Hot Topics in Technical Services

Program Description: Hot Topics in Technical Services – 10/20/08 – 3:30 – 4:30 pm

This NETSL panel offers a peek into the coming changes in technical services. Diane Baden from
Boston College provides an update on RDA as it nears publication and discusses what it will mean
for you. Daniel Joudry from Simmons College describes what he sees on the horizon for technical
services. Bring your thoughts and questions.

Impressions –

Diane Baden gave one of the better quick and dirty RDA updates that I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in on. It would be easy to try and talk about everything, but she held back. For example, she chose not to try and tackle FRBR in the discussion or every single hot button article that’s been published. It really allowed for the point to get across. It’s still coming, we just don’t know when or exactly what’s going to happen. In the face of that, here’s some ways you can prepare to receive it. Her conference slides are available on the NELA website.

Daniel Joudry totally threw me for a loop. I always go to the hot topics in tech services type discussion at every conference I go to, and it’s the same old stuff. Then he came out swinging about the quality, breadth, and availability of cataloger education in LIS programs. I’ve heard murmurs and grumbling about this over the years, but it was so refreshing to have someone focus on it and really address the issue. As a recent graduate, it really gave me some insight into that MLS element of the process, and maybe, just maybe, made me want to further my education as a cataloger so that I might be qualified to teach.

RDA Update – Diane Baden

When she planned this, we all thought RDA was supposed to be out, and of course, it isn’t. Really it’s about getting ready for it whenever it comes. Updates are found on the Joint Steering Committee website as well as practical foundations. The dates have changed constantly, but scope and vision can be found here.

RDA is trying to be for the digital environment what AACR2 was for the card environment. Of course, the digital environment is so constantly changing that the product of RDA is often behind the 8 ball. Plus, RDA is designed to be usable outside the library community which causes delays, as will happen with a collaborative project.

RDA is designed to be compatible with AACR2, and some would say too compatible, so much so that it may not be transformative enough. So that begs the question, what would be the point of changing to one over another at this time and stage of development? This is the crux of what is going on with RDA all the time, there are vocabulary changes which are truly different and some say it is a just renaming without redoing. The slides illustrate some of the differences that really distinguished them.

RDA is not a book. No one has seen the whole thing because the delivery method is the web, and before the web product comes out, then we can’t see how it all works. It is not meant to be a start to finish read, but full of examples and workflows and truly part of the web as a WEB.

RDA is content only and meant to follow FRBR/FRAD. This way the influence is on what things are and how they relate, not how we make it display or how we choose input the data. It is format independent and based on cataloger judgment, so it will not be a prescriptive

MARC is a dinosaur and we will likely move away from it. There is a working group about MARC and how it relates to RDA, but they are not organically linked.

When the first draft comes out (this was supposed to happen last week), there will be a very brief beta period where it will be free to try, but controlled. Then they may release it in early next year and LC and the other National Libraries involved will decide whether to implement it. The US is not fully on board, but the other national libraries are committed to implementation.

FRBR: A Guide for the Perplexed by Robert Maxwell is a very good newer book on FRBR and we all need to get to know FRBR because that is future of cataloging. AUTOCAT, RADCAT, RDA-L are all good listservs to get info on any of these topics.

LIS Cataloger Education – Daniel Joudry

In 2004, Michael Gorman made proclamations about Library School Education (Michael Gorman, “Whither Library Education?” New Library World 105 (2004): 376- 380) Who is going replace the retirees once they leave and all the newbies come along with no real, practical library education? He pushes for a core curriculum and believes cataloging is the heart of the library process. Some LIS educators, predictably, got their dander up at being told they weren’t doing their jobs and turning out unprepared LIS graduates. Also, people seem to want us to be co-opted by computer science…wanting librarians to know things like java scripting as a basic skill and other things for the Information Technology element of the career. They want this to be core, not cataloging and reference

2006 – Diana Markum (sp?) – cataloging education is not standardized across curriculums. Shift from cataloging to organization information. Also, faculty and positions in cataloging are shrinking, so the pool of qualified applications is shrinking. If the educational programs don’t stay up to date with the market, then the students will not be ready to take a career.

