Two Updates on the Seward Park Audubon Center Work

While the Spring academic quarter continues, Anna and I keep up and active with the Audubon Center. While we have new courses to attend and devote time and energy to, each with their own projects, we do stop by every other week or so to maintain the library and slowly increase the library’s functionality.

This week we had the fortune of each being awarded a certificate of appreciation for our efforts, awarded from the Audubon Center itself. We are thankful and inspired by their appreciation!

Secondly, this week the iSchool at UW featured our project on their website. You can read the entire article right here (and see a great photo of Ali, Joey, Anna, and me!).

As we go forward we’re going to try and present on information organization at the Audubon conference in July, and we hope to have a library opening day in May or June. Stay tuned for updates!

End-of-Quarter Wrap-Up

What a ride! While Anna and I are going to continue to work as volunteers at the Seward Park Audubon Center, we are proud to announce we made it through the academic quarter and thus the official independent study. I think the greatest benefit to come out of the independent study is the passionate relationship we forged with the Center, and the Ann Lennartz Memorial Library as a whole! We will be very happy going back throughout the Spring to continue our efforts to solidify the catalog, enhance the shelves, and do our marketing pushes. We will continue to update this blog as well (or at least I plan to), documenting our achievements and the continued use of the library.

In the meantime, we created some videos! One video, used as the final deliverable for the course (academically) showcases the process we went through to get to where we are today. Another video features interviews Anna and I conducted with each other to reflect on our experiences, and the third video features interviews with Ali and Joey at the Center. Check them out below! Also, stay tuned for a guest blog post on the student SLA website (we returned the favor since they wrote a post for us!)–that will be coming soon! As always, comment on our blog directly with any feedback, questions, or insights!

Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore

Mystery - Sign

At the beginning of the quarter Greg and I visited the Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore.  It was quite an adventure and not what I was expecting.  The visit only lasted 45 minutes but it was full of information.  We interviewed Charlette LeFerve, the Museum Director, and Philip Lipson, the Cosmic Librarian.

The organization began in 1998 as a result of the Coast to Coast radio program hosted by Art Bell.  Several of the listeners formed the Art Bell Chat Club, later the Seattle Chat Club.  They met in restaurants, coffee shops and libraries.  Then in 2003, when Phillip was involved with the French Cultural Center, the club was able to acquire their own space.  The Cultural Center moved from their Capitol Hill location and the Chat Club, influenced by the Roswell Museum, moved in and turned it into a Museum.  Phillip was also involved it the Metaphysical Library (the known as the As You Like It Library) and thought it would be a good idea to have a library in addition to the museum.  In 2005 when James Wagner Ray, who was a benefactor of the museum, passed away he donated a large portion of his personal library and his ancestor Henry Wagner’s rare book collection, which is still on display behind the museum counter.

Over the years the Museum moved around and began to shrink.  The Library was at one point a separate room from the Museum and an active lending library.  In its current form it has shrunk to a wall of the current Museum and is now a browsing library.  In the museum’s distillation process many of the books on mysticism and books on things not based in history or science, were removed or sold.  The museum is now focused on paranormal science and history.  Most of the books in the collection are about Bigfoot, UFOs and local folklore and persons of interest.  Among the displays are casts of Bigfoot prints, pieces of wreckage from Maury Island Incident, and displays on the “Famous Four” of Seattle.  The Museum has named Jimi Hendrix, Francis Farmer, Kurt Cobain, and Jackie Chan Seattle’s “Famous Four” and collects and researches information about them.

It is clear from the way Charlotte and Phillip spoke about the museum and all the wonderful things they had achieved and done over the years that this is a passion for them and that translates into the space. It is small but full, just looking around you can see that the material is loved and the staff take great pride in their collection.  An effort has been made to showcase as many of the wonderful books and items as possible.

I have already become proud of the Ann Lennartz Library. I am proud of its collection and its potential. I feel that my work there will be a great benefit to the center and the park visitors. I admire the dedication at the Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore, it is clear their presence is not only a boon to the organization but perhaps the life blood of it as well. Big thanks to Charlotte and Phillip for taking the time to chat with us!

