Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 25, Number 1 1997

Cataloging News, by Elizabeth Steinhagen


The following reports were contributed from the AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION Annual Meeting, San Francisco, Calif., June 27-July 3, 1997.

Sponsored by ALCTS--CCS, "Embracing the Technical Future:

"Technical Services Professionals and the Emerging Environment--Friend or Foe, Opportunity or Threat?" attracted a sell-out crowd on June 28.

The speakers addressed issues of lifelong training needs for technical services professionals so that they can effectively face, develop and control their own future. Speaker after speaker pointed to the mounting economic pressures and threats of outsourcing that have created a crisis mentality in technical services. Professionals in that area have responded by using new technologies and new tools but the profession has so far failed to also develop effective training, which is the real crisis.

Michael Kaplan, of Harvard University, spoke of catalogers plus technology as resulting in technophobia, but said that catalogers plus technology plus training results in techno-opportunity. We should not forget, he emphasized, that it was after all in technical services that library automation was "invented".

John Byrum, of LC, talked about the responsibility of the individual professional and the urgent need to adapt to changing technologies and to find new solutions. He mentioned another crisis in technical services, the electronic revolution, which he equaled to the changes brought about by the invention of the printing press. According to Byrum, the current speed and pervasiveness of the changes are reflected in the following areas:

- in the transformation of our library catalogs, where within a few short years we have gone from cards to OPACs, to the World Wide Web (WWW);
- in the transformation of the way we work and in the increase in productivity, having progressed from typing cards, to using dedicated/dumb terminals, to PC workstations at our desks;
- in the proliferation of electronic resources, which have complicated and further increased our workloads and workflows.

How are we to cope with all of this and how to respond? What are the implications of this revolution for technical services?

At the national level, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC), and ALCTS have established a task force on Metadata Access. This group is to address some of the following issues:

- the creation of unique names, URNs, for metadata files;
- the creation of standards needed for the multiple systems of metadata;
- the recommending of uniform syntax and formatting;
- efficient procedures for local record management;
- needs for training and education, through web tutorials, institutes, programs;
- outreach to other organizations.

Among other recommendations, ALCTS has agreed on the following:

- to establish a division-wide committee within ALA with a focus on metadata;
- to offer educational institutes;
- to review the charges to existing groups;
- to communicate with various of its committees, and to continue discussions with LITA and collaborate on metadata issues;
- to initiate a publicity campaign, and
- to maintain a metadata website.

At the individual level, our responsibility, according to Byrum, lies in learning and participation, in our flexibility to develop new workflows, to change at a faster rate, and in a reaffirmation of our traditional values, i.e., our willingness to exercise judgement.

Sheila Intner, of Simmons College, titled her talk "Taking a lesson from Star Trek", and spoke from an educator's perspective. She said we seem to be moving into a 2-tiered education and training system, which is reflected in the following trends:
- the bibliographic utilities generate most data, downsizing has decimated technical services staffs, and local libraries turn to outsourcing;
- division of labor is changing in technical services, with non-MLS staff doing most of the cataloging while the MLS librarians manage;
- competencies needed by MLS librarians are those of research, communication, negotiation, financial management, teaching, training, decision-making, classifying non-traditional materials;
- skills needed by non-MLS librarians are those of database searching and matching, recognition of descriptive cataloging elements, and clues to subject content of materials;
- a few MLS librarians will design and manage databases, and thus need to develop special expertise in systems;

Thus the "real" technical services education will need to teach MLS-librarians analytical and management skills, while teaching non-MLS library staffs practical and technical skills. At the same time, continuing education and training for all library workers must be expanded and work with systems must be made an integral component of it.

Next, Penny Mattern, of OCLC spoke from the utility point of view. As user training analyst at that utility, she stated that we must develop collaborative relationships given the new and changing environment. People at all levels must learn the basics such as windows, online help features and tutorials, they must be adept at browsing the Web, in understanding what new software can do and develop and unconscious mastery of online resources. Training is essential in this and it must be geared to the learning styles of individuals. In order to be effective, training must be viewed as an investment and an ongoing effort, in which we pay a little at a time in order to avoid paying much more at a later date.

