This blog provides a space for conversations about articles and ideas found in AALL Spectrum
, the monthly magazine of the American Association of Law Libraries. The previous blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com
8/3/2012 12:40:48 PM
B-6: Finding Your Inner Nancy Drew: Public Records Resources Online
Presenters: Jennifer McMahan and Bridget Gilhool
I was looking forward to this presentation since the moment I saw it on the schedule, lo these many months ago. I teach a course in litigation and ADR research which includes a section on public records, and was hoping to see some new resources to show my students. (I was not disappointed!) That said, I think that just about any law librarian would benefit from this program.
The most important point about “Finding Your Inner Nancy Drew” is that the presentation was incredibly useful. Jennifer McMahon and Bridget Gilhool have done sessions like this many times in the past, and it showed in their vast knowledge of the subject, combined with real-world tips. These included always checking any records website to gauge its accuracy (using yourself as an example search is a good way to do this). Even the smallest tips can save a lot of time: when doing a basic Google search for public records, searching for “LastName, FirstName” instead of “FirstName LastName” is likely to yield many more useful results, as this is how many records are written.
Another note is that although McMahan and Gilhool tried to focus on free resources, they did point out that some websites have changed from free to paid and then back to free again, so it is always best to check. As well, when one has access to websites that summarize public records, it can be useful to start there, and then head to more specific databases to verify individual points.
The session was completely packed with information—six pages of useful links (handout available here), broken down into categories such as birth and death records, marriage and divorce records, and information on people who are licensed to drive, affiliated with a corporation, registered to vote, or have graduated from college. (This last can be surprisingly tricky—college degrees are not a matter of public record.)
The presenters kept their talk interesting by using the websites to search for famous people and organizations: one of the lawyers in the Lizzie Borden murder trial (for a local connection), Laura Bush, and other political and pop culture celebrities made appearances. In fact, I would have preferred even more examples like these, especially because they showed how one can dig deeper into some of the websites.
Overall, an excellent session that will be extremely useful to me in the coming months and years. Highly recommended for any librarian who has ever needed to search public records.
Posted By 8/3/2012 12:40:48 PM
8/3/2012 12:28:37 PM
AALL Reflections – Launching into RDA: The New Frontier
Can you believe it’s been a year already? It seems like only yesterday I was ensconced in a conference room in Philadelphia listening to Jean Pajerek and Patricia Sayre-McCoy present on The RDA Decision and What It Will Mean for Me and My Library. But despite the feeling of familiarity, the July heat and the overenthusiastic air conditioning, it remains an undeniable fact that yes, an entire year has passed since then, and this time our conference room is miles away in Boston. Many of the faces are the same, from presenters to audience members, and the energy and excitement is still palpable as ever, but one thing was noticeably different - our answers finally outweighed our questions.
Last year, Pajerek and Sayre-McCoy described their experiences with the RDA testing process and training. This year, they have returned, proudly holding their decision to implement RDA before the U.S. national libraries do as one would a well-earned trophy – displaying battle scars and entertaining us and educating us with anecdotes and best practices learned during the last year. This program detailed their experiences transitioning from AACR2 to RDA, the impact on workflows, productivity, OPAC displays, information retrieval and more. In contrast to last year, dominated by theoreticals, this year both presenters chose to employ the use of PowerPoint to great effect, walking us through screen shots and image captures of the immutable ways RDA has played out in real life and is changing the face of our cataloging processes and procedures.
As always, I love both of these ladies’ sense of humor – a must when dealing with boring cataloging terminology and practices. For example, there is nothing more refreshing and comforting than hearing that you shouldn’t get bent out of shape about periods – it’s a fantastic change from the early stereotypes of punctuation Nazis at their typewriters with their stacks of catalog cards and their excruciating attention to the placement of every single space, comma and period. These days, while there are still rules about these sorts of things, it’s time to recognize that the world won’t stop turning if you accidentally mistype your transcription. This is what these ladies do – they make you feel your mass of overwhelmed confusion and your fear of doing something wrong is nothing but normalcy and that mistakes are commonplace and unavoidable. You have to be brave and deliberate and take a bold step forward into the new frontier and learn with everyone else – remember that there are no experts and there are very few “right” answers.
The program began with Sayre-McCoy giving her one year recap of the progress University of Chicago libraries have made in the RDA implementation adventure. The major cataloging changes such as “no more rule of three” and “no more abbreviations” were quickly reviewed, but this part of RDA programs now seems obligatory. Anyone who has been keeping up with RDA knows these like the back of their hand, especially since they’re some of the most tangible changes to get your head around. The baby steps of transition, I suppose. The best part is, now that we’ve stepped out of the world of impending and into the world of implementing, all cataloging changes discussed can now be supported with examples and real life tie-ins on how these changes will be useful for patrons.
The 3xx fields were reviewed and refreshingly enough, at this point the holy triumvirate that represents “printed material” appears proverbial as an old friend. Again, the fear of the newness is slowly waning and being replaced with something entirely different - a feeling of community and eagerness, a chance to smile at each other over the finer points of RDA and an opportunity to laugh and learn together. As a result, additional bits of information have begun soaking into my brain – for instance, the 3xx fields are a place to exercise caution as a cataloger. Although these fields offer you a chance to provide more detailed descriptions for your resources, the terms in these fields must be approved by the Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (JSC) before you can use them. But it’s this ability to seek approval that is one of the most forward thinking things about RDA. It’s a living, breathing organism, able to change through the combined efforts and desires of our entire community, not by one or two people making arbitrary decisions.
