Mentoring in Technical Services: Radical Cataloging & Inclusive Subject Headings

An Interview with Sol M. Lopez, Technical Services Manager, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center

Interviewed by Jaime Groetsema, Technical Services and Collections Management Librarian, Naropa University

1. What made you become interested in mentorship in Technical Services?

Mentorship is instrumental in getting grounded in cataloging. Catalogers may get the theoretical basis and some practice in graduate courses, but it is by working with a variety of formats, and the support of experienced catalogers to train and help with questions! I was lucky to have connected with a cataloger, Virginia Rassaei, at the University of Texas in El Paso and because of this very positive initial mentorship relationship, I actively seek mentors in the field and jump on opportunities to mentor someone else.

AGL Library2. How have the results of this mentorship positively impacted your work?

The Inclusive Subject Heading Project stemmed from researching the sequence of events in 2015-2016 around ALAs announcement to replace the offensive subject headings “Illegal aliens” and its six variants, with the more widely accepted and more inclusive undocumented immigrants.”

I was working as a Cataloging Librarian at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, at the time and felt compelled to implement the inclusive subject headings that were proposed by the Association of Library Collections and Technical Services (ALTCS). I was the only cataloger and the department was very small. After the project got approval from the Dean, I collaborated with the Systems and E-Resources Librarian, Amy Hezel. She advised on ways to ensure any changes to the bibliographic records would remain untouched by looking at the authority file management workflows, which I was able to do by using MARC fields and indicators to specify that the inclusive subject headings were local” ones.

While working at the University of Colorado Boulder, I collaborated with the Serials and E-Resource Manager and a group of catalogers to devise a similar plan to implement the project. I was able to collaborate with my colleague Laura Wright to offer national and local presentations about our project. There are now over 25 libraries in the country that have implemented a similar project to address this set of headings. The work was heavily reliant on positive mentorship relationships!

4. How did the size and available resources at each institution impact the possibilities of this project?

I often heard that libraries were not able to move forward with implementation for several reasons, and the size of the institution was one of them. The larger the institution, the more complex and lengthier the decision-making process was. This type of project was often supported by librarians, but some institutions did not have the necessary resources to make it happen (e.g. the labor-intensive initial planning and testing phases were too much for a single person, etc.). The smaller institutions, like Regis University, allowed for more flexibility in determining the steps needed to be made. 

5. What advice would you give to people interested in pursuing similar projects?

I would say to find something you are passionate about and find active ways to tie it into your role and to the mission, goals, and objectives of the institution. Currently, there are infinite possibilities for addressing EDI (equity, diversity, inclusion) projects, with subject heading inadequacies being just one example. I would say its important to find others who are a good fit for building mentorship relationships; it makes being in this profession quite worthwhile!