Take aways:

  • To appropriately shrink a collection, a focus must be established for the organization.  Additionally, a smaller focused collection can sometimes be stronger than a large unfocused collection.
  • The community surrounding and/or contributing to a library can really enhance its purpose and product.
  • Displays are a great way to showcase what is available in the library and a great way to show material that is non-circulating but a cultural artifact.
  • There is a difference between a book that has value in its content and a book that has is valuable as a cultural artifact.
  • Libraries using libraries is a pretty great concept.

Guest Post: Violet Fox from UW’s Chapter of the SLA

For this post, MLIS student Violet Fox discusses the UW Chapter of the Special Library Association (SLA). Anna and I will be contributing a post for their blog in the near future. Thank you, Violet, for this invaluable contribution.

Most people who work under the title “librarian” work in a public, academic, or school library. But an MLIS opens doors to a wide variety of career possibilities. The Special Libraries Association is a professional organization serving information professionals working in non-traditional libraries or other settings, such as corporate, government, non-profit, technical, legal, and medical organizations.

The University of Washington chapter of SLA is dedicated to exposing iSchool students to careers in special libraries. In conjunction with the Pacific Northwest chapter of SLA, the UW chapter facilitates communication between students and professionals through events such as a holiday party (this year hosted at the Microsoft Library) and a student night held every spring. SLA-UW also hosts informational sessions and panels with local special librarians, providing career guidance and further opportunities to connect with experienced professionals.

As the 2012-2013 Vice Chairs of SLA-UW, Moriah Neils and I organize tours of Seattle-area special libraries. We contact librarians and ask them if they’d be willing to host 45 minute visits, consisting of a tour of their facility and some time for Q&A. Students are often interested in hearing about a day in the life of the librarian as well as what background students might need to get a similar position.

When we can, we like to combine tours of libraries that are close to each other into “crawls,” visiting two libraries in one afternoon. Tours are usually followed with a happy hour—a chance to talk about what we’ve seen and unwind from classes. As Vice Chairs we have a lot of leeway in which libraries we choose; we try to select libraries that represent diverse settings and that we think students will enjoy! We’ve been able to visit some fascinating places in the past year.

noaa
Brian Voss (Library Director) speaks to students at the NOAA Library

Students had to get security clearance to get to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) libraries located next to Magnuson Park in the Sand Point neighborhood, but they were rewarded by a beautiful view and a great tour. The NOAA Library Director, a recent iSchool graduate, showed us both the NOAA Library (focused on physical oceanography and atmospheric science) and the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) Library. Visiting the library at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was also a treat. The librarian there had been at the EPA for years and shared her reflections on the many changes she had seen implemented.

epa
EPA Region 10 Library

Our crawl to the South Lake Union neighborhood took us to two very different but compelling libraries. The Arnold Library at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is staffed by a number of librarians who have graduated from the iSchool—it’s been encouraging to see recent graduates with jobs that they so obviously enjoy. The staff supports the cutting edge research that is done at Fred Hutch by maintaining databases as well as training and collaborating with scientists. The crawl continued at the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (WTBBL), dedicated to serving those who are visually impaired or otherwise unable to read standard print books. At no cost to users they provide Braille and audio materials (both cassette and digital format), readers’ advisory services, and the Evergreen Radio Reading Service.

wtbbl
WTBBL Audiobook Equipment

We got the chance to explore the UW campus with two crawls, beginning in the fall with visits to the Foster Business Library and the Health Sciences Library. Although both are very much anchored in the academic world, they gave a glimpse into the types of knowledge and skills needed in a special library. In collaboration with another student group, iArts, we visited the Reed Collection Study Center at the Henry Art Gallery. We also toured the Built Environments Library, which serves the departments of architecture, landscape architecture, construction management, and urban design and planning. The visual art collections at the Henry Art Gallery and the Built Environments Library afforded insights into the challenges of organizing, preserving, and providing access to unconventional materials.

callison
Callison Resource Design Center

Likewise, our trip to Callison Architecture included very unique materials. The Callison library was designed by a resourceful and enthusiastic librarian who serves a variety of people in a corporate setting. Upstairs, their Design Resource Center is a gallery of resources for interior design including materials and patterns for counters, walls, and floors. Imagine creating an organizational system for samples of marble tiles!

