Saturday, November 26, 2016

Why I Do What I Do

Three days each week, 6 hours on each of those days, I sit in front of a computer at the Massachusetts Library System and work with (on?) the MassCat online catalog. This may seem like a boring and tedious job to some people (and sometimes it is), but it suits me and actually brings me much satisfaction.

I do several different things: I import bib records that library receive from their vendors when they buy new books and other materials; I find bib records via paid sources to which I have access; I create bib records when they don't already exist. All of this keeps a library's catalog accurate so patrons and staff know what the library owns and where the item is.

Most of my time is spent searching for and merging duplicate records. If you've spent any time reading this blog, you know I'm now on the letter "K". I started on titles beginning with the word "Kissinger" yesterday. (There were over 800 hits using that one word in a keyword search.)

As I find duplicates, I look at the records side by side to make sure they are exactly the same and then hit the "Merge" button. All libraries with holdings on either record are now all listed as owners of this one version of a title.

Okay, that's what I do; now for why I do it.

There are lots of benefits from merging duplicate records, but I'm sure most people - even most librarians - don't even think about it, so here they are.

Benefits to the Patrons: Whether in a public, school, or special library, if one enters a keyword search with one or two words (as in the Kissinger example above), the result is a long list of books, audio books, videos, and other materials containing that word. Sorting through that list can be difficult. Many books, especially popular titles like James Patterson's Private Paris, come in a variety of formats: regular print, large print, book on CD. There might also be a mass market paperback, a DVD, Blu-ray and/or an e-book.

Each of these formats needs its own bib record for Interlibrary Loan purposes. If I can only comfortably read large print, I don't want to get a mass market paperback; I don't want a Blu-ray disc if I don't have a player on which to view it.

It can be confusing enough navigating the myriad versions of a title, but having two or more bib records of the exact same thing only adds to the confusion. Hence, merging duplicate records.

Another benefit for the patron is having all owning libraries listed on one record, rather than each owning library having a separate record. Some libraries, particularly historical societies and other special libraries, do not allow their materials to circulate; a person can use them on site, but not take them out of the building. But if another library also owns the same title and does allow their collection to circulate, I can borrow that copy via Interlibrary Loan.

And if two different historical societies own the same item, which is often the case, and I can only use that item on site, I can travel to whichever is closer.

There are benefits to the library staff as well especially for those involved in collection development: If a particular title in my collection has been lost but several other libraries in the area own it (which I can easily tell by looking at the list of owning libraries listed on said title), I might not bother to replace that title since my patrons can borrow it elsewhere. That helps stretch my materials budget. Similarly, if a specific book is looking shabby, I can weed it knowing my patrons have access to it at another library. That keeps my library looking fresher and more inviting.

As I stand and stretch and take a quick walk because too much sitting can stiffen my joints, I reflect on what I've accomplished that day and think of my contribution - small but important - to MassCat libraries.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Kennedy and Khrushchev

Since I'm now working on the letter "K" in my alphabetical list of duplicates, a couple of weeks ago I arrived at Kennedy.

A search on the single keyword "Kennedy" brought up over 2,000 hits. It likely would have been more, but some of the problems were resolved in the "John" search.

Besides Jack, Bobby and Ted, there are lots of other people whose names include Kennedy, like William Kennedy who wrote lots of books found in library collections and therefore increased the number of hits.

Shortly after Kennedy, came Khrushchev. There weren't nearly as many hits, but there were several hundred - again, many having already been merged because they were found in the Kennedy (or John) search. My teen years occurred during the 60s, and I was acutely aware of the Cold War. I even learned how to spell Khrushchev (perhaps it was a school assignment). I found one bib record with his name misspelled, probably because the record had been hand keyed into the library's former catalog.

Since most of the MassCat members are school libraries, I have concluded there are lots of materials (mostly books) covering the 1960s. I have since learned that there was lots of money for public schools in those years and library collection were well developed. Unfortunately, that's not still the case. School libraries are chronically underfunded and since librarians want their libraries to look as if they have resources, there's not much weeding going on. I'd really like to see a chart or graph of the publication dates of school library collections. I can just about guarantee it would skew heavily to the latter half of the twentieth century.

I can attest those were interesting times that today's students should know about, but how often are most of these books read?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Shopping in Provincetown

M. and I just returned from a week in Provincetown where we attended the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. This was our 7th TW Festival and the 5th year in a row. We may take a break next year.

The festival organizers are looking for new ways to present TW's plays. Having organized plenty of conferences, I understand this completely. 2016 marks 100 years since Eugene O'Neill's first play was performed in Provincetown and half of the plays were his. The theme was "Beyond Success" because after both Williams and O'Neill were big hits, they tried experimenting, not always to great acclaim. These plays were the ones written later in their careers.

Next year's theme is "Shakespeare" so perhaps I don't want to skip that.

One of the things I like the best about going to Provincetown at this time of year is the shopping. It's post "season" when there are far fewer tourists and many store are winding down, some closing for the winter. There are LOTS OF SALES. As I look through my wardrobe, much of my clothing is from Provincetown.

This year's purchases include: Rubber sandals, a white tunic top with floral design, a white blouse with white embroidery, 4 pairs of earrings (M. bought 2 of them in the Turkish store that he likes so much), water shoes, a bandana (which I donated to the Hatfield Senior Center to use for stretching during exercise class), postcards, and a box of note cards.

M. bought another mermaid statue. He's beginning to develop a collection of them. He didn't buy any clothes for himself, though he has in the past.

I've just finished my morning tea and bagel and it's time to get dressed for exercise and work. I'm looking forward to wearing my new tunic. But which earrings to choose?

Saturday, September 10, 2016


I love to cook.

I find it creative and relaxing and, of course, I also need to eat.

