CoGLAMeration 2018

Yesterday I attended CoGLAMeration 2018, an unconference for people working or studying in the GLAM sector.  The three main talks were live streamed on the ALIA Sydney Facebook page and can be viewed by anyone.  I didn’t sit in on the first talk, as during each talk there were breakout sessions on different topics. In the first session, I joined the breakout session to talk about metadata and critical librarianship, in which we talked about cataloging and metadata, SCIS and the devaluing of the profession as a whole and specialisation in particular.  I confess that none of the options for the middle session particularly appealed to me so I sat in on the global collaboration talk.  The third session, I felt I *should* join the breakout session on school libraries, but I did not want to miss Bonnie Wildie’s talk on engaging with digital collections, and I did not regret it (even though I knew I could watch it again later).

It’s really hard to encapsulate what I got from yesterday’s unconference but I made a bunch of professional connections, inadvertently got some study and interview advice and had a great time.  I also had a little breakthrough in my thinking about wanting to engage with digital records but not knowing how to do that or what to do without recreating the work of Tim Sherratt and Bonnie Wildie.  I now have the very beginnings of a little project that has a blog and a twitter account.  I’ve also created some twitter bots that will access my research on Trove, and post to that twitter account.

I also have some other thoughts that touch on the metadata and cataloging breakout session that we had and some reading I have been doing.  I’ve been reading a book called Cruising the Library by Melissa Adler, which examines the history of the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and how they have been used and misused in the past and present to catalogue “perversions”, specifically with reference to homosexual practices, fetishes and material classified as unsuitable for general circulation.  It is an interesting examination of how the organisation of the collection can stigmatise people (homosexuality placed next to books on paedophilia and child abuse), and direct research in the future (the use of medical and psychological labels for behaviours). I will confess though, it is heavy reading.  Especially since we don’t use the LCSH in Australia.  Now I don’t regret what I have read of the book and it’s vital to understand that cataloguing decisions matter and that there are biases behind how the catalogue is structured (and that is true of the Dewey decimal system also), but for someone who isn’t working in America or working with the LCSH it’s not something I need to go into great depth with, especially when it’s generally restricted to homosexuality and “lesbianism”.  It has made me more interested in the cataloging process and the importance of metadata and excited for our cataloging subject next year at uni.

This also brings me to another issue I’ve been grappling with – ethics.  Librarianship is a profession in part because it has a code of ethics, and yet those ethics can be problematic to apply at times.  Recently I listened to the Better Library Leaders podcasts (there were two episodes) about the ALA Code of Ethics.  In Australia, ALIA doesn’t have a Code of Ethics, although we have core values statements, a member code of conduct and we endorse the IFLA Code of Ethics.  We cannot possibly follow every facet of a code of ethics all the time.  We cannot provide free access to all information while working to provide the best service we can on a limited budget.  We should not allow our dedication to the library being a space for everyone permit us to host hate groups in our spaces.  I am hoping to give closer examination to the ethics documents we have in Australia and analyse their idiosyncrasies.

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