September 14, 2005


I'm pasting my long missive to The Big Boss Guy below, with names omitted:

I continue to be thoroughly confused about this whole testing thing. Before I start haranguing (ahem!), though, I certainly see the need to control access to OCLC records appropriately. If nothing else, working in [our consortium] has taught me that some people shouldn't be allowed to go near a computer, much less futz around with bib records! There also needs to be an Ultimate Authority to make sure the records in the database are clean and consistent.

That's my intellectual brain at work; then my emotions kick in. Having said that, here's my list of questions about the written component of the certification process, in no particular order:
  1. Is there going to be any differentiation between MLIS catalogers and para-professionals (i.e. 'undegreed' or technical assistants)? It seems to me that I had to pass all of this preliminary (barcoder level) stuff to graduate and I guess I'm kind of wondering why I bothered to get a Master's. Don't I sound snippy? Sorry--I don't usually stand on "I have a degree and YOU don't--hah!" but this seems to be kind of an unintentional slap to professionals. I understand that we all need to have the basics covered, which seems to be the point of the 'barcoder level' test. It just seems really...silly to me, especially if it's as easy as it sounds after your explanation yesterday.

  2. Are new hires expected to take this test upon being hired? What if we decide, for instance, that a current staff member is going to start doing serials instead of working at the circ desk? She would therefore have a steep learning curve just to (take) and pass the test, before having access. Small libraries have a lot of 'floating staff': people who serve multiple functions. In [my library], for example, one person has the following responsibilities: circ duties, internal (system) ILL checkin/sorting, keeping daily internal statistics, barcoding and checking in magazines, opening order boxes and sourcing etc., and I don't even know what I'm missing. Obviously, this means she'll have to do the testing, but if she should leave, we'd have someone else sliding over to cover, possibly temporarily, possibly not. Short version: this seems to encourage all libraries to have a dedicated Tech Service staff, which is reasonable for larger libraries; [my library], unfortunately, seems to be on the cusp between Small Library and Large Library.... [whinge whinge whinge]

  3. What will happen to people who just can't pass even the barcoder test? Will that mean that they lose their jobs? How can that be? But how can they do the job if they have no access whatsoever to the database? I know there are catalogers in [the consortium] who have no interest in Original Cataloging, or even Copy Cataloging. Fine. At what point, however, is the state meddling in internal library hiring (or, really, firing) decisions?

  4. I really would appreciate the committee publishing a coherent 'study guide' of exactly what we need to know. If you wanted to use the AACR2 glossary and the Technical Services Dept. Glossary from NYU (or whatever), fine. It just feels, from my point of view, that we are about to be tested blindly, kind of a pop quiz/pretest. No one likes those! Especially people who are already feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and under trained.

  5. Which brings up training; [the consortium in its previous incarnation] has been, frankly, inconsistent in this area. I have felt as if I've been floundering in the North Atlantic at times, alone with my personal iceberg and no help on the horizon. I'd like to respectfully request ongoing and consistent training.

  6. Is there any other state that has a test of this kind? Can we use their test for [our state]? Then at least we 'students' have a place to find information on how effective the test is, can perhaps take some practice tests online, and so forth. If someone tests at one institution, will s/he have to 'retest' after moving to another job inside [the state]? How long will a certification last? Forever?

  7. While all this certification is going on, I hope that directors are being informed of implications this will have on their staffing. I see a huge pile of potential workflow changes on the horizon for [my library] just to comply with the certification process. Then we'll have to change again when we come up with [the new database on the horizon]. I'd like to combine the changes into one massive upheaval if at all possible. The problem is, I don't know how [the new database] works enough to be able to plan how it will affect how 6 people do their work. So this is sort of off-topic (but also in line with #4), but a shadowing program for us [current database]-y people to follow around some [catalogers who are already using the new database] would be REALLY WELCOME! ahem ;-)
Seven seems like a good number to stop. I'll undoubtedly come up with more! Remember, you said we were really calm compared to others you've met with; obviously, we are (I am) just good at hiding our emotions! Plus, I tend to panic/worry. We have some people on the committee who are terrified to "look stupid" in front of others, so they'll never say much. I could actually feel their insides coiling up like overtaxed couch springs at yesterday's meeting.

So, thanks in advance for listening and taking notes and taking our concerns back to the committee. You actually did calm me down considerably yesterday with your explanation of the timing of the barcoder-level test. Thanks!!
I do sound like a raving lunatic.

Oh well. Sometimes it's hard pretending to be sane.

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