metaphysical
Shelves at the Seattle Metaphysical Library

It was a lot of fun to visit Ballard’s Seattle Metaphysical Library, which includes materials about a wide variety of esoteric subjects. Its quirky collection is obviously the result of a labor of love. We finished off the winter quarter by collaborating with the iSchool’s chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) for a very popular tour; the tour of the  National Archives-Regional Archives (NARA) was attended by twenty students. Picture the very last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with a crate being wheeled into a giant government warehouse, and you’ll get an idea of the scale of this repository for Oregon, Idaho, and Washington’s government agencies’ paperwork.

nara
NARA Stacks

Again and again, when we reached out to information professionals, they were incredibly generous in giving their time and energy to us. Speaking for myself, it was truly a pleasure experiencing how gracious and kind people in our profession were to students. It’s been immensely satisfying to indulge my love of libraries in this leadership role; I hope that the iSchool students who’ve attended a SLA-UW tour have been enlightened and perhaps inspired look for (or even create!) the career that works for them.

Violet Fox will be graduating from the iSchool in June. Ask her about the time she had a revelation about cataloging as the one true path at@VioletBFox or check out her portfolio in progress at violetbfox.wordpress.com

Frye Art Museum Visit

One of my favorite parts of this project is visiting the Special Libraries; it was an inspired decision on Greg’s part to recommend it as part of the curriculum.  I never realized how much we could learn about our own libraries from (relatively) short visits to other libraries.  I have been impressed at how forthcoming each place is when discussing difficulties and short comings.  On our visit to the Frye Museum last Friday we learned the most from the things that had gone wrong over the years.  Cory Gooch, the Collections Manager/Registrar, and Ben Abraham were our tour guides.  It was interesting to get the juxtaposition insight from Cory who has worked with the collection for years as a supervisor, and Ben, who catalogs all the material in Library Thing and is determined to reorganize the collection so that staff can use and search for the books.

The library is beautiful and very well cared for.  The Frye has a benefit many of the libraries we have visited have not, which is that they can purchase material for the library and they were able to pay a professional to set it up.  Most of the collection is donations or are sent from museums around the country in a collaborative exchange of museum catalogs.  They are beautiful high quality art books that make up a well-rounded collection with an emphasis on 18th and 19th Century German Art, which is what the Founding Collection consists of.  The library was originally cataloged as part of a grant which allowed library and archive professionals to work together to create a list of everything that was in the Frye Archive and to catalog and label all the material using the Library of Congress Classification.

In this way the Frye and the Audubon are very similar.  They had an existing collection and then some enthusiastic people came and organized it and brought it up to date in keeping with library and archive standards.  Like the Frye the Audubon will not have those enthusiastic people (Greg and I) forever.  One of the most common down falls that occurs after a large project is completed is that there is no or little documentation on how to continue the project.  When the professional the Frye paid to catalog the material left consistency was inconsistent at best.  The difference between a book being listed as, “German art of the twentieth century,” or, “German Art of the Twentieth Century,” or, “GERMAN ART OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY,” was one of the differences Cory pointed out.  Books have also been cataloged and organized differently over the years.  Ben and Cory believe, and I agree with them, that with a fairly small collection LC Classification is unnecessary.  Especially since the majority of the material is 18th and 19th Century German Paintings most of the call numbers are the same, a whole wall of ND doesn’t do much too narrow ones search.  These things may seem niggling.  You might ask, why not just shelve them one way or another?  It is important to match your collection and its organization with your user and content.  You wouldn’t organize a university library in the book store model because no one would find anything.  Likewise you wouldn’t organize a shelf of board books by LC.  These decisions become gray when you are in special libraries.  Special Libraries = Special Problems.

Takeaways

  • If a unique situation comes up, or a decision needs to be made, make an informed decision, stick with it, and document it.
  • If you are going to change a process change it for everything, past and future.
  • It is important to cater to your audience.  Don’t pander to them but make sure your collection or the organization of it, serves them.
  • Document instructions and procedures in a clear way that gives little room for interpretation and ensure that future volunteers read and understand the instructions.  I would also add that you make it clear to future volunteers why everything is so specific.  Libraries frequently get volunteers who have not had that drive for consistency and accuracy instilled in them so it is important to explain the why behind the how.

Thank you to Cory and Ben for the wonderful tour, and if there are any MLIS Students or Professionals who are interested in dedicating themselves to the Frye Library cause please let Greg or myself know so we can put you in touch with Cory.

