I learned a lot about myself as a cataloger, early-career professional, and participant in large conferences while attending my first ALA Annual Conference in June 2018. As a specialist cataloger, I mostly attend subject-specific conferences, but as an early-career cataloging librarian, I wanted to attend Annual Conference in order to connect with the greater cataloging community.
Prior to the conference, I carefully put together my conference scheduler with sessions focusing on cataloging, metadata, and preservation. What came next—the actual conference experience with a packed schedule—presented a very different reality for an introvert who is quickly overwhelmed by crowds. For those attending ALA for the first time, I encourage you to go into the conference with a plan and schedule, but I also recommend that you allow yourself some flexibility to let go of the plan and play it by ear.
I connected with mentors and professional connections made from other conferences, met social media connections in person, and reconnected with peers and colleagues that I haven’t seen in a while. To me, conference attendance is part knowledge acquisition, part relationship building, and I was able to achieve both during the 2018 ALA Annual Conference.Treshani Perera
Many of the sessions I attended were ALCTS Cataloging and Metadata Management Section (CaMMS) interest group meetings focused projects related to cataloging and metadata and being a cataloging professional. The very first session I attended, sponsored by the ALCTS CaMMS Competencies and Education for a Career in Cataloging Interest Group, offered an engaging and interesting discussion based on ethics in cataloging and cataloging competencies. I also enjoyed attending the ALCTS CaMMS Cataloging Norms Interest Group meeting, where presentations showcased projects combining research and practice in cataloging. These presentations provided a little bit for everyone, including best practices for comics cataloging, the use of URIs in MARC records, and user tagging in library catalogs.
The ALCTS CaMMS Catalog Management Interest Group’s presentations offered practical tips for those faced with patron-focused catalogs and geographic area code cleanup in MARC records. Both presentations focused on aspects of project management behind catalog data cleanup, as well as the importance of collaboration and staff motivation when dealing with data cleanup projects. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) Technical Services Discussion Group provided an extensive discussion on the use of various thesauri—such as the Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), RBMS Controlled Vocabularies, and Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms (LCGFT)—as access points beyond the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). This discussion proved to be very useful for me as someone new to special collections cataloging because it covered standards and practices for MARC notes fields, audience and characteristics fields, and authority data and their use in catalogs.
I also attended some CaMMS committee meetings as I am interested in getting involved with decision-making for cataloging policy and seeking a leadership position in the future. I just began my one-year term as intern for the ALCTS Publications Committee, and attending the committee meeting provided an opportunity to meet leaders within the profession and get to know those with whom I will be working over the next year.
Attending ALA Annual 2018 was one of the highlights of my professional career this year. I connected with mentors and professional connections made from other conferences, met social media connections in person, and reconnected with peers and colleagues that I haven’t seen in a while. To me, conference attendance is part knowledge acquisition, part relationship building, and I was able to achieve both during the 2018 conference. I’m grateful to Netanel Ganin’s generosity, which gave me this opportunity to attend the conference. Kudos, too, to ALCTS and CaMMS leaders for creating a professional development grant to increase participation of cataloging professionals from underrepresented groups at national conferences.
Treshani Perera is music and fine arts cataloging librarian at the University of Kentucky Libraries. She was the recipient of the inaugural Lois Mai Chan Professional Development Grant to attend the 2018 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans.