Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 22, Number 3/4 1996

Electronic Resources: Selection and Bibliographic Control: Introduction

Ling-yuh W. (Miko) Pattie and Bonnie Jean Cox
University of Kentucky Libraries


Ling-yuh W. (Mi ko) Pattie, MSLS, is Assistant Director for Technical Services at the University of Kentucky Libraries and Adjunct Professor in the University's School of Library and Information Science. Ms. Pattie is an OCLC Users Council delegate, a library automation consultant, and has served as a cataloger and an automation librarian at other academic libraries in Kentucky.

Bonnie Jean Cox, MA, MSLS, is Assistant Director for Collection Development for the University of Kentucky Libraries and is a member ofthe library team overseeing electronic resources. She is Chair of the Collection Development and Electronic Media Committee of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services' Collection Management and Development Section and is Chair-Elect of the Women's Studies Section ofthe Association ofCollege and Research Libraries. Ms. Cox served as Director of Women's Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky for three years.


The stunning growth and democratization of the Internet during this past year when this collection was conceived has further validated the need for honest and provocative discussions among information professionals as to where we fit into what Clifford Stoll called the "unreal universe". (1) It almost seems that overnight we have awaken from a well-defined print world to this electronic universe and, though dazed and incredulous, are struggling to make some sense of it. The struggles to define, select, and control electronic resources in our own institution convinced us that an attempt such as this would help provide a common ground for deliberations and decision-making in libraries and information centers. We sincerely hope so.

It is our intention to address both conceptual and pragmatic aspects of selection and bibliographic control of electronic resources. We want to engage the thinkers and doers in the field in constructive and productive dialogues as to where we are going and how we are going to get there from here. Keeping our own struggles in mind, we also want this volume to be broad-in-scope in the sense that historical context is properly presented against innovative thinkings and doings. We know we are dealing with a moving target. We know we are nailing Jell-O to a tree. Nevertheless, we hope this contributes to the ongoing process of defining the role of information professionals in this brave new world of electronic resources.

The universe of electronic resources is indeed diverse, expanding, intimidating and unstructured compared to the finite, pre-packaged print world upon which the information delivery infrastructure has been constructed. It ranges from magnetic disks accompanying books, magnetic tapes housed in computing centers, CD-ROMs, either single-stationed or networked, and in-house full-text centers to an array of remotely-accessible information resources, such as commercially-available abstracting and indexing or full-text files, and Internet resources. These papers give us a general overview of the universe and remind us of the distinctive nature inherent in traditional and electronic formats. As information technology shapes alternative forms of scholarly communication, libraries have found their entire traditional infrastructure in need of an overhaul, from organizational structure, selection, acquisitions, bibliographic control, processing, preservation, to user services. Even more significantly, they are scrambling to define their role against the backdrop of the information-glutted Internet. Information at our fingertips looks more like a reality than it really is as we, along with our users, surf and hunt for meaningful bytes. We must, however, keep in mind that the content, value-added, is what we are about. The container, conduit, or wiring should be put in its own proper context as we attempt to integrate electronic resources into our collection and services. As Ann Ockerson so aptly stated " must not underestimate the difficulties involved in anticipating a reconfiguration, nor the important role traditional print media are likely to retain far into the future.” (2) The reconfiguration of that value-added content for which we provide stewardship begins with selection of electronic resources.

As selection of electronic resources begins to encompass networked-accessible information, either via campus, state or regional consortium, or Internet, source files and selection tools have evolved and brought us to the unfamiliar world of legal, technical and economic fronts. No longer is it sufficient for us to know what's out there (if we really can), we also need to possess some basic knowledge and skill to evaluate access methods in order to deliver needed information in a timely and cost-effective manner. A formal, collaborative working relationship with the computing and communications units becomes a necessity, so does the internal group of staff from systems, acquisitions, cataloging, preservation, and user services. Still central to this issue is meeting user needs. Instead of being provided with traditional information storage and retrieval tools, i.e., book stacks, card catalogs, journal indexes, interlibrary loans, or even mediated database searching, our users are now confronted with issues such as connectivity, unfriendly or dissimilar user interfaces, and information overload. Their need for value-added content is still the same, yet the container and the conduit have added a layer of complexity. Selection with user access capability foremost in mind will make integrating electronic resources into the collection easier on users and library staff alike. Peggy Johnson provides us a succinct overview of these issues, their implications on our existing services, and how we are to formulate selection policies and procedures. Not to be overlooked is her decision-making matrix model that gives us a pragmatic lead to implement an effective selection process.

