I spoke with Karen, our Authority Control Librarian, who works with our metadata and automation departments primarily on authority record editing and creation. She’s been with Backstage for 15 years, previously coming from Brigham Young University’s Lee Library cataloging department.
A: What led you to become a librarian, and what eventually led you to take your knowledge and experience to Backstage Library Works?
K: When I was in college at BYU, I couldn’t decide on a major and, by the time I did, I’d finished all the general education requirements. I needed some classes to fill my schedule, and since I’d always loved libraries, I chose Library Technology thinking I could minor in it. Then I got a part-time job at the local public library which asked me to stay for at least a full year. Well, if I changed to that as a major, I could finish an Associates degree in a year, and I did. When I went on to work for the cataloging department at BYU, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree (library related, which was acquired through a special program offered at the time) and then a Master’s in Library Science (as they called it back then). And that’s how I became the head of the Authority Control unit there.
When my husband was transferred temporarily to Pennsylvania and Virginia, I left BYU, later returning to Utah and continuing work there. We discovered Backstage when my husband was contacted to rewrite the Authority Control Mars processes for use on a local client-server. Since I knew all of the library rules and correct practices with my Authority Control background and degree, I was hired to assist the process. Essentially, I was my husband’s consultant! When the project ended, I was offered a position as a permanent librarian. And I’ve had a very fulfilling, and enjoyable career here ever since.
A: You worked on the initial Indigenous local authority file. What was the most rewarding part of that project?
K: It was a very difficult project, but two things were satisfying to me in particular. I had to research to find the right and official websites for different Indigenous peoples so that I could derive the correct name. The other was knowing that, by the end of the project, we could at the very least fix the general subject headings for “Indians’ to the more acceptable Indigenous peoples. There’s still a lot of work and research to be done as not all Indigenous peoples have reported the name by which they’d like to be called. Maintenance is another consideration – but it’s a good start and has been growing ever since.
A: You started your career when card catalogs were still the “go to” method of discovery in a library. What do you personally see as a couple of the biggest benefits of moving to an electronic environment? Is there anything that you can see as being a setback?
K: Yes, at BYU, I was in charge of all card catalogs on campus (and there were several satellite libraries). For me, the biggest benefit of online catalogs is the ability to maintain them more easily. It’s so much easier and faster to make changes and updates than to have to pull, erase, and retype a card. Or even to create a record in the first place. You also make so much more information available to patrons and librarians. You can’t fit all that much on a 3 x 5 card!
Another benefit is the ability to search by keyword. One of the setbacks is the ability to search by keyword. You must have just the right words to find what you want. It takes a lot of authority work and good systems to use it, which isn’t always the case.
A: What new avenues do you think automated Authority Control can/should take to improve discovery?
K: My specialty is Authority Control as opposed to the automated elements, but no matter what environment you’re working in, I think consistency in application of rules and how information is presented in both bibliography and authority records is most important. We need to work on having the cataloging rules allow for information that can be used by an automated system. There’s a lot of information in bibliographic and authority records that we can’t process because the programs can’t use it. There needs to be clear definitions so there’s no ambiguity in what codes, tags, indicators, etc. mean and how they’re used. If things are open ended, automation becomes more difficult. Mostly, we just need really good authority control and more of it. I think discovery layers depend on authority control to be effective.
A: Lastly, what sort of hobbies do you have to fill your down time? And we’ve spoken before about your dog. I humbly request some photos!
K: I like to crochet, cross-stitch, and needlepoint on plastic canvas. I like to read, but purely for escapism now! Taking drives with my husband is a favorite activity, too.
As anyone near my office can attest to, I like to decorate for holidays, especially Christmas. And, I love to play with our beautiful Golden Chow, Maia. She’s our baby despite being thirteen years old. She came to us by chance but has helped my husband back to better health after heart surgery. I can no longer go on walks with her, but she loves to play around on the bed or just get belly rubs. Mind you, she won’t sleep on the bed. She prefers the floor.
You did ask for pet photos which could be dangerous in my case! But here are a few.