Organization

Planning any project has its structures and its chaos. Some of the best ideas come out of a more chaotic approach to planning, to organization, to evolution. When it comes to meeting, Anna and I typically meet in person, on Google+ in a hangout, or via Skype. Or we have a good, old-fashioned telephone call. Each of these meeting spaces can provide amazing structure or amazing lack of structure, but all of them provide some assistance to the project.

We keep numerous Google documents that capture our notes and plans. I personally use a Google calendar synced up to my phone and tablet so that I can keep track of deadlines and events and meetings easily. Most of the time our communication externally (with Nancy or the folks at the Audubon Center) is conducted through email, with the occasional digital meeting or phone call thrown in there for fun.

Keeping track of all the information is a hard process because Anna and I are both idea people. We like to explore new possibilities organically, and are constantly stretching the limitations of our imaginations. This is a good thing, but can lead to a lot of distractions. Fortunately there’s only so much time available for our brainstorming sessions, and our goals are fundamentally keeping us in check. As we get close to the end of the quarter, and as the collection catalog becomes a focus of the past, we’re starting to think of requirements we originally touched on but did not develop fully. We’ll have a meeting (hopefully) next week with Nancy and a separate meeting with the staff, where we’ll begin to think about fulfilling our project and going beyond the project to allow the library to fulfill its mission. Speaking of missions . . . we still need to help craft one!

Cataloging Tools We Use and Why We Love Them

Despite my academic experience, and a couple ramshackle volunteer gigs involving funky Google docs and internal non-relational database work (from something out of the 90s), I haven’t had much that much experience with actual cataloging. Well, finally I’ve been able to put my theoretical knowledge to the test and actually dive into what the catalog means, what’s offered inside, and what the potential for having a robust catalog is. Let me say, however, that I don’t think the Seward Park project has exposed me to all the basics of the catalog, and there are a lot of pieces to a record, MARC and otherwise, that we won’t have much need to explore, but I have gotten significant experience in the 2,000+ items we’ve gone through thus far.

Oh, and I forgot to mention this: we’re almost done. That’s right, the catalog is almost complete (or rather, the “initial catalog is almost complete”–a catalog is never finished)! After this past Saturday’s diligence, Anna and I got through the majority of the remaining titles. All that is left for our initial push, and this project, to be honest, are a few stragglers and a handful of what we’ve deemed “trouble books.” We’ve thrown all these “trouble books” into a spreadsheet and I can’t see them taking too long to complete. The hardest part will be subject cataloging; however, Anna’s experience and the staff’s topical knowledge and my intellectual drive will get us through those easily enough. I hope, anyway. There are a lot of books in the collection that one might question in terms of topical relevance, and I know at least a few are books that were not found in the Library of Congress or other databases we investigated. But the remainder of the project is not what I initially wanted to talk about. What I really, really wanted to talk about was help.

Libraries are networks and have relationships like humans have relationships. One of the most glorious elements of the library (archetypal place-type) is that it has been following in a deep tradition and that tradition has been supported by a respect for the libraries that have been through the libraries that are and will be. When you’re creating a catalog, you actually save significant amount of time by using resources that others (others who are most likely paid or severely experienced) have created before you. I’ll talk about a few of the resources below, and I’ll try to be brief.

Z39.50: While I don’t have enough time to go into the history of the Z39.50 function, or explain it exactly and technically (you can learn about its core existence right here), I will say this: it’s ingenious and my code name for it is: short cut. Actually, all the tools I’m going to talk about here are short cuts and should be appreciated as such. They cut down drastically on time spent to add new records to the catalog or fix/ensure accuracy for the fields within each record. For Z39.50, you can basically think of it as a gateway to another collection. In the case of OPALS, there are a few Z39.50s included to begin with when you have the ILS setup originally. When they’ve been added to the ILS, it means that the cataloger can search the other database to find records within the database and add it to your own library database.

