Discussion Groups Report on Conference Activities in New Orleans

The reports below are summaries of the discussions that took place in the meetings of ALCTS discussion groups held at Midwinter Meeting in New Orleans. Included are groups whose reports were received by the editor as of February 18, 2002. For information on discussion groups not shown here, see the ALCTS Organization page on the ALCTS Web site.

Division Discussion Groups | AS Discussion Groups | CCS Discussion Groups | PARS Discussion Groups | SS Discussion Groups

Division Discussion Groups

The Electronic Resources Discussion Group shared real-life experiences using systems developed by electronic journal management vendors. Three librarian clients described three systems: JournalWebCite, TDNet, and Serials Solutions.

The Newspaper Discussion Group heard presentations about digitized editions of newspapers, as those curious about scanning have expressed much interest in the details. Project participants have previously described the process and results, and the first to offer a live online demonstration was invited to present at this meeting. Mary Sauer-Games (Gale Group) spoke to a rapt audience about The Times Digital Archive 1785–1985. Working in consultation with and with full support of the publisher of this world-famous London newspaper, Gale is scanning more than one million pages of newspaper microfilm into digital format. The two-hundred-year archive will deliver exciting new research opportunities. Every item of each newspaper issue will be searchable, including news items, editorial opinion, display and classified advertising, birth, death, marriage, and obituary announcements, and financial and sports reports.

Delivered on the familiar InfoTrac platform, features include browsing by date (i.e., page-turning) and keyword searching. Summary search results include a thumbnail image indicating article size and placement on the newspaper page. Twenty-six category limits permit a researcher to refine the scope of any search. Hit-term highlighting makes location of pertinent displays readily evident in the article display. Fuzzy searching or logic helps to overcome OCR-related errors, and rekeying of article titles and bylines by Gale editors ensure accuracy in the index of these fields.

The Out of Print Discussion Group took as its topic libraries’ selling their unwanted books on the Internet in “There’s Gold in Your Basement.” Three speakers described how each of their libraries manage the online sale of gifts and deaccessioned books. The advantages of using sites like abebooks, Alibris, and eBay were discussed as well as selling strategy. The practical considerations such as tax responsibilities, staffing, training, and customer complaints were covered. This practice may be a viable alternative to traditional booksales.

The Pre-order and Pre-catalog Searching Discussion Group heard speakers from SKP Associates and EDItEUR discuss the history of the ONIX standard and its importance to the book publishing world as well as how its elements are becoming important to the library world. There was a lively discussion of how UNIX can benefit the acquisitions of library materials, how Library of Congress has tested ONIX in bibliographic records, and how mapping ONIX data into MARC records can enhance bibliographic records.

The Role of the Professional in Academic Research Technical Services Departments Discussion Group explored the role of technical services professionals in responding to the budget and staffing challenges currently facing academic libraries and their role in planning for and managing change. Cecilia Leathem (University of Miami) highlighted the importance of making sure the work done by staff in your department is well documented and well understood by the library administration. She stressed the importance of encouraging a culture of collaboration, rather than competition, both within the department and with other departments. She also noted the importance of examining your departmental organization and reviewing operations and procedures to find and deal with any “hidden fat.” Leathem talked about staff considerations that need to be kept in mind when dealing with challenging situations. As much as possible, staff members need to be kept informed and involved in decision making. She concluded by urging us not to take budget constraints personally. Although it may not be easy, take a leadership role in planning for change, maintain a realistic perspective, and avoid paranoia. Roberta Winjum (Vanderbilt University) spoke about the process her institution used to reach consensus about workflow improvements and to help staff welcome change. Jacqueline Coats (University of Washington) talked about the benefits of revamping workflows to incorporate a full range of automated services offered by library book vendors. Coats noted that special benefits accrue from approaching such a project in its entirety, rather than piecemeal. The resulting synergy can yield significant benefits, such as a reduction in the time spent managing backlogs and the smoothing of workflow from selection through cataloging.

