Yesterday I did a long program for NELINET, entitled “Trepidation or Anticipation?: The Future of Cataloging and Catalogers.” This topic has been a theme of mine for some time, and I’d been invited to do this program after doing a similar, though shorter, one at the Massachusetts Library Association in the spring. The response to the initial announcement was gratifyingly strong, and we ended up with an audience of about 55, including one logged in from Missouri.
I admit to coming into these sessions with an expectation that I’m going to have to win over people to the “anticipation” side of things—I suppose some of that derives from the skepticism I still hear online (a few loud voices predominating, I will admit). The group was quick to reassure me that they weren’t by any means as resistant to the changes washing over us as I had anticipated—they “got it,” were ready to hear what they had to do to make it happen. They were a great audience, asked good questions and listened to the answers, then asked some more questions. But I’m going to have to change my approach somewhat, I can see that.
I was interested to hear from one participant that it was the reference librarians in her shop who were the most resistant to change. Every time something new was added to the catalog, be it book jackets, tags or reviews, the front desk folks wanted it eliminated—deemed it “confusing.” I’d never heard this, and questioned her after the session—did she think this was an anomaly in her library or more a wide spread phenomenon? She didn’t know, but noted that it was generally those who’d been around the longest who were the most resistant. As someone having a birthday ending in a zero in a few weeks, I wasn’t happy to hear that (though sadly not surprised).
One of the participants questioned me about Heidi Hoermann’s presentation to the OLAC/MOUG Conference in Cleveland this past September. This presentation, which predicted the death of RDA and the rebirth of AACR2, took the lists and the library blogosphere by storm when it first hit Slideshare. Though I’ve also criticized the JSC publicly myself, and don’t necessarily disagree with many of Heidi’s points, I think she’s way off base concluding that because of the acknowledged flaws, RDA is dead. I find it disturbing that someone who’s teaching the next generation of librarians has so thoroughly missed some of the important work going on around RDA (particularly the work of the DCMI/RDA Task Group, which I’m co-leading), and then focuses primarily on the failings of the JSC process in concluding that RDA is dead. I admit to occasionally getting far too adamant when commenting on this particular point of view, but it disturbs me greatly.
I’m wondering if this change I’m starting to see—from trepidation to anticipation—has implications for how we think about training catalogers for RDA. I’m quite sure that, before we train, we need to prepare catalogers for the training itself by giving them a more general introduction to what has changed about their mission. I’m finding that as I do these presentations, I’m starting to see what works, and what doesn’t. I’ll try to keep posting on this because I think it’s critically important that we not make too many simple assumptions about how this training ought to proceed, and miss the boat entirely.