Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 32, Numbers 1  2001


“Vendors and Partnerships”

Cataloging & Classification Quarterly continues to cover diverse areas of the field in this current issue.  Subject headings are treated in an article examining the Library of Congress Subject Headings’ treatment of Caribbean topics.  The transcription of the title and how errors in it affect retrieval is reported in a survey of more than eighty OPACs.  The use of purchased authority records reveals some benefits of outsourcing in one article.  Two other authors describe an in-house authority project at El Colegio de Mexico’s library. 

Beginning with recent discussions on AUTOCAT, a former MARBI chair compares and contrasts XML and MARC for their appropriateness as mark-up conventions for library information intended for use on the world wide web.  The News column concludes the issue.  At the beginning of the issue the CCQ interview with Michael Kaplan touches on most of the issue’s topics and then some.  It provides insight into the experiences of a leader in bibliographic control who has worked in two large academic research libraries and who is now associated with a vendor.

Vendors raise the issue of “partnerships.”  In the best of worlds libraries and their vendors are partners where both have the same end of quality service to the library and information community users.  While libraries must look at costs and vendors must have some profit, neither one can try to get the best of the other without ultimate harm to both.  Sometimes a vendor agrees to an unprofitable deal in order to leverage future business.  Yet if it is unfairly low all the library accomplishes is hurting its partner to the point where the agreement for services is simply not viable.  Alternatively when vendors over charge or over promise simply because they can get away with it, in the long run its business can be hurt through competition or lack of customers.  Finding the right price that protects the interests of the customers and provides for a fair profit for the vendors is not easy.  By cooperating and by appreciating the symbiotic nature of the partnership, libraries and vendors can accomplish more together for the users’ benefit than would be possible by libraries alone.  And, of course, without the libraries, vendors might not have roles or at least the same roles and satisfactions.

Vendors support cataloging in any number of ways.  They provide the automated systems that run the OPACs; they have retrospective and current cataloging services, and they can provide authority control or cataloging data for approval books, to name just a few.  Without vendors, even exclusive of the bibliographic utilities, most libraries catalogs and cataloging would be very different and certainly not current with our digital world.  Outsourcing, for example, is neither good nor bad but depends on a local library’s circumstances to determine its appropriateness.  Thomas Jefferson noted back in 1787 that “The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees, in every object, only the traits which favor that theory.”  As we examine the role of the vendors, themselves diverse, in the cataloging processes in libraries, we need to make sure that we don’t close our eyes to useful services that a vendor can provide.  We also need to be sure that when we do outsource or otherwise employ a vendor that it is a service that is appropriate in terms of the local circumstances and that overall the vendor route is the most cost-effective or timely method of acquiring catalog data or other functionality for our users.  Vendors and libraries can partner selectively and effectively to enhance the information supplied to users.  One can paraphrase Walt Whitman when he wrote that “Nothing out of its place is good and nothing in its place is bad.”  It just takes a little thought and analysis to determine what is appropriate.  It is for sure that vendors and libraries are in the brave new world together and the opportunity is present for both to flourish.  It is my hope that the current issue of CCQ has contributed to the dialog both through one individual’s sharing of his experiences both as a librarian and as a vendor as well as by the reports of the two authority control projects, one in-house and the other outsourced.

                                                                                                                                 - Ruth C. Carter

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