Why is this important? When you’ve got a collection of books, it saves a lot of time to grab the records for those books from other libraries.  The Library of Congress was the first library database we used to find records for books in our collection. But, oddly enough, LC doesn’t have everything. Anna and I came to the conclusion that a lot of the resources we were cataloging were actually from this region (Pacific Northwest, US and Canada) and so we decided to add the University of Washington to the Z39.50 list and, voila, we found records for even more of the resources we were cataloging. That being said, the magical Z39.50 can’t find every resource, because some resources simply haven’t been cataloged, or are so obscure that they’ve been cataloged only be “random” libraries out in the middle of the ether. Now, wouldn’t it be nice to search every database at the same time? Yes, it would, and Anna brought that up. But this technology is actually relatively old-school, and so what we’re left with is going to a Z39.50 index like this one I found via  a simple Google search and trying to find relevant libraries to add. As you can see, there are tons. Really, tons. It’s overwhelming, which is why it helps to have a specific need, so you can have a specific database to add to solve that need. Another way you can go about finding out what library collection has your resource in its catalog is by way of WorldCat, which I’ll discuss below. But regardless of how you find a resource, it doesn’t mean you’re going to find it, and in some cases Z39.50s aren’t even available for certain libraries, so the tools are only good to a point.

WorldCat: If you’re a UW student, you’re used to using a WorldCat interface to find materials located at UW and within the entire university consortium (and online databases for digital articles and e-resources). WorldCat offers all of its location-based information online for free, though, right on their handy website. Anna has more direct library experience with them than I do. Though you can use WorldCat to find out which library has your resource for Z39.50 info, you can also use WorldCat to get more basic information for the record more quickly. Anna started using WorldCat for items in the catalog lacking call numbers. Let me back up and take two seconds to explain what call numbers are: they are, at least in our case, Dewey Decimal numbers (determined by subject) and Cutter numbers (determined by author’s last name) that, when combined, make up a reference to finding the item on the shelf. I don’t know why, but LC doesn’t always have call numbers in place in their records.

So you can either create the call number from scratch (using the Dewey classification site, which is actually pretty awesome and easy to use), or you can try and see if a library that owns the resource has a call number available. Most of the time, if a library has the item, it has the call number, and it’s available through their OPAC. This is where WorldCat comes in. You can search for the resource and 99% of the time find a library that has it in its catalog. Then you go to that library’s website (linked in WorldCat) and search the OPAC for the resource and get the call number listed. I wish WorldCat would display the call number and save that extra step, but it must not seem like a priority to share that information on a SERP on the WorldCat interface. You can, of course, run into problems with WorldCat. When you find a resource and your library is using Dewey, you’re going to have to make sure you look in public library catalogs only, as most other libraries (corporate-special, medical-special, and university, for example) use LC classification. Why we chose Dewey and not LC for our call numbers and classification is mostly in part because Anna has the most experience with it, and because the call numbers used before we got to the library already were Dewey, so it made sense not to start from scratch. Anyway, there have only been a few instances where using WorldCat to find the call number was not possible. In some cases we’ve used FirstSearch, which is owned by OCLC. Similar to WorldCat, it can find resources fairly easily, tell where they are available and, in some cases, display additional information (like call numbers). The major problem with FirstSearch is that it’s owned and maintained by OCLC. That’s another conversation. When all else fails and a resource can’t be found, Googling a phrase like “[resource]+library+call number” sometimes brings up the resource in question.

So in conclusion, libraries don’t have to rely on other tools and systems and libraries to get their job done. Technically Anna and I could have cataloged the entire library from scratch without any other help. But we probably would be only on the second or third shelf after all of these weeks of work, and that’s neither practical nor desirable. I think this experience, which is finding accurate records existing inside the world of cataloging already, has been just as valuable as knowing how to catalog a record from scratch, though I won’t be certain about the equality in question until after this Saturday.

In other news, we are hoping to meet with Joey and Ali soon to discuss internal policies. We’ve also got the first draft of the collection development done, though Anna’s looking over it before we move on to sharing it.

Saturdays at the Audubon Center

Greg and I have spent yet another Saturday cataloging at the Audubon Center.  This Saturday it was bright and cold and all around beautiful.  There was a board meeting in the library so we hauled all the books that needed cataloging into the Lab.  As we are getting down to the end of the line we are coming upon more decisions that need to be made.  Should there be a prefix or a suffix for Reference Books?  Should the very few fiction books be shelved with the traditional Dewey Number (813) or should we create a separate section for the handful of fiction books?

 
One of the nicest surprises we found was that one of the larger collections of books that needed original cataloging is a serial.  So, only one record needs to be created for the 20 editions of Bird Lore (which is a pretty neat series).  I am currently plowing through all the children’s books, which is far more time consuming than one might assume.  Originally our goal was to catalog the rest of the collection but as the day wore on and we ran out of Audubon Barcodes, it became obvious that we would not complete the task that day.
 