Recommendations: ALA should meet with educators to discuss standards and recommendations. Demonstrate the level of demand for these professionals as well as the presence of qualified professionals. Core levels of knowledge for Information Organization broadly and not just in libraries, support doctoral research. LC supports all of these recommendations, ALISE has not responded but to be fair, they weren’t invited to the party.

2008 Joudry’s New Article on the subject is loaded with stats and I didn’t write them all down here (“Another Look at Graduate Education for Cataloging and the Organization of Information.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 46, no. 2 (2008)). What’s happening in the schools. 20% increase in bibliographic control classes since 2000, but half of them fall outside of traditional cataloging classes. Metadata courses fall under this umbrella. 1 in six courses are not being taught even though they’re on the menu. It’s not as bad as we think when you look at the statistics, but it still isn’t good. The schools are all over the map regarding how and what they require. There are a lot of broad ideas and foundations, but students are leaving school not capable of cataloging anything in actuality unless they take it upon themselves to get that education. Those broad strokes can be great, but basic principles are not good enough and there’s not enough out there for students. Traditional cataloging is disappearing from formal LIS education. Advanced cataloging, non-book cataloging, subject analysis, indexing are not being offered as much if at all.

Lack of human resources is huge for schools right now. Hiring more adjuncts is key but professionals have their own careers and the pay isn’t good. New cataloging professors would be great, but there are only a handful of PhD’s who will be prepared to teach traditional cataloging and many schools are settling folks who are just good enough.

We need to get new cataloging blood. We need to sell the vitality and worth, the heart of the profession, and get involved with schools and further scholarship.

Q & A

Q – At the OLAC conference Heidi Hoermann did a talk on RDA and said that might it go away and AACR3 will prevail. What do you think?

A – There are mighty financial parties pushing RDA along, and the US is not buying it hook line and sinker. NLM is exceedingly skeptical. Hard to imagine it won’t happen but many people wish it would go away.

Q – After Danny published his article on cataloging standards; did he get a response from Gorman?

A – He has on past articles, but not on the latest one (yet).

Q/Opinion – Libraries are trying to shift training to the schools, but library school is not the only answer. It’s a piece of the puzzle and the schools should not need to be all things to all people.

A – Agreed to a large degree, but on the other hand, there needs to be a better foundation and opportunity to learn more. It should happen on the job, but how when there are no qualified catalogers left.

Q – One of the advantages of RDA is supposed to be that someone not trained in RDA can use it, but if that manifests then what happens to Traditional Cataloging?

A – Catalogers for the higher level work…original collections, metadata development, and automate the copy cataloging and such. There is going to be huge gap between the higher level work and the people trained to do it. RDA can be customized and simplified, but it is attempting to be all things to all people. Descriptive cataloging may diminish, but there is a huge need for better subject analysis. Elements of cataloging are in greater need as others are evolving into something else.

Technical Services Workflow Redesign: What’s In It For Me?

Program Description: Technical Services Workflow Redesign: What’s In It For Me? – 10/20/08 – 11:00 – 12:30

Is your Technical Services staff overwhelmed by new work while also trying to catch up with old work? Making changes to your workflow can free up staff time that can be redirected to exciting new challenges. Margaret Lourie, Senior Consultant for Technical Services at NELINET, offers an
overview of techniques for evaluating workflow and suggestions for changes to make workflow more efficient. The program is jointly sponsored by the Academic Libraries Section (ALS) and

Impressions –

This session was standing room only, which surprised me. It gives me hope that so many people are concerned with what is happening in and to tech services. There were a few other folks there that had the same experience of being a one person show at their library and none of Margaret Lourie’s suggestions were irrelevant to us. Anyone can trim the fat in their workflow and try new tactics to start revitalizing their tech services department to be future thinking. We simply need to reappropriate our energies away from repetitive tasks to more creative and/or neglected one.
She’s not necessarily telling us what we don’t know, but giving us talking points to demonstrate the importance of making change. Margaret’s slides are available on the NELA website.