The Scholarly Communication Discussion Group invited three specialists in scholarly communications and electronic publishing to share their work experiences and knowledge. Zsuzsa Koltay (Cornell University Library) talked about Project Euclid at Cornell University. The primary mission of Project Euclid is to advance the cause of effective and affordable scholarly communication in the disciplines of theoretical and applied mathematics and statistics. Richard Fyffe (University of Kansas Libraries) summarized the BioOne project introduced to the Kansas University community as a means to raise awareness in the campus community that there is a crisis in the current scholarly communication system. Robert Bovenschulte (American Chemical Society) spoke about the SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)–ACS partnership.

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Acquisitions Section (AS) Discussion Groups

The Acquisitions Administrators Discussion Group selected as its meeting topic “The Vanishing Acquisitions Librarian,” which engendered a lively discussion. They explored whether or not there really is a shortage of librarians or if it is a matter of perception. While most people agreed that there is a shortage of acquisitions librarians, others found that they had sufficient pools of applicants for positions. The problem of the latter group was recruiting enough qualified applicants. Some people don’t apply because they don’t know anything about acquisitions. Others find the job ads and job descriptions intimidating because of their unfamiliarity with the jargon. This led to a discussion of what library schools are doing to prepare acquisitions librarians. Several participants echoed that library schools don’t do enough to train students in acquisitions issues, but also noted library schools don’t train, they educate. There is a need to establish the principles of cataloging and acquisitions that underlie these specialties.

There was agreement that librarians need to do a better job communicating with educators about the value and the role of acquisitions librarianship. We need to be aware of customer service issues and implement them in acquisitions. One suggested way is to do a customer-service survey to learn what our constituents think about our service. We should also be assertive about what we can do and what services we can offer. If our constituents have realistic expectations, they will tend to be more satisfied with the services they receive. Several of the participants attended a session at last year’s Charleston Conference that focused on the same topic. A library school dean commented that the number of library school graduates cannot keep pace with the number of vacancies created by retirements and people leaving the profession for other positions.

Another factor is that technical services is not a very visible area of librarianship, and as a consequence it is not perceived as very glamorous or attractive work. We need to promote the idea that acquisitions and catalog librarians are all-purpose librarians. Their qualifications and skills can serve all departments of a library. It was hoped that Laura Bush’s proposed $10 million initiative to recruit a new generation of librarians will interest candidates to consider acquisitions librarianship.

Low salaries are a major factor in recruiting all librarians. Librarianship has generally been considered a female-dominated profession with historically low salaries. Many still perceive women as earning a second income for their families. While that may be true for some librarians, most are primary wage earners. Yet the perception has not changed with the social reality. While some people expressed concern about low salaries for support staff, one participant related that one of her colleagues started as a paraprofessional and studied for an MLS. When she graduated, she took a $7,000 pay cut to assume a professional position. Salary compression is another issue. New recruits can often negotiate higher salaries than incumbents in similar positions. Cost of living increases often don’t keep pace with the changing job market. This is not a problem limited to libraries. Rather, it is a university-wide problem affecting all faculty and departments. Some think it is an even greater problem with support staff salaries.

There was a brief discussion of the devaluation of acquisitions librarians. In some institutions, positions are classified as clerical. While these positions don’t require a degree, most incumbents realize a need for further education, yet when they obtain an MLS, they don’t receive any additional compensation. This situation is not likely to change as long as people are content to accept the status quo, and the difficulties in reclassifying positions are daunting or insurmountable in most institutions. Doing the same job for thirty years is still doing the same job; it should not get more pay for enhanced experience. The use of a computer doesn’t necessarily mean a job is more complex. We need to point out our decision-making responsibilities and compare them with our peers’.

While acquisitions departments are getting smaller, there is more emphasis on department head status and supervisory responsibilities. Could this emphasis lead people to think that the problems of administration are not worth the salary offered? One responded that money is power and acquisitions librarian positions should be attractive because these practitioners have some control over spending. We plan to continue discussion on other related topics at Annual Conference in Atlanta under the topic of “The Changing Face of Acquisitions Librarianship.”

