Interview with Catelynne Sahadath

Catelynne Sahadath is the Head of Metadata Development at the University of Calgary, where she manages the cataloging section, where she was responsible for leading their transition from AACR2 to RDA in 2013. Catelynne has previously worked on cataloging and digitization projects for the Government of Canada, and her research focuses on change management in technical services and the impacts of cataloguing changes on public services. Catelynn is teaching a class for us next month, on AACR2 Legacy Practices, and a class in September titled, Introduction to Library Classification in Dewey and LC. She agreed to do an interview about these here.

Hi Catelynne… Thanks for doing this interview.

Hi Rory, thanks for having me!

I’d like to start by jumping right in to talk about the AACR2 Legacy Practices class. Could you summarize it?

Certainly. I’ve noticed that since the switch from AACR2 to RDA in libraries there’s been a kind of disconnect between those who have taken AACR2 in school and are now working in RDA, and those who only ever learned RDA. That second group of people tends to be folks who have learned to catalogue since 2013. It can be frustrating for them because AACR2 records still exist in large numbers, as well as hybrid AACR2+RDA records.

What this course is designed to do is to bridge that gap for anyone who has learned RDA in school or on the job, but who is still working in an environment where AACR2 and hybrid records are all around. By the end of it, students will be able to work more comfortably in that hybrid environment, and will be able to identify and upgrade records from AACR2 to RDA. They will also learn in which scenarios they should not upgrade AACR2 records to RDA, and how to add information to AACR2 records while maintaining standards properly.

Sounds like it fills a definite need. What are the kinds of things people in the situation you describe need to know about AACR2?

In a MARC environment, they will need to know which fixed fields to use in AACR2 and in hybrid records, as well as which ones to change when upgrading a record from AACR2. There are a lot of abbreviations and Latin terms in AACR2, which are not very intuitive. People in these situations will need to be able to translate those old terms and abbreviations into the more explicit language of RDA. Some MARC fields have changed between AACR2 and RDA, and it is important to know which fields these translate into.

Finally, there are certain elements of the work, expression, manifestation and item level data that folks in these situations will have to parse out. It is more intellectual and judgement based than simply translating and following standards, and that is where students of this course will have an edge. For example, learning to parse out entry points from data that would have previously been hidden away in a free text field, or optimizing physical item level data for non-standard formats that could otherwise remain unseen by most users. Library users certainly have a lot to gain from the proper treatment of these records.

That sounds very interesting and useful. I think it is clear from your description what kind of background knowledge is needed to benefit from the course. I’d like to switch gears a little to ask a more personal kind of question. How do you personally feel about RDA?

My opinion on this is simple: RDA is better for users, therefore it is better for libraries.

It makes room for the rich description of alternate formats that was never available in AACR2. It creates relationships between works, their creators, and their content that allows for serendipitous digital discovery, which is important in environments where physical browsing only offers a small slice of what is contained in an entire collection. It’s flexible enough to allow for the addition of formats that we can’t anticipate in the present.

There’s an uncomfortable learning curve for cataloguers with regard to the transition to RDA, but whenever I think about how awesome RDA records are for users in comparison to AACR2 records, it’s completely worth it.

I’d like to turn to the class in classification at this point. Will you describe that class?

Students who complete this class will be the go-to experts on call numbers in their places of work.

The classification class is going to get into the nitty gritty of creating call numbers. A well crafted call number is actually very tough to create, and if it’s done incorrectly it has a huge impact on users. On a practical level, this course is going to teach students how to create Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal Classification numbers using some open and some proprietary online tools. Most cataloguing courses go over the basics of how to create classification numbers, but this course will make students experts in it. It will go over how to create call numbers for traditional print books, as well as online resources, alternate formats, and other library oddities. At the end of the course, students will be able to catalogue the food in their fridges or the shampoo in their showers, if they feel so inclined. Students who complete this course will have the skills and confidence to serve as experts in call number creation in their library circles or places of work.

That sounds great. I’ve been wanting to add a course in classification for some time and I’m very glad you’re going to be doing it.

To kind of cap off this interview, I wonder if you could tell me, if you could teach any class for us that you could dream up, what would it be?

I would teach Radical Metadata! I don’t think people realize how controversial or political metadata and cataloguing can be, but it really is. It’s not just non-cataloguers who are unaware of this; I think there are a lot of folks working in metadata who don’t realize how much impact their work has on the representation of information for diverse and marginalized groups. I’d love to teach a course that presents metadata as a vehicle of social justice.

That sounds really cool! We should talk about that idea.

Thanks for doing this interview and telling us about your courses.

Thanks to you as well!

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