For establishing a full-text service, David Seaman strongly advocates the adoption of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) as a critical selection criterion for purchasing commercially available e-texts or creating in-house ones. The benefits of such a commitment are not to be underestimated, whether in user training, system configuration, transportability or in resource sharing. The Internet presents another new challenge for selectors. What are the selection tools? How do we include these resources in our collection? The participants in the OCLC Internet Cataloging Project are asking these questions on their listserv, INTERCAT, and are sharing their local solutions. The consensus seems to be that selection policies remain the same as those for other formats and that better local control is to be provided through mirroring the files in local World Wide Web homepages or policing the validity of the linking Uniform Resource Locator (URL). We are pleased to see that Mann Library at Cornell University has come up with a workable implementation scheme to mainstream Internet resources into their collection. (3)

The follow-up process of organizing selected electronic resources warrants ongoing discussions and investigations from both conceptual and pragmatic standpoints. Carol Mandel and Robert Wolven provide an overview of how we traditionally create intellectual access to our collection and what new approaches can be applied to organize electronic resources. The concept of reconfiguring bibliographic control by layering OPAC with other tools challenges us to think about how best to use what we know to do what needs to be done. Crucial to this undertaking is defining the relationship between OPAC and the Net as Diane Hillmann does for these "parallel universes". For most of us who are still struggling to include all electronic resources that we own, be it electronic serials or networked CD-ROMs, in our OPACs, the task of cataloging the Net resources is daunting. Based on the postings on INTERCAT, not only do we ask how but

more often than not we also ask why. We know that underpinnings of bibliographic control elude the Net tools and thus render them ineffective and unreliable for more sophisticated surfing. When we saw an ad for a cataloger's position from Yahoo, one of the most popular Net tools, we were vindicated. However, can AACR2 and MARC do the job? Judy Brugger explores the Core Language and Information Bus central to the Stanford University Integrated Digital Library Project and how they relate to AACR2 and MARC. She speculates that the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) header appears to have more potential value in accommodating the type of data digital libraries need to have to manage and control their resources. While a traditional cataloging record is a type of metadata, Priscilla Caplan and Rebecca Guenther bring us another type called "Dublin core metadata" which purports to serve as a discovery and retrieval tool for network accessible information resources. The mapping of this elements set to USMARC reveals some predictable problems; it also raises a fundamental question of how best to offer simplified access with effective retrieval capabilities. The prescriptive nature of AACR2 and MARC is now confronted with syntax-independent TEI headers and Dublin core metadata. And the dilemma is born. The involvement of catalogers in the creation and modification of TEI headers at UVa's EText Center and VPI's E-Theses Project gives us a glimmer of hope that somehow we may yet strike a balance between simplified access and effective retrieval.

Amid this chaotic yet vital environment we are able to pin down some of the people involved with cutting-edge projects that create, select, and provide access to electronic resources. Given the ever-changing nature of this type of information, these projects may have opted for different approaches by the time this goes to print. It is, nevertheless, the underpinnings that support these undertakings that may, we hope, serve as references or models for other trailblazers to come.

The CATRIONA Project from United Kingdom presents a pragmatic approach to designing an Internet discovery and retrieval system. A distributed MARC-based Z39.50 compliant catalog is aimed to provide systematic and effective access to Internet resources via the MARC 856 field and the system's capability to activate a Web client for patrons' retrieval. It is interesting to note that Nicholson and Steele deem it essential to provide one single tool for both traditional and electronic resources after their involvement with BUBL, a UDC-based subject tree tool for Internet resources. We anticipate significant findings to be forthcoming from their extended follow-up project.

Eric Morgan's ALCUIN Project, though informal and experimental, gives us a glance at how a traditional infrastructure is able to accommodate Internet resources in selection, acquisitions, cataloging, database maintenance, and patron access with some modifications. It is through his close collaboration with Hunter Monroe of Alex Catalog and Tim Kambitsch that this project takes its present shape. Coupled with his Mr. Serials project, Morgan is someone we look to for new and exciting doings in managing electronic resources.

Along with the Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (CETH), the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia has made some important strides in the electronic texts arena. The deliberate and systematic approach in selecting, creating, and cataloging e-texts at UVa reveals to us that a viable, strategized operation is possible to integrate e-texts into library collections. David Seaman and his team will no doubt continue to be at the forefront in this area. Not to be outdone is the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's Electronic Theses and Dissertations Project. It addresses the total processing of e-theses, including the moving of files from the Graduate School to cataloging, patron access, in-house archiving via CD-ROM, and even sending files to UMI for microfilming process. One is certain to note, from Gail McMillan's article, the vital role the library plays in the electronic publishing chain.

