how anthropological studies in libraries have expanded over the last several years. With most of the research being conducted in the 70’s, few books have been published on the studies of college students. Titles mentioned included:

  • Coming of Age in New Jersey: College and American Culture (1989) by Michael Moffatt
  • Educated in Romance: Women, Achievement, and College Culture (1990) by Dorothy Holland & Margaret Eisenhart
  • My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student (2005) by Rebekah Nathan
  • My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture (2009) by Susan Blum
  • Studying Students: the Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester (2007) edited by Nancy Foster and Susan Gibbons

And yes, ZSR has all in its collection!

Dr. Asher proceeded to discuss the Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries Project (i.e ERIAL Project) that was conducted to determine how students find and use information for their academic assignments and to determine the social context of these assignments. Dr. Asher holds a Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology and was the Lead Research Anthropologist for the project. Methods utilized include interviewing, observation, visual, and mapping (e.g. time use, drawing library maps). Filmed interviews were conducted for a research process assignment and revealed things that would likely not be assessed in an information literacy test. To discover the context of why people come to the library and spaces where they did work, students were asked to keep mapping diaries. Using a six-minute time frame, cognitive maps were drawn by students using three different colors of ink (red, blue, and green) with changes in ink color every two minutes. From the drawings it was discovered that librarians were invisible; students did not know where the librarians’ offices were located. In addition, books often didn’t appear in the maps, Books appeared to be secondary to other functions which the library serves. The library was seen as a social space. Results of the study were published in 2011 by the American Library Association in College Libraries and Student Culture: What We Now Know, edited by Dr. Asher and Lynda Duke. ZSR has this title too! A toolkit for doing an ethnographic research project in one’s library is available on the ERIAL Project web site.

Diane Wahl, User Experience Librarian at the University of North Texas, headed up an ethnographic research study at her university. She attended a CLIR (Council on Library and Information Resources) workshop conducted by Nancy Foster from the University of Rochester. She stated there was no charge for the workshop; her only expense was for travel. Following the workshop, Ms. Wahl reached out to her universities anthropology and sociology departments’ faculty because they are always looking for projects in which their students can be involved. Review of LibQual responses from dissatisfied online students, graduate students, and new faculty provided a starting point for the research study. Recruitment for student researchers was handled through various channels (i.e. Blackboard, announcements to faculty). Some faculty gave extra credit for participating students. Methods utilized in the study included observations, focus groups and interviews. The sampling of individuals studied was one of convenience and purposeful; Ms. Wahl specifically wanted to hear from a specific segment of the university student population. Challenges encountered during the study included time zones, non-traditional student schedules, and technology. From the data collected, she found that students wanted access to library services through Blackboard. Additionally from the perspectives shared by students with disabilities, the library now has a disability training awareness program for library employees along with a brochure listing available services for library users with disabilities.

This particular session was the most interesting of the ones I attended at this ALA. I now have several books to add to my professional reading list. One more thing to add about the greatness of this session, a Good Humor ice cream freezer with various treats was provided to attendees, and my favorite Good Humor treat was available: the Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bar. Yum yum!