With the PowerPoint medium, audience members were able to see RDA records live as well as screenshots from OCLC Connexion, demonstrating the incorporation of macros and drop-down menus to ease the strain and workload for original catalogers. However, even more interesting than the screen shots was learning step by step instructions on how to view RDA records in the Library of Congress catalog at http://www.loc.gov. Especially for catalogers just hopping on the RDA train, one of the biggest questions is always “how do they look?” – closely followed by “how can I find them?” With RDA records being added every day, simply clicking on “Basic Search”, selecting “Expert Search” and then typing in “040e rda” allows you to view RDA records in full or MARC format. During the question and answer portion of the program, we also learned that adding “AND k955 xg?” to your search terms will limit your results to law related records.
Sayre-McCoy then went on to training, reviewing some of her favorite sites such as the Catalogers Learning Workshop (http://www.loc.gov/catworkshop/), where all LC training materials and links on authority and bib records are held. You can learn at your own pace with these materials, able to train from the comfort of your own office or workspace – invaluable for those staffs with small budget lines for professional development. Another site worth its weight in gold, especially as a librarian in a smaller operation which subsists mainly on copy cataloging, is Cornell’s wiki on RDA (https://confluence.cornell.edu/display/culpublic/RDA+Documentation). This public wiki contains resources such as their copy cataloging policy and associated checklist for accepting and enhancing RDA records, one MARC field at a time.
At this point Pajerek, who hails from the Cornell Law Library, took over and began reviewing changes to the RDA Toolkit, authority records and OCLC Connexion that have taken place over the last year. Starting with a walkthrough of the Toolkit, Pajerek pointed out changes ranging from the simple, such as having icons in place of words and creative commons licenses being required for workflows, to those with higher impact, such as the inclusion of RDA update history. Yes, in the beast that is the RDA Toolkit, you can now find archived text and revision summaries, tracking the long, strange journey that is still in process. One of the biggest takeaways concerning the toolkit was the caution against using their workflows as a crutch, since you absolutely need context for the rules that make up these workflows. Also note that these workflows aren’t authoritative - while some catalogers have more experience than others, there are no experts in RDA, and there are no official best practices yet.
Excitingly enough, a small group of catalogers have begun enhancing their AACR2 authority records with some of the new RDA elements. Don’t fear the mix and match approach. All of the information you can enter using RDA turns these bland AACR2 records into upgraded, souped up uber-records that make exciting things happen in the linked data arena. Pajerek provided the eager audience with some of concrete examples of these enhanced records and then walked us through the use of two new OCLC authority indexes, one on Entity Attributes and one on Relationships, demonstrating the power of these indexes and all of the metadata in enabling retrieval of authority records based on the information supplied in the new MARC fields and subfields.
After bowling us over with the breadth and depth of their own knowledge and experiences concerning RDA, the question and answer portion began. Startlingly, and in direct contrast to all earlier RDA programs I’ve attended, not one concrete question emerged. The question and answer prompting created a conversation that turned into more of a community effort, with other members of the cataloging world stepping up and sharing their own knowledge, truly driving the point home that there are no experts. We are all learning and launching into this new frontier as a true community, not isolated parts of a whole. All in all, a delightful fact to behold.
Posted By 8/3/2012 12:28:37 PM
8/3/2012 9:13:58 AM
Annual Meeting Poster Sessions
Think back to that class in library science school that required a poster as a final project. You may have thought it was a bit silly, or didn’t really know how to condense all of your information into the size allowed. Either way, most librarians have some type of poster story in their educational background. But how does a poster translate to the conference setting?
AALL introduced the poster session at the 2011 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, and again this year posters were displayed in the Exhibit Hall with the presentation session scheduled during the 2:45-3:45 p.m. break on Sunday afternoon. For 2012, there were 29 posters from academic, private and government librarians representing at least two different countries. So why spend time browsing the posters when vendors had new products to introduce and the wonderful city of Boston was right outside the door? How about these two for starters:
1. The topics of the posters ranged across the spectrum of library issues creating an opportunity to learn something new in a short time frame. Where else can you find a discussion of rare books on French Civil Law and the legislative history of health care law in the same room? Even if one poster didn't involve a topic of great interest to you, you may still learn something (and can always move at your own pace if the subject interest was just not there).
2. This was an excellent opportunity to discuss and network with colleagues working on a project you may be considering. As I mentioned earlier, the librarians presenting in the session represented a cross section of our profession. If you are working on a project, or looking for ideas, a poster presentation session can provide numerous possibilities in one location.
So what were some of the most interesting posters to this author? At the MacMillan Law Library, we are considering starting a library student counsel, and I found the poster entitled Starting a Student Library Advisory Board (by librarians from several different law schools) to be an excellent opportunity to get ideas for our own program. Additionally, the poster on Comparison of Research Speed and Accuracy Using Westlaw and WestlawNext by Melanie (Oberlin) Knapp and Rob Willey from George Mason, a project in part funded by an AALL-Wolters Kluwer Law Business Grant, provided quality insight into the search processes and search results of the two Thompson Reuters products.
I am a big fan of poster sessions, both as a presenter and viewer. The opportunity to talk to the poster presenter, along with other viewers, provides an excellent opportunity to learn more about your own projects. This was my third poster presentation, each at a different conference, and every time I have been given great advice about my own work and future ideas, and I have truly enjoyed meeting people in a manner not possible with a traditional conference presentation. In case you missed the poster presentation session at this year's conference, keep it in mind for next year in Seattle.
Posted By 8/3/2012 9:13:58 AM