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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Call to Action: RA Service and Tech Services Need To Be A Patron Focused Team

Today’s  Call to Action is one for both you, my regular readers, and your Tech Service colleagues, as I will explain.

When I go to train an entire library staff in basic RA service the hardest people to win over are often the tech services employees. Why? Well, it is easy for those of us in the public service part of library service to say it is because they don’t think they are a part of our jobs, that they don’t like working with the public, and that we don’t need them anyway. I have heard all three of these arguments more times than I can count.

But these are our excuses, and they are wrong. In reality, from my experience, these behind the scenes catalogers would love to help but because of those arguments I just mentioned, they think we don’t want their help, they think that we don’t appreciate them, and they think they are better off keeping their distance from those who disparage them.

Think about it. You know it’s true? There has always been a cold war between the catalogers and public desk staff and it is time for us to end it. Heck at some libraries it is a hot war. But guess what everyone out there in RA land...We need the catalogers! They are a vital step in the development of more robust and helpful RA service.

Thankfully, there is a brand new crop of young catalogers who realize this and are beginning to bridge the gap. They are forging ahead to help us serve readers better despite the fact that we are less than hospitable to them. It is more than past time for us to go out and meet them in the middle.

Some of you are out there right now saying, what can the catalogers do in there day to day jobs to help us? Oh, a lot. And here is the perfect example courtesy of catologer and blogger Netanel Ganin. In this post he talks about the importance of changing how genres are catalogued.  Right now they are included with format and cannot be separated. From that piece:

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That is the example of how different science fiction is cataloged currently, but, he goes on...

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These current limitations in how things must be cataloged is detrimental to our work trying to match readers with books. As I mention all of the time, readers are less concerned with format than we think they are. People will read across format if it is a genre they like.

I like his example of science fiction and fantasy because it is the same example I gave in this post about speculative fiction formats and how to move readers between books, movies, tv, and video games based on their preferences in how their speculative fiction story is told. We beed to ignore format because our patrons do. We library workers are way too obsessed with format. It doesn’t matter nearly as much as we think it does.

Or as Mr Ganin quite correctly and succinctly say it, “fantasy is fantasy.” Our catalogs make for a great resource for us to help guide readers to their next good read but only if the fields cataloged are reflective of how people read. Forcing genre and format to be put together is a detriment to our service to readers. Maybe back in the day, when we mostly had only books in our collections this mattered. But that time is more than past.

It is nice to know that the tech services people who are responsible for those fields understand and care about the issue. Cataloguers like Mr Ganin, are our allies. They want to modernize the classification system just like you want to shake up the RA system. And thankfully, he is but one example of many new catalogers out there advocating for these changes, changes that put the patrons’ needs first.

Too often, we in public service get too high and mighty about how much more we help the public. This is wrong and short sighted. We are a team- public service and tech service. We need each other. It is time that we take the example of people like Mr. Ganin and pass his thoughts on to our fellow RA staff and our catalogers. Let’s start a conversation together about how important it is for our cataloging AND our RA service to both put the patron first.

We cannot improve our RA service without them. Use today’s post as the conversation starter. Pass it on to the tech services person you barely speak to and start a conversation today.

For past Call to Action Posts, click here.

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