Wilma Minty, of the University of Oxford, talked about system migration and staff training issues at her institution, which recently migrated to a web-based OPAC. Some of the major problems experienced, according to Minty, were the overly long implementation of over year and a half, the inadequate training provided by the vendor much too early in the process--training which needed a refresher when they did finally come up--and the inappropriate or lacking documentation provided by the vendor. Throughout the migration, a large number of people were involved in the planning and in the implementation. These included the cataloging manager, the systems manager, a tester and implementer, an indexer and a trainer. Training teams were set up and, without making any distinction between copy and original cataloging, all catalogers underwent about 57 hrs. each of training before being allowed to catalog online. According to Minty, training constitutes a major component of bringing up a new system and managers should allow for about 50% of time devoted exclusively to it. Finally, the results of this costly migration still provide the user only with a container of the information, i.e., the bibliographic record, and not the information itself; thus Minty suggests that we must use the expertise of professional catalogers to control the electronic chaos and explore access issues on the Web to get to the information itself.

The last speaker, Diane Baden, director of training at NELINET, also spoke of continuing education and the large differences between education and training. Education, according to Baden, allows for the acquisition of basic professional values and tools and should be acquired in school; training, best acquired on the job, looks at results--and the better the education, the more later training will work. Baden emphasized that the institutional setting and environment are most important for the training to work and that regional networks and agencies are best equipped to provide the needed training for library staffs. Since they specialize in training, these agencies can operate at a reasonable cost, do provide good documentation, develop their own resources, act as consultants and as outsiders, have no biases. They are not involved in local politics, and are not running a library, or competing with it, they have credibility, and can offer generic training customized for local needs. As professional trainers, they are familiar with adult learning styles and can adapt the training to individual needs, but it is important for the home institution to provide a supportive environment, through encouragement, allowing for time and equipment, through rewards and new opportunities, as well as continuous feedback and follow-up for staffs to have an effective and productive training experience.

Elizabeth N. Steinhagen
University of New Mexico

At the program "At Issue: Dimensions of Seriality in an Electronic World," sponsored by ALCTS and LITA, and held June 29, several speakers addressed the ways in which electronic journals are revolutionizing the means in which libraries of all kinds provide access to periodical literature. Taking this issue further, Crystal Graham and Regina Reynolds talked about the evolving definition of "serial" in this dynamic electronic arena, to be discussed further at the international conference on the future of AACR2, to be held in Toronto in the fall of 1997. Among other topics, they explored emerging cataloging standards, collection development and management issues and the challenges of providing multiple methods and levels of access to users.

Crystal Graham, of University of California, San Diego, wants to raise the consciousness of all catalogers to the nature of ongoing publications and to make sure that their attributes are addressed in the rules. Further, she wants to ensure that all types of publications are covered by the cataloging rules, including, for instance, unnumbered series, and that all ongoing publications are cataloged in a way that accommodates their special needs. She is urging for the creation of rules for description that are compatible with the forms of issuance, allowing for a kind of "master record". Together with Jean Hirons of LC, they will argue these points at the International Conference on the Principles and Future Development of AACR, to be held in Toronto in fall of 1997.

Regina Reynolds, of the National Serials Data Program at LC spoke of the e-serials debate that began in the 70s. As head of the agency that assigns ISSNs for serials, she defined the issues of seriality as answering "micro questions, mega questions, and meta questions."

According to Reynolds, the meta questions are of a general and abstract nature, have far reaching implications and need much study, are best handled at the community level and must be considered early on in the process. Some of the most important ones are:

- What is a catalog? Is it a finding aid to local resources, or a gateway to others?
- What is a publication? Is it traditional materials such as books, journals, or digital objects, such as Web pages, discussion lists, news services?
- what is a serial? Is it a resource with an ISSN, does it need numbering, does it need issues, does it need to continue indefinitely? This brings up the problems of working with an e-journal, when changes occur in the title and the old one disappears.
- What does a catalog record represent? Is if for a publication, a work, a digital object? Does it represent a print publication and other versions? For all title changes of a serial, do we assign one ISSN, or many?

Technological solutions to these questions affect database design, cataloging productivity, and how one searches the catalog.   Reynolds' mega questions are more policy oriented and institutional and must be considered at the local level. They include issues such as:
- What should we catalog? All Web resources, no Web resources, or selected Web resources? Since we cannot do it all, use of metadata could help, which is a new standard for embedding information in the header of a record.
- How to provide access? Perhaps through metadata records.
- supplied by the publisher? Or digitally enhanced from Web pages?
or professionally enhanced, handcrafted records?
- micro questions deal with the small local details of customization and are best answered by the serials practitioners.

