Terry Reese’s recent post “A Sense of Service: Service outside of the public eye” suggests the “idea of a service of gaps and a notion that service is a fulfillment of an obligation to step in and fill needs”. Well, I notice this “philosophy of gaps” applies to my situation, too – in two ways, in fact.
Most of my colleagues are DBAs, sysadmins, programmers, systems librarians. Granted, some of them used to be catalogers, but they don’t do it on a daily or even regular basis anymore, so over time they lost touch with the ins and outs and would have a hard time giving practical advice. But we realized that we need a certain amount of cataloging expertise in-house. So, although I kind of branched out and got systems librarians training, for the time being I stick with cataloging, partly in order to fill a gap of know-how: I spend some of my working day on a recon project with a colleague, but I also share my cataloging expertise and act as a kind of informal consultant to my tech colleagues.
There’s a second way in which my organisation and I have seen gaps and pragmatically fill a need that resurfaces time and time again. As I said in my last post, the new authority file GND was introduced. From a cataloging point of view, our partner institutions had to be trained to enable them to use and work with the GND. Big university libraries identified people to be “disseminators”, i.e. to get trained and then train catalogers at their library. But what about small institutions like special libraries or one-person-libraries that are part of the consortium? We set up training sessions for them where I also encouraged them to contact me with any cataloging-related issues they have. Mostly they are all on their own, with no colleagues to ask, so it’s good for them to know who to turn to. Again, a gap of service that I’m happy to fill because it means you see the needs of your clients, take them seriously and respond to them.
Filling gaps can make you more confident in your skills because you realize they are appreciated by those you serve or work with – you realize you have something important to bring to the table, and what you take for granted may have added value for others because they just don’t have the time or know-how to fill that specific gap.