Advocacy for Technical Services in Libraries

ALCTS is the premier resource for information specialists in collection development, preservation, and technical services. We are the leader in the development of principles, standards, and best practices for creating, collecting, organizing, delivering, and preserving information resources in all forms. Part of our mission is to provide advocacy tools that our members can use to explicate the crucial importance of the tasks they perform in libraries.

No matter that the phrase “technical services” harkens back to more siloed days in libraries when all of the backroom support activities took place outside the scope of “public service” roles, it remains an accurate description of the services which indirectly support library user needs. While public services are those with which library users interact directly and which directly support end-user outcomes, technical services functions are foundational to the provision of those services.

In 1998, Michael Gorman edited the book, Technical Services Today and Tomorrow, in which the first chapter is devoted to a definition of library technical services.

“To put it at its simplest, the job of the librarian is to ensure access to all relevant library materials to all users of the library (direct and indirect) and to make that access as speedy and efficient as possible.

However, no matter how libraries are organized (and I support the rational organizational patterns over those that arise from custom and personalities), the fact remains that there are certain tasks that we group under the rubric of technical processing…”

His list includes such tasks as ordering, claiming, and receipt of library materials; cataloging and classifcation; serials control; database and catalogue maintenance; binding and preservation; and collection management.1

In a 1994 article, Carolyn O. Frost states, “Broadly defined, technical services is the provision of services and products that provide intellectual access to information.”2

With this general understanding, how does one approach advocacy for technical services functions that are crucial to the fulfillment of a library’s mission, yet which are obscured from public view and from the view of many other library colleagues, managers and directors?

This website provides:

  • resources in support of advocacy for library technical services in all types and sizes of libraries which provide access to all kinds of resources
  • links to web-based library advocacy and assessment  resources
  • selected excerpts and ideas from recent library literature that can suggest points to make in one’s own advocacy efforts
  • definitions of tasks that are technical in nature regardless of who performs them
  • advice on how to create an elevator speech and an example of one such speech — Louise Ratliff

Reference Notes

  1. Michael Gorman, Technical Services Today and Tomorrow, (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1998).
  2. Carolyn O. Frost, "Quality in Technical Services: A User-Centered Definition for Future Information Environments," Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 35, no. 2 (summer 1994): 229–32.