Career Profile: Director, U.S. ISSN Center


Regina Romano Reynolds

Title of current position:

Director, U.S. ISSN Center; Head, ISSN Section, U.S. Programs, Law, and Literature Division

Current employer:

Library of Congress

Please provide a brief description of your job including a general overview of your responsibilities.

As Director of the U.S. ISSN Center, I manage the U.S. ISSN program, the sole provider of International Standard Serial Numbers for U.S. continuing resources. I direct a staff of serial catalogers and technicians who assign ISSNs. Additionally, I participate in work related to e-serials at LC, represent the U.S. ISSN Center at conferences, publicize U.S. and international ISSN activities via presentations and articles, and help to develop ISSN technical policies and procedures. I am one of 89 directors of ISSN centers worldwide and participate with the other directors in annual meetings where technical topics are discussed and decisions documented. On a daily basis, I answer the most challenging ISSN questions from publishers, libraries, and other ISSN users. I often confer with ISSN colleagues around the world about complex policy questions. I participate in standards work, especially those related to serials, such as the current revision of the ISSN standard published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

How did you choose your specialty (i.e. music cataloger, metadata specialist, technical service manager, etc.)?

My second library job was as a serials cataloger at Penn State University, and I immediately became hooked on serials. I often joke that like housework, serials work is never finished. Even if you create the impossibly perfect catalog record, that serial might change the very next day requiring you to update your record. This is even more true of e-journals which can change not only prospectively but retrospectively. Solving questions related to serials, especially when the unique identification needed for ISSN is involved, is like solving a challenging puzzle: when those “aha” moments occur and the pieces fall into place, it’s very satisfying. And, knowing that a good catalog record for a journal, complete with unique ISSN identification supports scholarship and information discovery worldwide, adds to that satisfaction.

What specific skills, aptitudes, training, or education does your specialty require?

Serials work and ISSN work require a knowledge of cataloging rules and extensive experience with serials and the myriad ways they can change and yet still be the same serial. I find that acquiring this knowledge and these skills is like learning a foreign language: best done through immersion. Textbook learning needs to be supplemented by working with example after example of the quirky beasts that serials—especially e-serials—can be. My MLS provided an opportunity to take a big-picture view of the organization of information and do some independent study and project work that have served me well. Technical training is becoming increasingly important in providing skills needed to use technology for efficiencies such as processing publications in batches rather than one by one, or creative approaches to tasks by using crowdsourcing or social media. No skills or training is totally irrelevant in today’s library environment.

In what ways did your formal education prepare you for your career? What did you need to learn outside of this?

My undergraduate degrees in English and French proved more useful than I anticipated when I chose those majors. My career has involved a great amount of writing: technical procedural documents, articles in journals, wording for sections of standards, reports of conferences, and PowerPoint text. Something I could not have foreseen is that the ISSN International Centre is located in Paris and the ISSN Network’s official languages are French and English. I have been called upon to translate some ISSN text from French. I can speak with French colleagues about technical topics even if I get lost in their colloquial conversations about their weekends, and last year managed to rise to the challenge of presenting a talk about ISSN, RDA, and BIBFRAME at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in French. Although formal MLS education did include a management class, I had to learn most of my management and supervisory skills from mentors or on the job. I was very fortunate to be able to shadow an outstanding manager for several months and still make use of the skills that she embodied so well. Public relations skills and networking skills are also skills that are learned and polished by doing and observing.

What do you find rewarding in your career?

I find the outward-facing nature of my work extremely rewarding, especially the national and international work I do with colleagues in the U.S. through the PCC and colleagues all over the world with whom I am engaged in work that we all find meaningful is truly rewarding. Seeing many of these colleagues at annual ISSN directors meetings affirms our shared work and makes communicating throughout the year much easier. Serving the needs of publishers and other ISSN users is very satisfying and working together with the great staff members of the U.S. ISSN center make for fulfilling days. I also find great rewards in witnessing the evolution of the serials publishing landscape, the forms that serials and other continuing resources are taking in the digital environment, and the evolution of the ISSN and cataloging itself. I feel privileged at being able to look back at how things have changed and look ahead to exciting changes, such as use of linked data, on the horizon.

What do you find challenging in your career?

One of the biggest challenges is one most of us are experiencing: more work than staff. Most technical services jobs have expanded to encompass the digital while the print dimension, at least for ISSN and the Library of Congress, has not diminished significantly. The other challenge is one that I call an emphasis on “process over product” that I think something of a result of organizational risk-aversion especially in bureaucracies.

How do you keep up with trends in the field (i.e. involvement in professional organizations, email lists, publishing and research, professional reading, etc.)?

I try to squeeze in time to read key articles, at least skim relevant email lists (especially those where ISSN questions are likely to arise), participate in ALA and other conferences, and keep up with committee work, especially for CONSER (Cooperative Online Serials Program), standards, and ISSN groups. It’s a lot and I often regret not having more time to just soak up all that is happening.

What advice do you have for those considering a career in your specialty?

Gain technical skills, since those can give you an edge over job candidates without those skills. Gain an overview by joining relevant email lists and reading blogs and journals. Meet practitioners and talk with them about your interests. Serials work requires a tolerance for ambiguity and an ability to see the whole and the parts. Assess your strengths, aptitudes, and joys: pick a specialty that you can love and the rest will follow.

How do you strive for a work-life balance? Do you have any hobbies or interests outside work?

I was fortunate to be able to raise a child (she’s now a professor of neuroscience at the University of Miami) and develop my career at the same time. One thing that helped me was to realize that children’s lives and development can be enriched by good caregivers other than their parents. Some of my daughter’s caregivers exposed her to activities that were outside of my experience but that she enjoys to this day. Now we commiserate about articles in progress, how best to illustrate presentations and professional posters, and how to find time in our travel schedules to visit each other. I developed a photography hobby in 2008 by joining Flickr when the Library of Congress put up a Flickr page, and it’s been an interest ever since, especially during my international travel. Taking and processing photos can completely absorb and refresh me. Finding the time, of course, is an ongoing challenge.

This career profile is one of 14 developed by the Cataloging & Metadata Management Section (CaMMS) Recruitment & Mentoring Committee in 2017. To view a list of all profiles, see Career Profiles in Cataloging, Metadata, & Related Fields.

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