Re-thinking Serials Librarianship Birdie MacLennan 08 Mar 1993 03:00 UTC
It's six weeks after mid-winter and I am still trying to gather some coherent thoughts around what is partly a philosophical issue; partly a workflow question ... Since I'm not sure my thoughts are anymore coherent, 6 weeks later, I'll risk putting forth my incoherencies and try to find out if anyone else has been similarly affected: Has anyone started documenting the effects that serials cancellations are having on our roles as serial librarians ... or people who specialize in serials work in libraries? There has been lots of talk in the literature and on lists about "downsizing." There was in interesting dialogue on ACQNET last month about merging acquisitions and cataloging and thereby stream- lining tech services functions. A few folks have broached the topic on SERIALST of merging various tech services/serials functions with document delivery and ILL. Yet, I haven't seen much about the effects of "downsizing" on our immediate roles as folks whose particular area of expertise has been the processing and handling of traditional printed serials/journals/periodicals in libraries. Anyone care to offer some thoughts? In various informal discussions I had at midwinter (I didn't attend any forums that dealt with this issue head-on -- were there any??) folks were talking about reduced workflows for printed journals, as emphasis shifted more toward products and technologies (various CD and online services) that provide indexes to journal literature, full text services (such as Lexis/Nexis or CARL's UnCover), or other direct document delivery systems (i.e., emphasis on access, as opposed to ownership). Are serials managers becoming more involved in making these kinds of systems changes decisions and moving staff in the direction of ILL and/or document delivery? Or grappling with more cancellations and shifting serials staff into the general workflow (along with monographic materials in various formats)? Are we holding our own? Or branching off into other areas? Our library suspended order activities for new journal subscriptions last year (with a few exceptions for state and local publications housed in special collections) and is in the process of completing another round of cancellations. In terms of cataloging workflow, this has allowed time to catch up on some of the serials backlog, keep up (or stay afloat) with title changes, and tend to other areas, such as re-con and/or database maintenance questions (in light of a recent gov docs tapeload). While there is still much activity in the handling and processing of current serial subscriptions, current reorganizational strategies have us contemplating the ways in which serials workflow might be integrated into a more mainstream/generalized, merged cataloging/acquisitions team-approach ... All of this has me wondering, in generic terms, about what other institutions are doing ... and what the future of serials and/or serials librarians as distinct entities in libraries might be ... or might evolve into. Will we become an endangered species? Are we already an endangered lot?? Weighty questions, perhaps. But surely, others out there might be wondering, too? Perhaps someone has even written a real article on this very topic? Anyone care to offer some thoughts? Or refer us to the literature??? Thanks, in advance, for any insights. Birdie MacLennan Serials Cataloger email@example.com University of Vermont firstname.lastname@example.org p.s. The views expressed here are mine and do not necessary reflect the views of my institution.