Truth be told I don’t know how I will feel when we are done cataloging.  It has been nice spending these Saturdays at Seward Park and I have enjoyed getting to know Ali and Joey and the rest of the Audubon Staff better.  I had a wonderful and informative conversation about several of the taxidermied birds in the lab.  It was fascinating to feel the tail feathers of a woodpecker and how different they are (very stiff) from the tail feathers of other birds.   When we are done with the cataloging we will still be working closely with the Audubon Staff but we won’t be spending nearly as much time at Seward Park.
 
Everything is becoming more exciting and more daunting.  Thinking about drafting all the collection development material, training material, setting up the ILS so it works just the way the Audubon wants it to and ensuring the launch of the ILS is successful has become a big mental load to bear (but an exciting one).

Cataloging and Being Direct: A Response to McElfresh

So we’ve been hard at work cataloging the Audubon Center’s library collection for a few weeks now, and I wanted to briefly comment on the process. It helps to have a slightly theoretical basis for analysis and self-reflection, which has been, nicely enough, afforded to me by way of the article “Cataloging and Classification in a Small Library: The Good, the Bad, and the Challenging” by Laura Kane McElfresh (2009). Through the article McElfresh dives into Thomas Mann’s Library Research Models, and applies these buckets of research to the effectiveness of the small library catalog. The models include Type-of-Literature, Specific Subject or Discipline, Actual-Practice, Computer Workstation, and Traditional Library Science. While I argue that these models, which I won’t dive into here, offer quite a lot of grounds for establishing a particular type of catalog to meet patron needs, I would argue that the small library can be in a mode of flux that prohibits easily identifying a model to follow.

Before I explain myself, I should add that the idea of the “small library” (as a concept) is quite vague across the board, and many research-based libraries, public, university, and corporate libraries can all fall under the bracket of the library that Anna and I have been working under. They can all be small in nature and scope, from the collection size to the programming to the patron and membership bodies. I think that part of the definition of the small library should require a statement on uniqueness: small libraries are going to have their own acute differences that cannot be helped, and thus every library is its own special case.

With that said, let’s talk about the idea of research and the idea of cataloging and where the bridge exists (or doesn’t!). Research is a tricky concept to nail down as well. With the Audubon Center as a whole, you might have naturalists, independent scientists and bird enthusiasts, amateur ornithologists, students, children, or families conducting some form of research at any given moment. In fact, the programming that goes on within the walls of the Audubon Center encourage research to come from many different angles. I personally love this, but when you bring the library into the space of the research, things get a bit muddy! How can we bring the library into a supplementary position that will assist the many different kinds of researchers with the many different types of research being conducted within the Center and Seward Park, generally? How can we bring the library into the community beyond the park, the neighborhood and region, especially since it has such amazing resources within its collection that can serve to help nearby residents when the public library is not available? How can the library act as a conduit for programs already existing and being run by the staff at the Center?

All these questions turn what could be a holistic, every-library problem into a very particular problem concerning this particular library and this particular space. What’s more, research and education are two core components, which can be measured and tracked and reviewed by those authorities within the center, that we can look at even more intimately as goal buckets for the library to achieve.

As I’ve mentioned before, the library is not yet out in the open, so to speak. The library is not yet known to the general public as it hasn’t yet been advertised by way of its current online catalog and the updates Anna and I have been making. And so there’s still time to think about how the public will best use the library (rather than reflecting on how they have been using the library, which is, as Joey of the Audubon Center has described, quite minimally).

To craft a catalog capable of meeting the needs of research, casual reading, and programmatically-related support is something that I think about when I see all the lovely folks who move around within the Audubon Center’s walls. I like to look at the Audubon Center as a sort of maze, like the type you would go through in old-school video games, with the secret discoverable element lurking within. For me, that secret is the library. Folks will stumble upon the library after they make their way up to the heart of the Center on the second floor. What they do after they get there is, well, comment on how great it is to have a library there. But this blockage is, for me, unacceptable. I’ve never really understood the importance of a publically-available catalog, but after seeing so many fleeting images of Audubon Center visitors, I’m beginning to get a good sense of how I believe the library can be transformed to operate as a much more functional “secret heart” of the Center. Essentially I envision this: folks not only know about the library before entering the maze, but they go from amicable serendipitous discovery to a search for the library they already are aware of. I’ve talked about this goal before and I will talk about it again as a way to remind myself of the potential the library has. Let’s return to research, though.

