Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 28, Number 4 1998

Guest Editorial

Aggregators—New Challenges to Bibliographic Control

Aggregator databases represent a great benefit and convenience to libraries and their patrons.  Through a single subscription,
a library can take advantage of a vendor’s having worked out licensing arrangements with multiple publishers.  Hundreds or thousands of titles in full text can come in a single package.  A carefully considered expenditure of funds might bring to the patrons access to a great number of titles the library never had before, in any format.  For other titles, already owned in hard-copy versions, the user gains a second chance to obtain full text when the original version is not on the shelf or otherwise conveniently accessible.  An important part of making this windfall known and available to patrons is its inclusion in the catalog.

 Effective strategies for dealing with aggregator databases represent a microcosm of what we should already be doing in our cataloging and technical services work.  In order to know if we are meeting the needs of our public services and collection development colleagues, we need to be talking with them.  Their ideas must enter into our thinking if the solutions we devise for aggregator database access are to be on target.  Our partnership with vendors must begin with obtaining accurate lists of titles covered in aggregators, and it must extend to ongoing information on holdings and content relative to other versions.  In between must come understanding of the factors affecting the assemblage of the vendor’s database and our communicating our indexing needs.  We must come up with flexible, imaginative ways of doing things and accomplish them quickly.  For the part of the work libraries must do themselves, cooperative efforts based on mutually-agreed standards are a practical necessity.

 The sole topic of the Association for Libraries Collections & Technical Services Technical Services Administrators of Medium-sized Research Libraries Discussion Group at the 1999 ALA Annual Meeting in New Orleans was “Aggravating or Aggregating?  Providing Effective Access to Contents of Aggregator Databases.” 

 John Riemer, chair of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging Task Group on Journals in Aggregator Databases, presented the results of the recent CONSER survey on the desirability and feasibility of providing title access to aggregator database content.  Scott Dennis, of the University of Michigan, articulated the perspective of reference and collection development librarians on this issue.  Diane Smith, Senior Director of Marketing, CIS/Lexis-Nexis, pointed out an array of factors that affect the title composition and data content of an aggregator database.  Dilys Morris, Assistant Director for Technical Services at Iowa State University, outlined the management issues relating to these databases in a technical services environment.  Charles Hamaker, Head of Technical Services, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, spoke on the philosophical justification for selectively making catalog links to sources that are important rather than linking to everything possible. 

 Papers were available from the first two speakers and are presented in this issue.  If we cataloging and technical services librarians can meet the bibliographic access challenge of aggregators, then everyone will be able to see these new resources for the bonanza they are rather than the burden they currently appear to be.

                                                                   John J. Riemer

 John J. Riemer, BA, MLS, is Assistant Head of Cataloging, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, GA 30602 (E-mail:

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