The Journey to Enlightenment Continues: Further conversations between public and technical services professionals

The Journey to Enlightenment Continues: Further conversations between public and technical services professionals.

Music Library Association Annual Meeting

March 4, 2022

Session summary by Nurhak Tuncer

During this year’s MLA conference, another eye-opening and informal session was sponsored in collaboration between the Cataloging and Metadata Committee and the Public Services Committee. The speakers and moderators for this session were Victoria Peters, Nara Newcomer, Sylvia Yang, Casey Mullin, Hermine Vermeij, Allison McClanahan, and Andrea L. Beckendorf. This virtual session was divided into six main themes in terms of discoverability and searchability:

  • Name-Titles for Works/Known Items
  • Genre/Form Terms
  • Medium of Performance Terms
  • Faceting
  • Communication/Collaboration
  • Advocacy

For each theme, the attendees were grouped into virtual rooms. Then attendees gave their feedback and experiences from their institutions. Specific Integrated Library Systems (ILS) like Alma, Folio, and Sirsi were mentioned under these six themes. Each one of these ILS platforms has its limitations that directly affect the discoverability of the music items. Sometimes what has been transcribed in the bib record by the cataloger may not be reflected accurately in the catalog’s discovery layer. For example, in Folio, the subject and genre terms in MARC fields 655 and 650 were not indexed, and it was a discoverability issue when the users searched for these specific terms. One of the attendees mentioned that their institution has developed an additional homegrown algorithm to try and collate terms, but it only affects faceted searching.

The MARC field 382 is for Medium of Performance (MoP) terms, and the discussion revolved around how these terms were reflected on the discovery layers. Attendees reported that in Alma, there is currently “authority control” for the 382, but it is non-functional; it looks at the entire field as a string, not at the individual terms. Generally, these terms are being added by catalogers, but they may not be usable in discovery depending on the ILS of the particular library. Overall feedback from the discussion was that they are being used and included, but some institutions’ discovery layer suppresses the 382 (along with all non-300 3XX fields). Therefore, it is not much use to the patron in such a situation. It is more beneficial when a catalog displays these terms in the discovery layers, enabling users more specific search options. Regarding discovery layers, the attendees discussed several steps that started with having more conversations within their individual libraries when the discovery layer was being implemented, especially if certain music formats were not displayed.

Often public services staff are not aware of metadata they would like displayed since it is “hidden” in the MARC view. It’s important for technical services staff to be involved in display decisions since they know the transcribed individual fields for the specific items better. One of the attendees suggested creating an MLA-wide repository of music-related Primo normalization rules so that members can share with each other. It is agreed as beneficial for catalogers to work reference shifts to understand user needs and see the other side of the picture. Another suggestion was to have a regular “search party” to bring a group of people together to perform searches in the catalog and evaluate how accurate the results were. Then, making the necessary tweaks would be much more reliable.

The main takeaway from this meeting was advocacy for music items and how technical services librarians can have informative conversations with public services librarians towards this goal. This discussion shows that the library’s public interface catalog is not perfect. It is necessary to direct students to the proper search limiters and teach them alternative ways of finding information. When a student fails a search in the discovery layer, it is very beneficial to introduce the student to search the alternative ways, such as looking at a specific item’s publication platform and not relying entirely on the discovery layer. Students need to know that the discovery layer has flaws, and that is why they need to consult with their expert librarians to learn more about the alternative search techniques for effective research.