RDA in a Day

Last week I went to CILIP HQ in London to attend ‘RDA in a Day’. The course leader was Alan Danskin, who is Metadata Standards Manager at the British Library.

We started off with a brief introduction to FRBR – Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. As you may remember (not really), I had my first introduction to FRBR when I attended ‘FRBR for the Terrified’, back in 2013. Fortunately, I remembered some of what I learned then as it has become no less confusing over the years! I liked the definition of FRBR as a “conceptual model – a tool for thinking about/expressing part of the universe you’re interested in”. The FRBR model uses groups of entities and their primary relationships to try to  ‘express part of the universe’. As well as FRBR, there are other models in the “FR family”: FRAD – Functional Requirements for Authority Data and FRSAD – Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data.

The next session was about using the RDA Toolkit, which was really interesting as we don’t have access to it at work so it was my first time seeing the ‘inside’ of it. We also got to actually use it which was most helpful. We then had an ‘RDA primer’ – “a very brief introduction to RDA terminology and some core concepts”. I wrote them all down, but I won’t list them here – at least not right now. Perhaps I’ll make an RDA primer page.

After lunch, we looked at RIMMF. I’ve written a very little bit about RIMMF before – but now I’ve actually used it! This was quite exciting (I’m a bit easily excited by anything cataloguing-related, I fear) and slightly brain-bending after a while when it got more complicated. We practised by cataloguing examples of books (lots of Christopher Brookmyre) using RIMMF. I can see how useful it is for learning the concepts of RDA – it gets you thinking and thus cataloguing in a different way than using MARC and trying to fit/force RDA into it…

Which is what we looked at next (RDA and MARC). I thought it was interesting that any record that is not full RDA should be referred to as a hybrid record rather than an RDA record, even if it contains RDA elements. I suppose, technically, there aren’t really very many true RDA records out there. The ones we refer to at work as RDA are really hybrids of RDA and MARC.

Lastly, we looked ahead at what is (probably) around the corner in the world of metadata/cataloguing/standards/entity relationship modelling. It was interesting to hear about developments such as the LRM – Library Reference Model – and to realise that the world of metadata and ways of thinking about ‘things’ and their relationships to each other and their creators (ontology) is always evolving. One of the reasons I like cataloguing is because it’s a bit like philosophy (perhaps it actually is a form of philosophy?). Thinking about RDA, FRBR and the like certainly stretches the brain, anyway!

Also, the sandwiches were very good.

The only thing was, I felt like it was all a bit theoretical, even the practical bits. No one can catalogue properly using RDA as it should really be used because library management systems don’t have the capacity to do that. Even at the British Library they are creating hybrid records rather than true RDA ones. Also, the fact that ideas, concepts and models relating to RDA/FRBR are evolving, while being interesting, makes one feel in a state of flux. Gone are the days when there were cataloguing rules as with AACR2. This is a good thing, but in a stereotypical-cataloguer-like way I quite like to know where I’m going…It did feel a bit like playing or conducting philosophical exercises because of the lack of practical application. Which was fun, but felt worryingly pointless.

I guess this is mainly because we’re not even attempting to catalogue using RDA so it’s difficult to see how it can be applied in the real world, as it were – so one of my next bright ideas (!) is to go and a library where people do use RDA and see how they apply it in real life. Hello, University of Kent! I will be inviting myself to see you soon…




Thing 7: Face-to-face networks and professional organisations

I’m a chartered member of CILIP and  a member of the South Eastern branch (by default), but I’m afraid to say I’ve never been to any of their meetings. Perhaps this is something I should get more involved in. I’m also a member of the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing group and the Universities, Colleges and Research Group. I subscribe to the Cataloguing and Research Group’s blog, which gives me some good insight into what’s going on in the world of cataloguing. I flick through Update whenever it arrives and use LISJobnet for job hunting.  I  find reading Update and the weekly email digests from CILIP  helpful in my attempts to keep up to date with news related to the library and information profession. I’ve written articles for the (now extinct) CILIP Gazette in the past.

There aren’t many CILIP members in my organisation – in fact I think I only know two or three others (out of about 30 library staff) and sometimes I do wonder what the point of being a member of CILIP is. However, I do think that doing my chartership was good for me – it’s the only thing in my career I really feel proud of  -, so I will retain my CILIP membership so I can retain my chartered status and eventually re-validate, and, as I’ve said, I do find the communications from CILIP very helpful for current awareness.

I think being a CILIP member probably has a lot more potential for excitement and ‘value’  (if that’s what you want) than a lot of people (including me) give it credit for. Like most other things, you get out what you put in – at least to a certain extent.

Portfolio building

I’ve spent the last week off work, trying to get my portfolio together. It’s been good to have the peace and quiet and time to sort everything out. I’ve written my evaluative statement and am waiting for my mentor to have a look at it. Unfortunately, she was on leave this past week. I’m really hoping it’s OK because I’ve started formatting and printing off the things I’ve chosen to go into my portfolio as evidence. I’m taking Monday and Tuesday off as well, which will hopefully give me enough time to make any changes required. If not, it’s just going to have to be handed in late (according to the conditions agreed when my appraisal objective was agreed, not according to CILIP). I have asked a colleague and one of the Candidate Support Officers for my region to have a look at it and they both think it is OK, so hopefully my mentor will agree.

I was feeling quite positive about it until Friday afternoon when I started printing off evidence and looking at it more closely and suddenly none of it seemed much good. So whether my statement is any good or not might be irrelevant if my evidence is not up to scratch. I suppose once it’s sent off there’s nothing I can do about it and if I have to do it again I’ll just have to do it again…although obviously I would rather not have to do this!