Beth Davis-Brown and David Williamson give us a general overview of the Library of Congress' leadership role in the bibliographic control of digital materials through a myriad of projects and activities. Prominent among these are the National Digital Library Program (NDLP) and the electronic CIP project. From the NDLP initiative, one visible end result is the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard which will allow full text searching of archival materials across systems. With the integration of bibliographic workstations and the On the MARC program, the electronic CIP project demonstrates that it is possible to derive MARC records directly from electronic texts. It represents an alternative and viable strategy to tap the capabilities of the electronic medium in facilitating the cataloging process. In a more pragmatic vein is Giles Martin's overview of Australia's systematic control of Internet resources. His snapshot seems to indicate a more structured approach than we have here. Yet the issues and deliberations inevitably remain the same.

The OCLC Internet Cataloging Project has generated much enthusiasm and anticipation for its unique ability to gather empirical data on how the traditional cataloging tools are capable of describing and providing effective access to Internet resources. Still immersed in the middle of this project, Martin Dillon and Eric Jul give a thorough overview of what types of resources are out there in the Net, how they differ from print materials, and what issues are to be addressed in providing the same level of intellectual access to Internet resources. Even though there appear to be quite a few obstacles to overcome, we are glad that OCLC is rolling up its sleeves and trying to see if this works. What can be gleaned from this project will definitely affect the course of things to come.

For information professionals the Web's wide acceptance and phenomenal growth on the Net calls for urgent measures to be taken before it is too late. The ease of publishing via homepages further gluts the Net with noise and congestion. Though one is tempted to side with Clifford Stoll's claim that this is nothing but silicon snake oil, we nevertheless have to face the sink-or-swim decision. It is with this sense of urgency that we extract following issues from these papers for further deliberations and investigations:

  1. The issue of having one single tool for both traditional and electronic resources seems to be one that warrants more discussions and experiments. Both the CATRIONA Project and the OCLC Internet Cataloging Project have not only used this as their premise but have also set out to validate if a decentralized cataloging cooperative will offer us universal bibliographic control and access to Internet resources. On the other hand, Mandel and Wolven propose a layering of linking tools including OPACs while Brugger reaches out to something new like the Information Bus.
  2. Standards for creating record surrogates for item description, access and use are rapidly taking hold in the creation and delivery of electronic resources. SGML, HTML, the TEI header, and Dublin core metadata have joined the ranks of AACR2/MARC as standards for us to learn and use. The recent announcement on the Internet by Kluwer Academic Publishers of its collaborative arrangement with Pica in delivering SGML headers of journal articles containing bibliographical data and abstracts for its full text services reveals the potential role these standards play in the information delivery arena. The need to train information professionals in the use of these standards and the need to define the relationship between AACR2/MARC and the others are not to be taken lightly.
  3. A librarian's role has evolved from that of safekeeping (or gatekeeping if so preferred) in the print world to that of an active player in the electronic environment as evidenced from the VPI's E-Theses Project, UVa's E-Text Center, and LC's National Digital Library Project. Whether it is a newly-created electronic thesis or a digitized and marked-up text the librarian has become an integral part in the creation, the packaging, and the delivery of these information resources. This transformation calls for alternative strategies in educating future information professionals and reconfiguring our traditional infrastructure for providing user services.

We urge all the thinkers in the field to come and take part in this debate as we march towards the next millennium. Michael Gorman, one of the most articulate among us, has given us his five new laws of librarianship:

  1. libraries serve humanity;
  2. respect all forms by which knowledge is communicated;
  3. use technology intelligently to enhance services;
  4. protect free access to knowledge; and,
  5. honor the past and create the future. (4)

This revised version of Ranganathan's Five Laws of Library Science gives us the grounding for our profession just as the 193l original did. How we embrace and integrate these into our day to-day operations is yet to be sorted out. One thing we know for sure is that constant interchanges between those who select and catalog and those who serve users are critical at this juncture. It is our hope that librarians in public services will participate, just as Thomas Mann of LC has been doing, in this debate on how best to select and organize electronic resources to meet the needs of our users.

We want to thank the following for making this collection possible: Paul A. Willis, Director, University of Kentucky Libraries, for his support of including this project as a part of Miko Pattie's sabbatical leave; Benita Clarke, Technical Services, for her assistance in keeping us on track and assembling this final product; and these authors for sharing our vision of defining our role in this electronic universe.


1) Clifford Stoll, Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (New York: Doubleday, 1995), p. 4.

2) Anthony M. Cummings et al., University Libraries and Scholarly Communication: a Study Prepared for The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (Washington, D.C.: The Association of Research Libraries, 1992), p. xxv.

3) Samuel Demas et al., "The Internet and Collection Development: Mainstreaming Selection of Internet Resources," Library Resources & Technical Services 39, no. 3 (July 1995):275-290.

4) Michael Gorman, "Five new laws of librarianship," American Libraries 26, no. 8 ( Sept. 1995):784-785.

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