by Vanessa Whippo LTLS Consultant
Programs on metadata creation and catalog usability were the meat of this year’s ALA Annual for me, laced with a workshop on ways that library data might be transformed for use within “Web 3.0” (prompting the immediate purchase of a copy of The Semantic Web for Dummies) and a workshop entitled Preparing Yourself to Teach. Talks and readings by Gregory McGuire, Michael Connelly, and poet and former Champaign Public Library children’s librarian Janet Harrington served as reminders of the important roles librarians play in making their work accessible.
Attendees at the ALA Annual presentation Look Before You Leap: Taking RDA for a Test Drive were treated to a preview of the new cataloging code, Resource Description and Access, now scheduled for release in an online format in November of 2009.
RDA is built on two conceptual models, Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) and Functional Requirements for Authority Data (FRAD) developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). It goes beyond previous cataloging codes by providing guidelines for cataloging digital resources, placing stronger emphasis on helping users complete the tasks involved in obtaining desired information, and supporting the clustering of bibliographic records to make catalog users more aware of a work’s different editions, translations, and physical formats.
Look Before You Leap speakers presented an overview of the content and organization of RDA compared with AACR2. Presentations included an overview of the online product beta, creation of workflows, use of RDA in ILS systems, the U.S. national libraries’ planned RDA testing, and expansion of the MARC bibliographic and authority formats to accommodate RDA terms.
The Library of Congress has published a list of the U.S. national libraries’ RDA test partners, as well as a tentative timeline for testing the operational, technical and economic feasibility of RDA. LOC is posting the test methodology so that any organization wishing to test RDA in its own environment may do so. Final report of test results will be issued, at the earliest, in October of 2010.
Speakers presenting during Catalog Use and Usability Studies: What Do They Show and How Should This Evidence Affect Our Decision-Making? made a strong case for the value of evidence-based cataloging and involvement of end users in catalog configuration.
Karen Calhoun, OCLC Vice President, OCLC WorldCat and Metadata Services, reviewed major findings of the recently published OCLC study Online Catalogs: What Users and Librarians Want. This report provides valuable information about metadata elements and online catalog enhancements end users value most (summaries, tables of contents, improved search relevance) as they go about the tasks involved in identifying and obtaining appropriate materials. The study also revealed that access to materials in the form of full text and audio and video clips, is as important, if not more so, than discovery. Other important information provided by the study pertains to enhancements librarians most recommend for online catalogs to assist them in their work. Calhoun recommends that we “start small, but start” immediately to align technical services priorities with those of end users.
Nora Dimmock, Head, Multimedia Center, University of Rochester and Beth Thomsett-Scott, University of North Texas Libraries, both reported on catalog usability studies conducted by asking students and faculty to react to performing specific tasks on their libraries’ and other university libraries’ websites and in their online catalogs. Studies at both locations have resulted in website and catalog changes leading to increased end user satisfaction. Interestingly, Thomsett-Scott reported that very few of the University of North Texas study participants, including graduate students, had used the online catalog prior to the study.
Dimmock found that University of Rochester study participants did not always react rationally. For example, although the University of Arizona library’s website and catalog were extremely user friendly, U. of Rochester subjects objected to their “unscholarly” appearance.