I have actually enjoyed working on my portfolio, partially because of the peace and quiet in the place where I’m working (another library) but also because I feel like I’ve achieved things, even though I haven’t finished yet. I don’t think I want to go back to work.

Just quickly

Just a quick post to say that I have actually done some stuff for my chartership this week. I’ve been categorising pieces of evidence for my portfolio using the assessment criteria and filing it both digitally and in hard copy. I’ve also finished writing my record of training courses, etc. and have started writing up my log of communications with my mentor. It’s not much, but it’s made me feel a bit better and a bit more on track.

Meanwhile, I’ve been applying for a revised version of my own job,  as our department within Library Services  is currently undergoing restructuring. It’s quite difficult to try and sell yourself to your own line managers, especially when you are not feeling particularly confident that you can do your own job as it currently is, without the additional responsibilities that may come with the new version of it. I think I’ve finished my application now, although I suspect it will change again before Wednesday, when it has to be handed in. Anyway, it’s been a useful experience to have to think about what it is I actually do and what skills and knowledge I need to do it.

This week I also observed and participated in the CILIP 2.0 – CILIP Council Open Session on Web 2.0 via Twitter.  It was an interesting experience! Lots of ideas good, bad and just quite strange, being floated around. I think I need  to go back and read the live blog to try to digest what was said.

Creating a customer focused environment in the academic sector

I went on a CILIP training course last week, the title of which is above. The main objectives of the course were as follows:

  • To understand what outstanding customer service is and why it is important
  • To understand and predict customer needs
  • To create a plan to involve customers
  • To learn how to communicate effectively with different types of customers (including more challenging ones)
  • To learn how to measure customer satisfaction using different methods
  • To learn the methodology of writing and conducting questionnaires
  • To have an action plan to take away and implement

We began by thinking about what a customer focused environment is, and why it is important. I found the reasons why it’s important quite interesting: of course it is a “defensive necessity” – to keep customers and win new ones, but it is also a motivator for staff. As the course notes quote “If you know you are adding value you feel valued yourself”. I think this is an important point, and one that is quite relevant to what is going on in the library I work in at the moment. Library staff are trying their best to provide good customer service but aren’t able to do so due to circumstances outside of their control. I can’t really speak for anyone else, but this is making me feel useless, bad at my job and undervalued.

We thought about and discussed good and bad experiences of customer services. On our table, Argos was held up as an appalling example of customer service and Amazon are very good, apparently.

We went on to assess how customer focused we feel our organisations are at the moment, using the six basic customer needs as our criteria. These are:

  • Friendliness
  • Understanding and empathy
  • Fairness
  • Control (as in whether the customer feels they have some degree of control over what happens to them)
  • Options and alternatives
  • Information

I think the library is good at some of these but quite bad at others! Again, part of the reason we’re (front line/Reader Services) bad at providing some of these things is due to reasons outside of our control. We had to give ourselves marks out of ten for each criteria. I had the thought that the scores would differ if you looked at what people (especially library managers) think we’re good at and then looked at the reality of what happens on a day to day basis.

Coffee time, then we thought about one particular group of customers, or a particular customer, that we might come into contact with and tried to put ourselves in their shoes to think about what they might want or need from the library. I decided to try and think about what it might be like to be a Sports Science student. It was quite difficult! In the end, I thought that the main thing would be that the student would need to realise that the library is relevant to him (sorry, I was being stereotypical) and so the library would need to find ways of making itself relevant, accessible and unpatronising.

We then thought as a group about a different group of potential customers and what we thought they would most need their “service providers to be and give”. Our table thought about academics and decided that the top six things that academics might want were for us to be accurate, flexible, knowledgeable, professional timely and well-stocked (in no particular order). I know this latter is rather ironic in light of the stock management policy, but perhaps we’d better not go there. We then thought about how well these customer needs are currently being fulfilled and what services we could provide to fulfill these needs. We didn’t really get very far with our thoughts, although it occurred to me that it’s important not to pander to the ‘needs’ of one group of customers if that could result in a detrimental effect on another group.

Then it was lunch time, after which we looked at different models of communication style and how we could use these to improve our communication with different types of customers. Apparently, I have an analytical communication style – I am less assertive and less responsive. Responsiveness “relates to how much or how little you show your own emotions or demonstrate awareness of the feelings of others”. The other styles are:

  • Driver (more assertive, less responsive)
  • Amiable (less assertive, more responsive)
  • Expressive (more assertive, more responsive)

The purpose of this was to think about ways in which we could adapt our communication style when dealing with customers we might find difficult to deal with. I thought of some things I could do, but these things are always easier said than done.

More coffee, and then we moved on to looking at ways of measuring customer satisfaction. We briefly examined different types of surveying (random customer survey, staff attitude survey, target customer or customer type survey, focus groups, face-to-face interviews, mystery shopping) and then learned about how to create an effective survey. The most important thing to remember when creating a survey is that you need to define your research objectives. This is more complicated than it might first appear, when you start thinking about it.

The last thing we did was to create an “action plan” to take back to our workplaces. I found this quite difficult, mainly because I don’t think I have the power to change very much in the library. If I did, I would want to try and look at how we can give more equity of service to students and staff, a lot of whom are not based on campus. Also relating to equity of service, one question that arose at the beginning of the day and never really got answered was ‘how do you deal with individual needs and still follow library policies and procedures?’ Needless to say, I didn’t create much of an action plan. That’s the problem with all courses, I find. They’re very interesting and potentially useful, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever implemented anything I’ve learnt on a course into my day-to-day work, unless I’ve done it subconsciously. I shouldn’t have said that, should I?

P.S. I’m sorry if anyone doesn’t like using the word “customers” when referring to library users. I don’t really like it either, but it was the word that was (unsurprisingly) used in the training. I came back to work and used to word “customers” about three times in one email. Aggh!