Cooking is also a gift I give to my husband and friends.

Because I cook, I'm always looking for interesting recipes. I don't own many cookbooks. I used to, but realized I was only using a few recipes from each and books take up a lot of space. So I copied the recipes I like on 3x5 cards, put them in a file box, and gave the cookbooks to the Friends of the Library book sale.

As I read through the evening newspaper (it's really a morning newspaper, but I end up reading it in the evening when I come home from work), I sometimes see recipes I'd like to try. When the local food co-op sends out a newsletter, it usually has a recipe or two that I'd like to try. Magazines are another source of potential recipes. And I sometimes I'll borrow a cook book from my local public library, especially one on vegetarian meals, and look for recipes I'd like to try.

After I've tried a recipe, if I like it and M. likes it, I'll write it down on a 3x5 card and add it to the file box. Sometimes, I need to make adjustments and try it again before it gets written down.

Since I've liked to cook for a very long time (ever since I came to terms with the fact that a feminist can do something so traditional as cooking), I've been on the lookout for recipes.

After the recipe has been cut (or more likely torn) from the newspaper, or photocopied from the library cookbook, it sits on top of the microwave oven, in plain sight, until I've had a chance to try it. I used to put it in a drawer, but, alas, it would be forgotten and languish until I felt the need to hunt for it. Unfortunately, that pile on the microwave sometimes gets annoying and gets transferred to the recipe drawer to languish.

The recipe drawer is getting full and messy and it's too hard to wade through all of the recipes I've mostly forgotten about.

While trying to find a recipe I was sure was in there, I decided to at least sort through all of these pieces of paper and put them in some kind of order. That way, when I wanted to try a fish recipe, I could go to the fish folder and save myself a lot of time.

And so I began. I made piles: "breads", "breakfasts", "soups/stews", "salads", "pasta", "vegetables", etc. Then I took some file folders, labeled them, and stuffed the appropriate recipes into each. By then I was tired and was less than half way through all those bits of paper.

A few days later, I continued the task. I actually found pages of newspapers dating back to 1988! When I look at some of these recipes, I can truly say "I'll never make that" and just toss it into the paper recycling bag. That's where many of the fancy dessert recipes have ended. I need fewer desserts, fancy or otherwise.

My recipe pile is looking a little less daunting, though I haven't yet tried any of the recently unearthed recipes.

After I finish sorting through the "to be tried" pile, I'm going to weed out the file box. There are a lot of recipes I added 20 or 30 years ago that I no longer use. This project could take a long time. I wonder if I'll have any time to actually try any of these new recipes?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cats and Rabbits

This song has been running through my head for months. I even find myself silently singing it when I get up in the middle of the night to pee. I don't know why it suddenly appeared.

While it sounds as if it's from Disney's Alice in Wonderland (and it is), I haven't seen that movie in many years and I didn't remember that song at all. Not like "Painting the Roses Red" or "I'm Late, I'm Late".

The oddest thing is that when the song first appeared in my head, I could only remember the melody and bits and pieces of the lyric. As I worked on it (or it worked on me), I remembered more and more of the words. When I finally did my Google search, I had remembered the words almost perfectly. How did that happen? Especially since I didn't even remember the song!

I suspect that one evening as I was reading in bed listening to Jazz à la Mode, Tom Reney played the song and it seeped into my brain before I even realized it. While I'm getting a little tired of "Cats and Rabbits" there are far worse songs I could be stuck with.  

Alice in Wonderland is my very favorite of all the Disney movies. It's about a little girl who has big dreams. She takes a chance, has an incredible adventure, and meets lots of very interesting people. Yes, she's sometimes in danger, but she's able to cope without the aid of a prince - handsome or otherwise. What a wonderful story.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Judging a Book by its Cover

I often choose a book to read because I like its cover, so how could I resist a book that displayed a little black dress?

I love little black dresses. I've owned several over the years. I've admired even more. Who can forget Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's? Now that's a little black dress to admire.

Nine women, one dress was an absolute delight to read.

The book reminded me of works by Maeve Binchey or Fannie Flagg. There are lots of characters, beautifully developed, and a central theme, so that the characters are related and everything ties together. This is a book I can easily recommend to anyone and everyone.

On the workfront, I have finally arrived at the letter K.

I'm totally convinced there are gremlins that invade the MassCat database when I'm not working on it. They create duplicate records and typos and turn book records into e-book records. The more I try to straighten out this catalog, the more stuff I find that needs fixing. Every time I think I'm making progress, I stumble upon a section that is so sad, I have trouble believing I haven't found it before. Cleaning up this catalog is definitely a long term project.

I guess this is called "job security".

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Four Days of RDA

In June, I gave two all-day workshops on RDA. This month, I also gave two all-day workshops on RDA. That's the same workshop four times in two months. I'm ready for a break from teaching RDA.

There are pros and cons, of course, of doing something like that.

There's a lot of preparation involved for any workshop even though I've given this one before. All handouts have to be reviewed and many updated. Changes are made based on the success (or lack of) of examples and exercises I used previously. But I only had to do the prep once because the workshops were held so close together. That saved me a lot of time.

In giving these one after another, I was able to build up a sort of momentum. I was better prepared for certain kinds of questions because they had been asked just a couple of weeks before. As I began each teaching day, I felt more confident than I did for the previous one.

A lot of energy goes into giving a presentation and I use twice as much for an all-day program than for a half-day (which is usually the schedule for Continuing Education in Library Land). Therefore, I'm pretty tired by the end of each of the days. More so for two of them which involved an overnight because of their distance.

Right now, I'm feeling pretty satisfied. They all went well and the evaluations were very positive. But as I said in the beginning of this post, I'm ready for a break from teaching RDA.