Reynolds sees the future as moving too fast and the large and small questions remain unanswered.

Elizabeth N. Steinhagen
University of New Mexico

The session "Vendor Supplied Cataloging: The Pros and Cons" was held June 30, 1997. A panel consisting of three technical services librarians and a vendor explored some of the benefits and disadvantages of outsourced cataloging.

Cynthia Whitacre, of OCLC, talked about the various services available from that utility to help libraries deal with new acquisitions or backlogs. PromptCat, a batch cataloging service for mostly new titles will have a new release in Sept. of 1997. OCLC is now working with eight vendors and about 40 libraries to provide MARC records with their new books. Later in the fall, through phase 2, they will be able to supply files of label sets, with copy and or volume information, location information, and alternate call numbers, if required.

TechPro is a customized contract cataloging service for all formats and is used by libraries mainly for special projects, including serials cataloging or conversion. In addition, other services available are retrocon, bibliographic records, and authority control.

Dawn Bastian and John Blosser, of Northwestern University conducted a workflow study at their library to compare the costs of searching OCLC in-house to the cost of PromptCat services. They examined and priced out four approval books workflows in-house to make this comparison. As part of the study's overview, they considered changes in the current in-house workflow which may yield better costs efficiency than any gained by outsourcing part of the workflow.

After analyzing the results of the various workflows, they discovered that more cost savings are likely to be gained through refining the workflows than by adopting PromptCat at this time. While the cheapest workflow calls for OCLC searching and cataloging to be done at point of receiving by lower staff level, they may still adopt the most efficient--but not cheapest-workflow, which calls for searching and cataloging to be done at point of receipt by only one person, but at a higher level. Through consultation with other libraries, the authors have concluded that using PromptCat has made the most positive impact in smaller academic libraries where turn-around times have been reduced with significant cost savings through outsourcing.

Cecily Johns of University of California, Santa Barbara, talked about using vendor-provided MARC records in a "fastcat" operation. The Fastcat unit handles Blackwell's "MARC with books" service for a 90% match for their domestic approval books.

The vendor supplies fully upgraded MARC records and an additional table of contents service--thus cataloging and processing of these titles is completed in Acquisitions, at the point of receipt. UCSB also loads MARCIVE records for documents.

According to Johns, advantages of this service are as follows:
the goals are met, in that books get to the shelves faster, the records include more complete bibliographic information, books with full copy are handled by staff at lower levels, and there has been a considerable reduction of steps needed in the process;
- processing has been streamlined in Acquisitions by having the Fastcat unit;
- upgrading of CIP has been eliminated, with the savings of one FTE staff position;
- the process has been speeded up by about two months; and
- the quality of cataloging records has not suffered.

Disadvantages can be perceived in the following areas:
- a delay of about one week does occur in receipt of the approval books;
- some duplication does occur (about 0.5%);
- some spine labels are incorrect;
- initial staff resistance to the plan, which has diminished by now;
- some training and coordination issues have surfaced which caused a redesign of the workflow.

Last, Karen Wilhoit, of Wright State University-fame spoke of the situation at her institution, two years after they outsourced all cataloging in 1995. After eliminating the whole Catalog department, they contracted with OCLC TechPro for original cataloging, including item creation, with PromptCat for their Yankee approval program, and with Autographics for their government documents. Prior to outsourcing, they had estimated their in-house costs at about $17 per title, versus about $5 per title with TechPro.

Wilhoit mentioned that all this resulted in enormous savings in staff costs and in much more streamlined processing, which gets books to the stacks within a week and the bibliographic records in the catalog at the same time. Thus Technical Services at Wright State is moving to PromptCat for most of their new receipts, while fine-tuning their TechPro contract. Wilhoit saw no problems with the quality of incoming records, 65% of which are DLC and 25% member copy. The disadvantages she mentioned had to do with the drastic staffing cuts which left her department with little flexibility to deal with new developments, and/or special projects.

Elizabeth N. Steinhagen
University of New Mexico


Another event of great importance to the library world in general and to catalogers in particular is the International Conference on the Principles and Future Development of AACR, held under the auspices of the Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR (JSAACR), in Toronto, Canada, October 23-25, 1997.

The Committee believes that the underlying principles of AACR should be reviewed, given the present and future trends in information resources and management, and it expects conference participants to determine whether a basic revision of AACR is feasible, and, if so, to provide input on the scope of the revisions.

Information about the Conference and the nine invited papers can be found at:

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