On Saturday I attended the second New Professionals Day to be held in Ireland, this year hosted in the beautiful settings of NUI Maynooth. This is the core annual event of the NPDI team, featuring more interactive workshop style activities throughout the day, as opposed to the Autumn event
, which focused on a “Day in the Life” angle, mostly through presentations.
I started the day being a bit apprehensive about the amount of cataloguing and archiving on the agenda as they are not that relevant to the job I am currently doing. However as the day went on I was reminded reminded of the satisfaction I used to get from cataloguing activities during my MLIS, and how much I really do love living in “an ordered world” (thank you Jane Burns)! The organisation and accuracy of cataloguing will probably always be a backdrop to the work I do as an info pro, even if I don’t have to apply any specific standards. Grace Toland of The Irish Traditional Music Archives spoke about always being passionate about your work – no matter the content you are cataloguing. It was amazing to be in a room where being passionate about cataloguing didn’t get laughed at!
Each of the guests gave really interesting and practical insights into the nuances of cataloguing in their area. I found it interesting that even the military – who I would have considered to be very organised – are relatively new to records management and still have a lot of older archives that need to be organised. As with many organisations, a lot of this has to do with legislation around data. When weeding through files, a lot of sign off is needed due to sensitivity, security, dangers to people living and data protection issues. Capt. Mortimer gave us examples of files to sort and record on a spreadsheet. She also showed us file release forms, where the reason must be recorded if it is decided not to release a particular file.
Bríd Dooley, head of the RTÉ Archives, offered a fascinating overview of cataloguing media items in an ever expanding variety of formats. This echoed what Grace Toland had spoken about in relation to changing recording techniques. I was actually quite overwhelmed when Bríd showed us the workflow involved in their cataloguing. There is currently no universal standard for cataloguing television and radio, although professional training is available in specific skills for sound archiving. Bríd estimated that it takes up to three months of training for someone to be proficient in media cataloguing. This would be specific to RTÉ to a certain degree as they have developed their own in-house cataloguing guide over the years. All in all, the deeper understanding that the day’s guests provided of cataloguing in diverse fields left me optimistic about the exciting areas that seemingly traditional work can lead you to.
At the end of the day, no matter what your interest level in cataloguing is, or how important these hard skills are, the key element of an event like the NPD is getting to meet fellow newbie librarians. The New Professionals Day
is an event from which a strong platform of young information professionals is being built, creating a network of support and idea sharing that will last into the future. This base of active and involved librarians offers great hope for the future of innovation and advocacy of library and related services. It makes me feel that we are living in a promising, and dare I say exciting time for librarianship in Ireland!
A number of people in work (non-library setting) have commented to me recently that the library community seems very supportive, and they’re not wrong. There are no shortage of listservs, Twitter, groups, tumblarians etc to turn to for questions big and small. There is no replacement however, for face to face meeting, exchanging of silly stories and encouragement.
Those behind NPDI are admirably determined to keep the day a free event, ensuring there are as few barriers as possible to participating. There is a need then to strike a balance then between making sure there aren’t too many no-shows and not over-subscribing the events. They rely on social media, email, and the connectedness of the community to ensure that people cancel ahead of time and make way for people on the waiting list. Through this approach, they can keep the number attending small enough to allow for a comfortable environment to interact with new people, and to allow the workshops to run smoothly.
My tweets from the day are compiled into a Storify here