OLL Blog – Reflections on my first semester as OLL Copy-Cataloger – Erin Mir-Aliyev

This Spring semester has been challenging in many ways that we could not have anticipated when 2020 started. The changes have been immense.  Nevertheless, as a community we grew stronger together, adapting, facing and overcoming new obstacles in order to provide our students with the best of us. As we reach the end of the term and reflect on what we have done, I invited our graduate research assistant at The Oliveira Lima Library, Erin Mir-Aliyev, to share her thoughts on her experience . 

Erin is a graduate student in the Library and Information Science Department at The Catholic University of America and the first recipient of the Flora de Oliveira Lima Fellowship for Graduate Students in Library and Information Science. The fellowship honors Manoel de Oliveira Lima’s wife, a bibliophile in her own right who took charge of the library after his passing and left an unequivocal imprint on it. 

 Reflections on my first semester as OLL Copy-Cataloger

Erin Mir-Aliyev  

Master of Science in Library and Information Science – The Catholic University of America

Flora de Oliveira Lima Fellowship for Graduate Students in Library and Information Science – The Oliveira Lima Library

OLL books waiting for their catalog record to be found in OCLC.

Working as a graduate research assistant for the Oliveira Lima Library this spring has been a rewarding experience. Not only have I started to apply first hand in my work what I have been learning in my classes; I have gotten to work in a special collection focusing largely on resources containing information about history and culture, something that allows me to incorporate my social sciences interests and undergraduate degree in anthropology into my library career.

There were many different tools and software programs I’d heard about in my Fall classes, but not having worked in a library since high school, I was not in a position in which I got the chance to use them. As a visual and tactile learner, I was concerned that I was not truly grasping what was being taught. Since beginning to assist the Oliveira Lima Library with processing its collection late last Fall, I have noticed there are three areas in particular where I have learned a lot already and begun to grow more confident: accessing and using OCLC Connexion and Alma, and understanding MARC21.

OCLC Connexion

OCLC is a global library cooperative which provides a tool, OCLC Connexion, through which libraries can create and share their bibliographic records with other libraries. It allows copy-catalogers to find already-existing bibliographic records for their collection’s materials so that librarians don’t have to repeat work that has already been done. Before shadowing a cataloger, I had not realized how long creating one bibliographic record from scratch can take – often over an hour per record. OCLC Connexion has made it possible for me to discover and import into Alma bibliographic records for about 500 books since January, some of which are not very common. As a result, we have been much more efficient than we otherwise would have been at incorporating materials into the library. Going through this process has also allowed me to better understand which elements of a record are the most important for identifying it.

Alma

Alma is a cloud-based platform that allows libraries to manage their catalog by importing and editing bibliographic records found in OCLC. So far, I have completed this process for hundreds of books, as well as creating holding and item records for them. My understanding of the differences between a work, expression, manifestation, and item (as expressed by FRBR) has increased greatly as a result of going through this process. These differences are reflected in the differences between bibliographic, holding, and item records for a specific book. 

MARC

MARC21 is a set of international standards for digital formatting of intellectual and physical traits of bibliographic materials, in my case, books. It struck me as very complicated and difficult to understand while in class, and I have been slowly memorizing the various field codes and formats for descriptions. Copy-cataloging for OLL is a more detail-oriented process than for a lot of collections due to the rare and unique nature of many of its materials, as individual books often contain inscriptions, signatures, or other markings and materials left by people significant to the history of the collection. The MARC fields most significant for cataloging of OLL resources are some fields also commonly used by general collections such as 100 (Main Entry – Personal Name), 245 (Title Statement), and 260 (Publication Information). However, culturally, historically, or biographically important information also needs to be included in the record; other fields like 561 (Ownership and Custodial History), 562 (Copy and Version Identification), and 590 (Local Note) focus on books’ rare and unique traits. This is where I am able to record details about who or what institution previously owned a book, or autographs and bound-in items like letters.

Detail of a book with the OLL stamp.
Example of a book inscribed by Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes to OLL’s former Curator Manoel Cardozo in 1963.

As I continue to work into the next semesters, I look forward to being able to learn even more, such as copy-cataloging for books written in other languages, how to classify and manage archival materials, and how to handle, categorize, and catalog artworks.

Help the Library Improve Searching for You and Your Fellow Students!

The University Libraries, teamed with Washington Research Libraries Consortium (WRLC), are looking for Catholic University students to take part in the SearchBox usability testing.

The testing should take 30-35 minutes. WRLC will award each participant a $10 Starbucks gift card.

What you’ll do

You’ll simply be asked to complete a few tasks by searching the library SearchBox and share your opinions and experience.

Where and When

Testing will occur completely online through Zoom on the following days:
• Monday, April 6, 11am – 4pm
• Tuesday, April 7, 11am – 4pm
• Tuesday, April 14, 11am – 4pm
• Wednesday, April 15, 11am – 4pm
• Thursday, April 16, 11am – 4pm

Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to take part.

If interested, please email to lib-electronicservices@cua.edu with your name, year of study (e.g. Freshman, Sophomore, Graduate Student), and at least two available times on the above test days.

New Database Trial: Medici.tv

Through April 9, the University Libraries has a trial of Medici.tv, the largest online catalog of classical music, opera, and dance videos, including 3,500 musical works from the 1940s to the present day, 2,500 films (concerts, operas, ballets, documentaries, and master classes), and editorial content including synopses, casts, and performers’ biographies.  Take a look and enjoy!

The Archivist’s Nook: Curating the Catechism

This week’s post is guest-authored by Mikkaela Bailey is a PhD student at CUA studying medieval history with special interests in women’s history, public history, and digital humanities. You can find her on Twitter: @mikkaela_bailey

Curation is a long, detailed conversation between individuals, offices, texts, and objects, as students from Catholic University’s History and Public Life class learned this semester.

