Career Profile: Metadata Librarian (USF)


Dominique Bortmas

Title of current position:

Metadata Librarian

Current employer:

University of South Florida

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

Currently, I am the Metadata Librarian at the University of South Florida. My work ensures that library users have quick, reliable access to information. I promote discoverability, automate quality control, and perform catalog and database maintenance for electronic, print, and institutional materials. These responsibilities constantly give me the opportunity to test and implement new technologies.

In June, I will begin my new position as Manager of Metadata and Resource Description at American University. My new position includes many of the same responsibilities as my current position. Additionally, I will be involved in project management and training. I’m hoping to gain more experience with linked open data in this new position.

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

In my first semester of library school, I took “Organization of Information.” This course provided a theoretical and practical approach to information organization and its impact on the library and its users. I realized that cataloging and user needs were constantly changing due to advances in technology, causing me to gain interest in this evolving field. I found it fascinating that while cataloging technology has changed, cataloging’s purpose has remained the same: to provide users with access to information. My interest in information organization, user needs, and technology quickly led to my pursuit of a technical services career. I began researching current job openings in the field and was happy to find so many different cataloging and metadata career options. I saved job posts that interested me so I could learn their required and preferred skills, particularly in the context of the position’s duties and responsibilities.

Additionally, I explored the course catalog and worked with my academic advisor to plan a path for a technical services career. I began using library resources to learn technical services skills that were not taught in classes, and I gained real-world experience working as a graduate student Audio-Visual Cataloger. This combination of theoretical and practical experience made me a strong candidate for future positions while further developing my passion and skills for information organization and access.

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

To me, the most important skills for any information professional to have are the ability to research and adapt. Libraries and technology are changing constantly, causing librarians to evolve their skills, adapt to new technologies, and consider user needs. Whenever I begin research for a new technology or project to meet these needs, I pretend that a patron is asking me for reference assistance on that topic. I am able to narrow my search and find resources that will give me the knowledge to implement the project even if I had no previous experience with the technology or concept. Through my ability to research developing technologies, I have been able to automate workflows and increase discoverability while making library resources more interactive. Specifically, the most important skills and aptitudes associated with my position are: attention to detail, understanding of MARC and non-MARC metadata, understanding of XML technologies, ability to query data in various formats and schemas, and communication. I frequently view job postings to see what skills are required or preferred for new positions; this keeps me up to date on popular skills and trends within my field.

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

My formal education balanced theoretical knowledge with practical skills. Many courses would build upon theoretical knowledge with real-world examples and projects. This allowed me to see why and how certain aspects of cataloging and information management work. I was encouraged to research different methods to solve cataloging and metadata problems throughout these courses. The opportunity to research and apply skills that were not specifically taught in library school prepared me more than anything for my career. Library and information science programs can teach specific skills, programming languages, and so on, but those things change. Many of the skills I learned in library school, such as XSLT and Python, will change and eventually become obsolete; however, my ability to research, learn, and apply new skill sets to solve future library problems will never go out of style!

In addition to developing my adaptability and research skills, my formal education prepared me to become a cataloger and metadata librarian. I learned how to navigate cataloging resources and programs such as the RDA Toolkit, Cataloger’s Desktop, Classification Web, and OCLC Connexion. The most important technology skills my MLIS program taught me were XML technologies, database creation and maintenance, and information retrieval.

Outside of my education, I learned countless other skills and programs through employment, professional development opportunities, and networking. The most important thing I learned on the job was how to use MarcEdit, a free cataloging tool created by Terry Reese. Aside from my library’s catalog, I use this tool more than anything. Now, I even teach a variety of courses that show students how to use MarcEdit. Additionally, I wish I could have had experience using an Integrated Library System (ILS) or Library Service Platform (LSP), especially in a shared catalog environment. I was fortunate to gain this experience in my graduate student cataloging position in library school, but most students never get that opportunity; however, students often have an opportunity to use an ILS or LSP in their practicum, internships, and graduate positions while in school.

What do you find rewarding in your career?

More than anything, I find my career incredibly fascinating. I strive to make information accessible and easily retrievable for library patrons ranging from undergraduates to faculty. It is rewarding to run usage statistics reports to see just how much my work is used throughout the university community. My focus on automation of workflows and quality controls improves access, but it also improves the day to day work of my colleagues.

What do you find challenging in your career?

While I enjoy the constant changes in my field, it can be difficult and even overwhelming to stay current. I turn this into a positive; I try to see new problems as an opportunity to present or publish on the topic. Doing this benefits me, but it also benefits the library community.

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 keep current in all the usual ways, including conferences, webinars, email lists, and scholarly journals. However, I have learned the most interesting and useful skills through other librarians’ social media accounts and blogs. My favorite is the Troublesome Catalogers and Magical Metadata Fairies Facebook group. It’s great to share information and develop relationships with other librarians through social media, and it’s even better when you can finally meet them at conferences like ALA!

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

Be ready to constantly learn new skills and adapt to changes. Always ask questions and be willing to try new things. Never say “But we’ve always done things this way!” as an excuse to avoid change.

What do you see as the career outlook in your field (i.e. job prospects, changes in responsibilities, etc.)?

Metadata and cataloging are constantly changing. This is creating a demand for information professionals who are technologically proficient while also traditionally trained with cataloging theory and standards. The incorporation of vendor records and electronic resources is changing the way technical services works, but it is not removing or replacing technical services. As for career prospects, I see multiple technical services job postings weekly. I’ve also seen an increase in library science course offerings related to these changes in the field.

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

Outside of work, I often find myself reading or watching items I cataloged. Cataloging gives me the opportunity to really get to know resources. This makes it easy to pick out my next book or streaming video! Since I teach MLIS courses outside of my Librarian position, my life does seem to revolve around libraries! However, I love my work, and I am able to find a perfect work-life balance through efficient time management. I make sure to make time for my family and friends but also for myself. My personal hobbies, which relax me and get me ready for the work week, include visiting museums and other libraries, hiking, creating art, and exploring all genres of music.

Is there any additional information you would like to provide?

Network! There is so much you can learn from other librarians. Remember to give back to the library community as well. Hard work and skills are necessary to succeed in this field. Along the way, don’t forget the people who helped you and gave you opportunities to prove yourself. There are so many people I could mention who have helped me throughout my career, but I would specifically like to thank my first library science professor Dr. Frank Lambert, my first cataloging supervisor Peter Lisius (Music and Media Catalog Librarian/Associate Professor at Kent State University), and Annie Glerum (Associate University Librarian and Head of Complex Cataloging at Florida State University).

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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