R2 Retreat

On Friday the library had a follow up retreat to discuss the R2 recommendations. For some reason the idea of a retreat made me think of this scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail with the knights all retreating and yelling “run away!”

In reality the retreat was a series of discussions based on a process called “The World Cafe.” There were 10 topics under discussion with three rounds of 45 minutes each. There was one table devoted to the CDI and metadata, which is where I ended up staying for all three rounds. I think I would have enjoyed participating in other conversations (particularly: “Emerging Collections and Services”), but I also think that the CDI currently operates under the radar of many people in the library, and that to have an informed discussion about its future it was helpful to have someone with CDI knowledge at the table. Since Chris was on vacation that pretty much left me.

These were the recommendations for topics to be discussed for the CDI and metadata:

  • Integrate selection for the institutional repository into existing collection development responsibilities
  • Increase expertise with non-MARC metadata
  • Engage UVM administration in a dialogue about university records
  • Enhance OPAC display with reviews and other metadata

I really think the topics should have been rephrased as “what is the CDI’s projected role in the University and how can it grow to meet those needs.” This prevents the CDI from being locked into the dubious distinction of being UVM’s institutional repository, but opens the door to an expanded role outside of Special Collections or the libraries.

In general we had some very interesting discussions. I think because the CDI is kind of low profile we didn’t directly address internal CDI issues much, although we did talk about additional staff, namely a programmer and a metadata librarian. There was a general consensus (unprompted by me, since I obviously have a stake in it) that the CDI should operate as its own department, be permanently funded and be appropriately staffed. There was also some discussion about whether or not the CDI should be a University wide resource, when there are so many library based projects, and the realities of our staffing situation have to be kept in mind.

We also discussed cataloging working with the CDI for metadata, and moving a staff cataloger to the CDI. While moving a staff cataloger to the CDI was an R2 recommendation, it was suggested by the catalogers that staff shouldn’t be moved into the department, rather they should remain part of the cataloging unit with strong ties to the CDI. I think that having staff cataloger working for the CDI but not as a part of the CDI may exacerbate our organizational and management issues, but this could perhaps be handled with better communication, a clearly defined reporting structure, and training.

There was a very interesting discussion about the library cataloging resources that it doesn’t own. Having Collection Development work with faculty to get appropriate web resources into some sort of discovery system (voyager was suggested, but I think as the discussion matured we realized that voyager may not be the only option). There was also a lot of discussion about “hidden” resources on the UVM campus, either faculty research collection such as the Landscape Change project, or data sets like those from the Gund Institute. These resources are hard to find, and the library should be situating itself as a research portal for the University (rather than just an access point to materials owned or paid for by the library) where it aggregates data from or about these resources and helps users find and access them.

This then moved the discussion to the topic of enhanced OPAC display, where I suggested perhaps we should stop thinking in terms of the an OPAC, and broaden our expectations. We should be looking for a discovery tool that intelligent access all of the resources discussed above. The catalog, the 2 special collections databases, the CDI, thesis, campus resources (as appropriate) ect. Even if this tool does not provide access to our article databases it could provide some measure of integration. For example, a result set could be examined, subjects analyzed, and then a list of subject appropriate databases could be presented under a heading “looking for articles? Try these databases.” When a user selects a database their search would automatically be submitted to the database; rather than being dumped out on the start page, they would immediately get a set of results.

There was also some discussion on what kind of service the CDI could be providing the libraries and other university departments and what an expanded role for it could look like. I think we steered away from the term institutional repository, and ended up talking more about an expanded role for the library in general as a “University Community Research Tool.” I think the most interesting discussions at the table happened in a broader sense than just the CDI & metadata issues, and I think these discussions indicate a role that the CDI can play in embracing, encouraging, and providing education about new technologies, and new information management and retrieval possibilities.

One of the ideas not discussed by our table, but that I’m very interested in is the “Discover and Delivery Council,” a recommendation by R2. Unfortunately this idea was generally disparaged, or at least the need for yet another committee was strongly questioned. However, I think that dislike for the idea was most likely a result of a misunderstanding of what this group might do. I see them as keeping up with all these exciting new possibilities that are available in libraries such as: vuFind, PennTags, reviews, tagging, zotero, libraryFind, ect. Figuring out what will most benefit our users and then going ahead and implementing them. I also see the a great need for this group to do outreach and education within the library to make sure our library is educated about what is going on elsewhere in library land and the possiblities available to us, and what implementation would involve.

There was also a comment made during the report back session on how people though that improving the catalog would require too much work, “putting in all those new links and stuff” and we would be smarter to put that work into other areas. This caught my attention because of the way it was stated. I think it shows a general misunderstanding of what it could mean to improve our catalog, and I think it would be really helpful for our faculty and staff to see some demo’s of what these improved catalogs look like, and understand that for some of these open source solutions, much of the hard work has been done. (Yes, I’m still thinking of vuFind, and Antonio’s fairly snappy install time.)

There did seem to be a general consensus (at my table) that voyager may have outlived its usefulness, at least as a front end system. There was also some interesting discussion on changing how we catalog, and perhaps adding more useful information, perhaps gleaned from publisher’s records, such as table of contents, abstracts and such. There are some valid cataloging concerns, but I’m happy to hear this discussion getting started. I think the focus is certainly on the user, and most people are trying as best they can to meet the users needs. We just need more education about how we do that, which I think could/should be part of the Discovery and Delivery Council’s job.

It is unclear to me what happens next, but I think a continuing discussion both face-to-face and virtual will be helpful. Other UVM library opinions can be found here and here, results of the retreat will most likely be posted here.

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4 Responses to “R2 Retreat”

  1. Antonio Barrera Says:

    I actually started a server over from scratch, and still the install process wasn’t terrible. The biggest issue I had was installing the pdo_oci pear module. That was a pain, and I wish I could tell you how I did it, but it would only be needed if you wanted to connect to a Voyager system.

  2. Retreat Thoughts « The Teaching Librarian Says:

    […] read the thoughts of two of my colleagues on the retreat go here and […]

  3. Toni Says:

    It was wise of you to stay at the CDI table to answer questions. I liked that the facilitators weren’t invested in the topic of the table, but I’m sure your groups were more productive because of your presence… and people learned about the CDI.

    It’s clear from the facilitators’ summaries that there’s confusion about Discovery and Delivery. That probably wasn’t apparent before the retreat (at least in time to plant someone at those tables), but now it’s clear we need clarification.

  4. wsalesky Says:

    It was really interesting to me how little we actually talked about the CDI at my table. I realize that it is not the focus of most people’s day-to-day work, but the discussions actually tended to venture off into more what the library should be doing about digital access. Which I don’t mind, the discussions were all very interesting, but I think sometimes off topic.

    I tried not to be pushy about a CDI agenda, and really be a participant in the discussions, not a leader. Which I think I accomplished, but I think because of that strategy actual issues faced by the CDI didn’t get much discussion time.

    It will be interesting to see where we go from here.

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