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Innovating and sharing new ways to work efficiently

By Andrew Watson, on 1 September 2020

UCL Ways of Working wheelWhen the Retrospective Cataloguing Team adopted the theme Innovating and sharing new ways to work efficiently from UCL Ways of Working as one of our goals earlier this year, little did we know how apt it was going to prove.  Within weeks, we were abruptly separated from the printed material we spent much of our time cataloguing and our chief activity appeared to be curtailed overnight.

Or was it?  One of our key skills is correcting and enhancing metadata, honed through working with Special Collections material stored offsite where retrieval depends on the accurate matching of bibliographic data to barcode numbers.  Analysis of data, accurate matching and enhancement lend themselves to many situations and this is where our journey of innovation led…

We began by matching over 1,900 of our rare books to entries in the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC), a union catalogue of imprints chiefly in the English language published prior to 1801, and added UCL holdings.  ESTC is one of the chief international finding aids for such material.  We then turned our attention to Special Collections archive holdings adding barcodes and shelf locations to records for items contained within 350 boxes of Karl Pearson and J B S Haldane papers.

Next, Tabitha Tuckett enlisted our help in an innovative project she devised to meet academic needs whilst physical collections were inaccessible.  This involved us working with the Special Collections Digitisation Team  to make all stored digital images of Special Collections printed material available online in the UCL Digital Collections repository.  We assisted by enhancing the relevant metadata to enable discovery.  In addition, we added links in the catalogue records so that for the first time, descriptions of our rare books on Explore lead directly to online images of the resources, as in this example from the Laurence Housman collection:  An anti-suffrage alphabet.

Testing software for the delivery of Special Collections teaching, moderating online events, enhancing presentation transcriptions, so the journey continues…

As for my own innovative activity, I’ve been converting Excel spreadsheets of bibliographic data into MARC records for importation into Alma.  Compiled by the Folklore Society Library for their rare material, the data required analysis in order to be assigned to an array of over 40 MARC fields and subfields.  It is the first time this has been attempted for material held by Special Collections which has complex inventory importation requirements.  Tom Meehan provided invaluable assistance by setting up the necessary import profiles in Alma, an innovative activity for him and one deserving a blog post of its own which Tom plans to provide.  The records are now available on Explore by searching for flsrare.

What innovative activities has the lockdown period led you to explore?  Do share!

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