It’s easy to evaluate an exhibit and poke holes in the choices made by its organizers. It’s far more difficult than I imagined to craft an exhibit.

With most of the logistics arranged long in advance by our professor for the class History and Public Life, Dr. Maria Mazzenga, our job as a class was focused on assembling and advertising the physical exhibit itself.

The first thing we had to do was break up the objects into thematic categories so we could decide what should be included in our display. Then, we had to plan how to best demonstrate the common themes between them and also establish continuity in the display. After that, we had to craft captions and marketing materials that communicated why our visitors should care about our work and choose to come see it.

We used minimal materials to set up the exhibit. Aside from the items featured, we added captions and some text as well as stands for the books and weights to keep the books open for display.

One of the ideas about organizing the books rested on the idea that the Eucharist is a central and essential element of the catechism and one’s first Communion is an important life event. Since our audience is likely to be heavily Catholic, there is resonance with their own experiences in the exhibit here. This thematic approach connected well with the objects in the exhibit, and inspiration flowed from that idea as we assembled catechisms aimed at children and teens in the same display case. One thematic element of change over time was the implementation of more children’s catechetical education as the age for first Communion shifted from around 13 to around 7 years of age.

The caption writing process was difficult, and you can see unique touches from the students who collaborated on them. We divided them between ourselves, working in groups of two or three to write them.

But, there were still two more cases to fill and many more objects to consider. In the first case, which we actually finished last, we installed the oldest books, including a Latin catechism from 1566. These 16th and 18th century books were connected by the vernacular languages in which they were printed. Printing educational materials in the vernacular was a very important emphasis of the Tridentine Catechisms, so grouping these non-English catechisms gave emphasis to the importance of the catechism worldwide, outside our own framework, and outside the Latin-based world of the church.

The central case features several interesting pieces, but it also provides context for the cases flanking it. This is where we chose to place the bulk of our textual engagement through questions we are asking the audience and a QR code linked to the digital exhibit.

A sneak peek at the finished display cases that will be on exhibit for the next few weeks!

At the end of this process, I am so thankful for teammates who were engaged from the beginning and expressed great passion for this project. I shudder to think of undertaking something like this alone! In fact, looking at the finished product, I feel as though no idea I had for the display was totally my own and I think almost every decision made was by committee. From the marketing materials to the captions and display case arrangements, this exhibit was completely collaborative and has benefitted from open communication and easy acceptance of constructive criticism. In public history, I think all of these qualities are essential for a successful, cohesive exhibit. This experience has been the highlight of my first semester as a PhD student at CUA!

This is an “insider’s perspective” of what it was like to arrange the items in the case while my co-curators directed me from outside the case. We had a challenging time arranging many of the items and it took a lot of collaboration to put it together.

Meet the Humans of Mullen

Chris Suehr
Ph.D. candidate Chris Suehr says that in addition to being a great place to study, Mullen Library has “the second-best water on campus.”

From uniting a community to sparking imagination to supporting scholarship and lifelong learning, libraries change lives.

“Without libraries we have no past and no future.” – Ray Bradbury

With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates. It is the most democratic of institutions because no one – but no one at all – can tell you what to read and when and how.” – Doris Lessing

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.” – T.S. Eliot

It’s not just the books that make libraries special–it’s the people. Librarians, scholars, teachers, and patrons of all ages make their mark on a library as much as it makes a mark on them. Here are a few examples from our own Mullen Library:

Karen Berry
Karen Berry received her master’s degree at Catholic University; she also launched her career here in Mullen Library.

Professor Laura Daugherty loves libraries so much that she once accidentally almost spent the night in one; now she hopes to instill that same love in her National Catholic School of Social Service students. Ph.D. candidate Chris Suehr says that in addition to being a great place to study, Mullen Library has “the second-best water on campus.” And former liaison librarian Karen Berry not only studied for her master’s degree here–she also launched her career here. 

What’s your library story?

This fall, Mullen Library is launching the “Humans of Mullen” campaign, an ongoing series of video vignettes. We’re highlighting the students, faculty, and staff who come to Mullen–to study, to browse, to help others do research, to view artwork or attend lectures, to receive tutoring or writing assistance, and more.

Carly
Ph.D candidate Carly Jones talks about how she uses Mullen Library in her studies.

We were inspired by Humans of New York, a photoblog launched in 2010 by the photographer Brandon Stanton. Stanton’s intimate street portraits and brief interviews with ordinary citizens put a personal face on a huge and thriving city. We want to do the same for Mullen Library–a place where academic journeys are launched, where friends and classmates gather, and where a lifelong love of learning is instilled. 

What brings you to Mullen Library? Perhaps:

  • you met your best friend here
  • you took a class in the Instruction Room or searched the Stacks to select research materials
  • you found inspiration for your first undergraduate research paper–or for your last university opus, your dissertation
  • you explored your career path or took the first steps toward a career in librarianship as a student worker

Whatever your Mullen Library story is, we want to hear it–and to share it with the rest of the Catholic University community. 

Watch for our weekly videos on the CUA Libraries’ social media accounts:

Laura Daugherty
Professor Laura Daugherty loves libraries so much that she once accidentally almost spent the night in one; now she hopes to instill that same love in her National Catholic School of Social Service students.

Help us share our stories–and if you have a Mullen story of your own you’d like to tell, let us know.

To volunteer or to learn more about the Humans of Mullen series, contact a member of the Mullen Library social media team:

  • Julie Loy: (loy@cua.edu)
  • Emily Brown: (brownec@cua.edu)
  • Tricia Bailey: (baileytc@cua.edu)