Sunday, July 09, 2006

Program A-5: Pioneering the Transformation of Technical Services Librarians into Digital Librarians

Carol Hixson, Head of Metadata and Digital Library Services at the University of Oregon gave an excellent presentation on how the original Catalog Department transformed itself into the Metadata and Digital Library Services Dept. This department now includes the creation and maintenance of digital collections. In addition they also assumed operation of the campus institutional repository, including policy-making and marketing documents. Other new responsibilities include software administration and upgrades, public Web pages, and digital and photographic reproductions of library materials. Carol outlined the facts behind this process and the circumstances driving it and showed the step by step process that has lead to this new Metadata and Digital Services department.

She credited being in the right place at the right time as being an important factor in her department's successful transformation. When she began as Head of the Catalog Dept in 2000 many of the elements for success were present. She had great staff and colleagues, they were involved in PCC, they had very clean bibliographic database, there was already some team-based organization in the department, they were and are an ARL library working with a budget deficit, she had an extensive cataloging and metadata background, and there was a new University Librarian in June of that year. The leadership style of the new UL was crucial in this process. She stressed collaboration across divisions, liked co-operation, did not like whining, and she had budgetary constraints which required a creative approach.

Carol's department began by looking at what needed to be accomplished and what backlogs of uncataloged materials were in the library’s collection and looking at ways to provide access to them such as different levels of cataloging, different types of metadata such as Dublin Core and EAD, and having non cataloging personnel providing metadata. For example they worked collaboratively with the Manuscripts department to teach them cataloging so that they could do some of their own bibliographic control work. They took on some digital projects which were grant funded and used ContentDM software. Carol also actively lobbied for her position as co-chair of the team to implement their institutional repository. In addition, their merger with the Preservation Dept. in 2003, drove some of these new duties.

She summarized this process as a gradual evolution. They worked to acquire new skills, took on new work, seized opportunities and promoted a wide role for the cataloging department. They actively worked to make access to the library's collections in all formats a library wide “problem” and not just a cataloging department “problem”.

Technical Services Librarians can and should take on these digital library projects and widen the scope of their departments because they have the skill set required:
• They are familiar with standards
• They've been creating metadata all along and are experts in it
• They have experience designing workflows
• They have the technical skills to make things work
• They had experience in and the skills required to train people and to document procedures
• They have experience in marketing (because they have been justifying their skills and work product to Administrators)
• They are used to adapting to new rules and new systems.
This program was so meaty and full of information and ideas that I don't think I can do it justice in a blog entry. Carol covered much more detail including the challenges they have faced and ways in which they are working to overcome them. She stressed over and over the need to work collaboratively and the need for continual retraining and education as well as cross-training.

To access the Powerpoint Slides including her notes, and her Handouts for this program go to:
The slides also include links to the department’s web pages and to some of their projects. Incidentally these materials are housed in their institutional repository and you can take a look at the metadata record for them.

This program was also taped and it would well worth the purchase price. I was encouraged that my library was on the right track and I was inspired to do more.

~Beth Geesey Holmes
Cataloging Services Librarian
University of Georgia Law Library

1 comment:

  1. This session is also mentioned on Jim Milles' Check This Out! podcast at:

    as are a number of other tech services sessions.

    On behalf of those of us not at the conference, thank you for blogging!