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Stamp of Approval
Photo by Dunedin Public Libraries

Research, Reviews, and RDA – My Recent Responsibilities

Rebecca Keenan —

Not normally part of my day-to-day library work, I became very familiar with research, reviews, and RDA during the COVID-19 lockdown.

I work at City branch, splitting my time between Collection Services, Shelving, and the Bookbus. Everything I do centres around access to books (and other library materials), and without that, I couldn’t do my normal tasks, so I needed a new plan.

In my Collection Services role, I receive, process, and copy catalogue new material, getting it ready to go out on the shelves. That last bit really means checking item records and making sure they look right and have the right kinds of information. It’s probably one of my favourite tasks, so a while back I signed up for the cataloguing and classification paper offered by the Open Polytechnic to learn more.

My first assignment focused on RDA, or Resource Description and Access, a massive cataloguing guide.

Books, for example, are catalogued in a specific way, with details like the author’s name, the book’s title, and relevant subject headings used and presented consistently. This helps anyone using the public face of our catalogue to find what they’re looking for.

I had to use the RDA guide and MARC (a machine readable code) to create records for 8 different books. This included a lot of back and forth between the items and the online RDA guide, frustration over its clunky search interface, and plenty of ‘aha!’ moments when I finally figured something out.

It’s almost like learning a new language, and when you get it, it’s super satisfying to decipher.

Anyone visiting the library website can actually see the MARC version of our records by using the ‘Librarian’s View’ button on each item. 

Use the ‘Librarian’s View’ button for a behind-the-scenes look at our records. — Image by: Rebecca Keenan

There you can get a sneak peek at the code behind the search result and learn heaps of interesting things, like that Michelle Obama was born in 1964!

Snapshot of 'Librarian's View' of a catalogue entry — Image by: Rebecca Keenan

Early on in lockdown, our senior managers were keen to know how other libraries around the world were adapting to new ways of working, delivering programmes and services to their communities.

I was excited to help out, so I got my google-fu on and started my search. Amongst the activities, there were some real gems. From the State Library of Western Australia’s mystery boxes, to Arlington Public Library’s Quaranzine, to Wellington Public Libraries’ #stayathomefest blog posts.

Quaranzine, a weekly publication connecting Arlington Public Library and their communities — Image by: Rebecca Keenan

When my searching was done, I put together a report, summarising these and other interesting initiatives, passing them back to management. It was so interesting to learn about the creative and thoughtful ways libraries were making a concentrated effort to be useful and stay connected during these weird times.

My brain likes order – I probably have more than a few ‘control freak’ tendencies. In some situations that’s a real pain, but when it comes to putting together a project plan, its super useful.

So, I was in my element planning our new review series – Stamp of Approval. Three reviews go up each week; at the moment, it’s text reviews on Monday and Wednesday, with a video on Friday. I’ve got a, well, let’s say ‘involved’ spreadsheet that tracks everything from due date to upload date to Instagram and Twitter hashtags.

All the library staff have gotten on board, with heaps providing written and video reviews of books, eAudiobooks, and movies in our collection. One person – yes, Josh, that’s you – even wrote and performed their review as a song! Special mentions have to go to Jill, who does all the posting to our website and social media, and Eve, who has been putting her considerable video editing talents to use for the library, both for these reviews and our Storytime at Home series.

We’ve also been working closely with the DCC Marketing team, namely Paul, Casey, and Liz. They’ve been incredibly supportive of the initiative, provided heaps of useful feedback, and continue to help with the day-to-day delivery.

Responses have been really positive, from both our communities and some of the featured authors!

Author Sarah Winman responds to Eryn’s review of Tin Man — Image by: Dunedin Public Libraries

Was it weird not being able to work in the library during the lockdown? Certainly. But as someone who lives with three people in the high risk category for COVID, it was a relief to be able to isolate and keep them safe.

Getting to expand my horizons by taking on new tasks and branching out into new areas was an opportunity I appreciated. And I’m stoked, too, that Stamp of Approval will have a life after lockdown. It was also pretty sweet to spend more time with my whānau and our wee bunny, seen here using my slippers as a bed.

Image by: Rebecca Keenan

That said, I’m also happy to be back in my office chair – oh, lumbar support, I may have missed you the most!