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ALCTS Creative Ideas in Technical Services Discussion Group meeting report (Cynthia M. Coulter) Tuttle, Marcia 25 Jul 1996 04:05 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 25 Jul 1996 08:57:22 -0500
From: "CYNTHIA M. COULTER - (319) 273-2801" <Cynthia.Coulter@UNI.EDU>

The ALCTS Creative Ideas in Technical Services Discussion Group drew
approximately 90 people to its roundtable discussions at its meeting at
the ALA Annual Conference in New York on Sunday, July 7. Each of the
attendees participated in discussion of one of the four topics, which
included: Acquisitions/Cataloging Interface;  Shifting/Changing Roles
within Technical Services; Pros and Cons of Vendor-Supplied Cataloging
Services; and Integrating the Acquisitions and Cataloging of Electronic
Resources into the Process for Traditional Print Resources.  The incoming
co-chairs for 1996-1997 are Judy Johnson and Margaret Mering of the
University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

During the discussion of "Acquisitions/Cataloging Interface,"
participants noted several tasks traditionally completed in Acquisitions
that have now moved to Cataloging such as the exporting of OCLC records by
Cataloging staff rather than Acquisitions staff, and Cataloging staff
doing preorder searching.  When asked about tasks traditionally completed
in Cataloging now completed by Acquisitions staff, responses included:
downloading of full bibliographic records at the point of order; bar
coding in Acquisitions; cataloging added volumes and replacements; and
database maintenance.  Participants cited a number of reasons for such
changes, including retirement or resignation of key staff, layoffs,
downsizing, a need for increased efficiency of operations, space needs,
backlogs in Cataloging, and reorganization of functions and departments,
with the primary reasons cited as the increased costs of OCLC searching
and the implementation of automation.  Participants did identify some
tasks better left in their current departments.  Payment of invoices and
authority work proved the most commonly cited.  When asked if the level of
staffing in the two departments made a difference on the type of tasks
which could be moved from one department to the other, most indicated that
although they had fewer professionals in Acquisitions, they still felt the
library would save time if some of the tasks mentioned previously would
move to an earlier place in the library's procedures.  Several noted that
Acquisitions would benefit from more professional help, while others noted
the predominance of foreign language skills in Cataloging.

Participants in the discussion about "Shifting/Changing Roles within
Technical Services" reported some of the same changes in operations as the
group discussing Acquisitions/Cataloging Interface.  However, additional
changes outside those two departments included the combining of government
documents, serials, and acquisitions from previously separate departments
and one library's taking over records management for the entire
university.  Other changes involved flattening the organization with the
head of technical services seen as an endangered species, and in the
number one position as most often cited change, the adoption of the team
approach.  The techniques used to make such changes in roles included
"working smarter,"  choosing what not to do, outsourcing, retraining, and
cross- training.  Participants also identified some new tasks, functions,
or responsibilities they saw coming to traditional technical services
departments.  These include the cataloging of electronic resources,
systems, selection, government documents, and work involved with site

Persons involved in the discussion of the "Pros and Cons of
Vendor-Supplied Cataloging" first investigated the reasons for
consideration of this service.  Some libraries might consider using
vendor-supplied cataloging for only part of the library's materials or in
selective areas.  Participants felt the decision about the level of
vendor-supplied cataloging was a very library- specific decision,
depending upon different variables, with no one right answer.
Participants agreed that if a library had a small percentage of difficult
to catalog items, they would not prove worthwhile to outsource.  Most
libraries would still want to maintain their OCLC connections and would
probably retain those more difficult materials for local cataloging staff.

Participants saw some significant differences between one-time projects of
vendor-supplied cataloging and an ongoing contract.  The one-time projects
would prove useful in certain situations, such as a financial windfall, or
major gift.  They also discussed what information might prove useful in
deciding which contractor to use.  First, participants said the library
should determine what kind of cataloging the library wants the vendor to
supply.  Next, the library should determine the turnaround time.
Participants also recommended determining what the library would consider
an acceptable error rate.  The library should also ask about the quality
control measures the vendor has in place, check on the cataloging
expertise of the vendor's cataloging staff, and ask for the names of
satisfied and dissatisfied customers.  They also identified some pitfalls
in contract negotiation.  They cautioned that the library should know just
what they could hold the vendor accountable for.  The library should also
expect a detailed listing of costs as some participants reported getting
charged for things they thought would be free.  ("Write a good contract;
assume nothing!") Participants recommended that a person new to contract
negotiation should check the professional literature for books and
articles before tackling their first contract.

Participants emphasized the importance of quality control and the need for
the library to monitor it.  Some persons reported doing only a spot check
of the vendor's cataloging.  Still others reported that they had started
off with a very intensive quality control check and, after a successful
beginning, moved to a random check for quality.  Many persons stressed the
importance of clear feedback to the vendor, either to report satisfaction
or to report problems.

Most participants involved in the discussion of "Integrating the
Acquisitions and Cataloging of Electronic Resources into the Process for
Traditional Print Resources" noted many similarities in the acquisition of
print and electronic resources, but also some significant differences.
Orders for electronic resources still have to go to a vendor or supplier,
although many will require that the library sign a license agreement.
Payments still have to be made, in many cases, although the method of
determining the level of payment may change.  Participants did note that,
for many libraries, the library's systems staff might have to become
involved in the early stages of selecting a title to help determine if the
library has the necessary hardware or software to support the title.
Additionally, systems staff may have to assist initially in the provision
of access to the electronic materials.  Many librarians, however, reported
that the systems staff can become a bottleneck, as the electronic
resources do not seem to have as high a priority with systems staff as
with technical services staff.

Several persons debated the wisdom of one record for use with both the
print and the electronic version of the same title versus separate records
for each form.  The consensus was reached that patrons generally found a
single record easier to use.  Participants also discussed the
classification of electronic or Internet resources.  While some persons
felt the call number would help the browser, others reported that patrons
got confused by the existence of a call number and went to the shelves
looking for the title.

Most cited the question of access versus ownership of the electronic
resources as the biggest difference between the two formats.  With the
print form, the library could count on keeping the previous volumes.  The
same does not necessarily hold true with the electronic form; that raised
some real concern about the expenditure of funds and the research needs of
libraries.  They also noted their concern with the volatility of various
remote databases.  If the producer of that database decides to drop
certain titles from coverage, what would that do to the patrons who had
come to depend on the database for access to those titles?

Cynthia M. Coulter, Co-chair
ALCTS Creative Ideas in Technical Services Discussion Group, 1995-1996