Session notes –

Things have changed around us, even from last year, so doing things the way we did them 10 years ago before everything was digital is inefficient and a disservice to the user. How do we stay viable when users are not using the tools we built for them? User expectation are different, they don’t care about the bibliographic description as we have grown it. I think this is because we don’t tell them about it, or show them how it makes their research better, we should work to meet user expectations, but not at the expense of quality for them.

The tools are changing. Metadata standards are breeding like rabbits, plus our tools like AACR2 are being replaced by things like RDA and nobody knows anything about the trajectory or the end results. The tools we use, like the ILS, are changing, so the future of MARC is uncertain. NexGen catalogs and OSS, etc. Services are available now that never used to be, like shelf ready processing, and this can free us up for other projects that used to be used for processing and copy cataloging.

Too much to do, too much to know. How in the world do we know what to do now when there is no clear vision of the future.

The goal is to save staff time on old stuff and apply it to new, user oriented projects. Using tools like shelf-ready cataloging to free up catalogers for special collections cataloging and research and desk time. What are the right things to do for the library, not just trying to do everything right.

You have to take risks and it’s okay if things don’t work out. We are very failure phobic. Get away from it at all levels because we’ve become stale without a healthy sense of risk taking. Failure is a way of learning. Change is stressful and having a holistic approach to helping others accept change will make the whole process easier. Change will happen with or without me, and I can always learn to do something new well in addition to what I already do well.

Time is finite in the library, everything you do takes time, and you have to assess whether that time is being best spent on the thing, or if it is taking away from something else where the result would be more relevant and immediate. Eliminate or change something that is no longer relevant.

Get materials out fast! Be on it. Google has made the expectation instant…so if we want them to use us, we have to prove to them that we are immediately valuable. Discovery…finding new ways to bring users to the material. Capitalize on that value inherent in librarianship that is us as a bridge between the user and the info.

Workflow from selection to shelf – know all the steps involved as component parts and optimize them individually. Also, where are the holes? How can you fill them. Who are you as tech services and what is your workflow in the continuum of the whole library workflow. Where does your part start, how does it lead into something else.

Look at vendors and what they can do, if you have good relationships but they don’t offer these other services and you want them, you have to tell them. They need to know that their competitors do this stuff and that you want to. Give them the opportunity to step up and take it on and evolve with you.

Make full use of your ILS…learn to use these things that are meant to help you be more efficient. Invest in that training. It’s silly to pay so much money for this stuff and not know how to use it. Dare to imagine new ways to do things are don’t be afraid to ask for it.

“Just in time” instead of “Just in case” – instead of focusing on having things just in case someone may want it, get them what they need when they need it. Evaluate the whole process through this lens, and figure out if you really need to do it anymore.

Automate or eliminate manual processes. Take advantage of new technologies that have been made by people like to fit a need. These tools were not pulled from the ether; someone really thought this would make your life easier…probably many people like you, so take that into consideration when evaluating a new service.

Moving toward a commons way of thinking about the department, flexible staff, working in and around other departments to create the best experience and materials for the user. Realignment and reassessment of staff is huge, and a huge issue especially in union situations, and creating more flexible job descriptions will make it easier to evolve the department.

Standards – it’s not about getting rid of standards; it’s about trimming not creating systems and standards for the exception. The more you can mainstream the process, the less time you spend agonizing over exceptions and wasting time.

Think seriously about automating/outsourcing some of the monotonous stuff, like book processing, and free yourself and staff up to do that original, unique collection, or do more user services, or get to those back burner projects.

Define goals, identify leaders, have a vision and commitment. Get going on it…move boldy forward.

All state libraries and OCLC and NELINET have consultants who can help.

Q & A

Q – Are there any suggestions for things like book repairs versus book replacement?

A – It may be cheaper to buy another copy than repair. Staff labor is the highest cost the library has, so evaluate what the cheaper option is and run with it. Do a cost estimate to see what they really are.