So if we imagine that the library already has its foundation and exists within the minds (and hearts) of the community, we can take the next step and think about how the library can fulfill the needs of those folks who are aware of its existence. The researcher always has a question, and we want to make sure that the researcher knows they can find the answer. So in doing such, we want to make sure the researcher knows the catalog can be searched and that they can find out if we have or do not have the type of resource they need in the 21st century to accomplish those goals. When it comes to libraries, the argument against them in the contemporary age is due to ease of access to information via search engines. There are many good examples of what you can’t find (or easily find) on search engines, including: browseable bodies of classed bird information (a la guidebooks), historic documents such as the original Audubon magazine, Bird-lore, and local records on events and documentation of programs that went on in Seward Park. You’ll be able to find all of these resources and much more in the library at our Audubon Center. Additionally, we want to be able to make sure everyone gets easy access to what we consider authoritative online resources related to bird research, which we will make sure are available on the OPAC.

I’ve been going on much longer than I thought I would. Let me talk about one of the highlights of the McElfresh article. Early on in, she mentions Mann’s “Principle of Least Effort” which “holds that ‘most researchers (even ‘serious’ scholars) will tend to choose easily available information sources, even when they are objectively of low quality, and, further, will tend to be satisfied with whatever can be found easily in preference to pursuing higher-quality sources whose use would require a greater expenditure of effort.’ This is an established, recognized pattern of patron behavior, and one that libraries ignore at their own risk” (5). When I read this passage for the first time, and even upon revisiting it, I thought about how we want our data linked. Even though “linked data” is a very particular term in our current age of the semantic web and relational databases, we all know that MARC records are linked through the OPAC by common fields. This is what makes the catalog so powerful, and where Anna and I come in as those who make sure the principle described above doesn’t result in disaster for the library. I mention Anna and myself because we are the ones pulling records from the Library of Congress (when they exist) and, when they don’t, we are the ones in charge of creating accurate, descriptive cataloging records that can link up with the rest of the collection. Subject cataloging, while highly rigid (as I learned through my recent Cataloging course with Professor Lisa Fusco), is also potentially subjective. There is a lot of autonomy and thus responsibility on the end of the subject cataloger.

Anna and I are nearly finished with the initial collection and the cataloging duties therein. We have already gone through around 800 individual resources, including around 100 of those that are second (and more) copies of titles. We have probably 200 more to go, with the potential to continue to expand as people become aware of the current library resurgence and donate, donate, donate. Once we “finish” the books and other resources within the collection that we have found in the Library of Congress, we will have to complete the collection’s catalog by way of original cataloging performed on all the leftover resources. This is where we want to make sure we’re filling out all of the subject headings accurately and purposefully so as to create a description usable by all those who might suffer the least effort described above. We want a catalog that is as easy to navigate as a list of search results on a search engine, and I think we already are on our way. An OPALS website and OPAC already has like-item functionality (where, when you’re looking at a particular resource in the catalog, the screen displays you similar items based on subject), which I believe is standard with most ILSs (if not all). We obviously need to review the information when we are able to ensure accuracy.

McElfresh, partway through her article, defines what she calls the “Don’t Disappoint the Patron Principle” (7). This principle is directly related to subject cataloging and is defined by McElfresh as thus: “when considering whether or not to add ‘X’ as a subject heading, I ask myself how likely it is that the book would disappoint a reader who wants a book on ‘X’.” My final point of this super-long blog article, then, is that Anna and I have to be as aware as possible to the reality of the catalog and the subject fields in each MARC record, with our feet firmly planted in the catalog user’s shoes. But what’s even more important is that we need to admit we aren’t the experts. The Audubon Center, that maze I was telling you about, is filled with the subject experts that will make this catalog what it needs to be to excel. Furthermore, we will need to ensure that in large font on the homepage is a message saying “QUESTIONS, EMAIL THE LIBRARIANS.” (Or something like that.) We want to make sure we’re understood, and that any and all hiccups with our interface are smoothed over as fast as possible going forward.