The Acquisitions Librarians/Vendors of Library Materials Discussion Group explored the impact of the September 11 attacks on acquisitions staffs, budgets, and procedures. Publisher and vendor representatives discussed how these events affected their travel and planning. While deeply concerned about staff security and safety, some participants viewed the radical budget and personnel cuts widely announced shortly after the attacks as excessive and, indeed, cynical, suggesting that these cuts were already planned in light of prior economic pressures and that the events of September 11 were being employed as political cover for unpopular fiscal decision-making. The general mood of the discussion was downbeat, tempered only by the hope that closer personal ties and improved electronic contact might come of the tragedy. Two topics were suggested for possible future discussion: Where is publishing on demand (e.g., Lightning Press) going and what might be our community’s role in relief efforts in Afghanistan?

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Cataloging and Classification Section (CCS) Discussion Groups

The Cataloging and Classification Research Discussion Group heard Lois Mai Chan (University of Kentucky School of Library and Information Science) speak on “An LCSH-Based Controlled Vocabulary for Web Resources: A Feasibility Study.” As background, Chan discussed the recommendations of the CCS Subcommittee on Metadata and Subject Analysis, especially its proposal that subject access to Web resources be provided by a controlled vocabulary, preferably adapted from an existing one such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). She explained that simplifying subject heading construction for use in metadata would prove useful to Web site creators with little or no formal training in subject analysis. She also compared three approaches to providing subject access in metadata:

  • Current practice (using LCSH and the Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings)
  • Separate facets for topic, place, time, and form (as used in FAST—Faceted Application of Subject Terminology)
  • Established LCSH subject headings and LCSH–enumerated subdivisions only (i.e., no free-floating subdivisions)
Chan’s research, funded by OCLC in 1999, sought to answer the following research questions:
  • Would it be feasible to apply LCSH in metadata records using simplified syntax, providing a post-coordinated, faceted approach?
  • What would be the impact without the use of free-floating subdivisions?
  • What loss of topical access points might occur?

She compiled lists of free-floating subdivisions, then looked to see if there were matching, or nearly matching, subject headings in LCSH. (In practice, these matching headings would be assigned to a work instead of using the subdivisions.) Results indicated that matches or near-matches could be found for 92 percent of the free-floating subdivisions. An analysis of subject headings on a random sample of bibliographic records found that a similar percentage of the headings could be adapted in this manner, though Chan cautioned that the sample was small. She concluded by suggesting ways in which the loss in subject access could be mitigated, such as by having subdivisions established as subject headings or by adding uncontrolled terms to the metadata record. Following suggestions for further research, Chan answered questions from attendees.

The Copy Cataloging Discussion Group heard an update from Judith Mansfield about copy-cataloging activities at the Library of Congress. She reported on a new mode of cataloging called “EL7 lccopycat,” using existing records for copy-cataloging and applying encoding-level value 7 to them. This value, ordinarily used for minimal-level cataloging, makes it possible to realize flexibility in supplying or checking various data elements. She distributed a working draft that describes the guidelines now under development. They also heard four speakers discuss “AACR2—Revised Chapter 9—What Copy Catalogers Need to Know,” after viewing a PowerPoint presentation created by an OLAC (Online Audiovisual Catalogers) task force, detailing recent changes to AACR2 Chapter 9, Electronic Resources as found in the 2001 Amendments package. Changes in rules and Library of Congress rule interpretations were highlighted, and examples of previous and current practice were included. Following the overview of rule revisions there was discussion about the implementation and the impact on copy catalogers.

The Heads of Cataloging Departments Discussion Group talked about expectations of the training of catalogers in library and information science programs. Faculty members often are adjunct and thus not fully involved with other professors, and they are expected to teach a wide range of topics, including all aspects of cataloging and classification plus other technical services areas. Other topics of discussion included marginalizing cataloging as users turn to other databases for information; the insufficient number of doctorate degrees being awarded in librarianship; cataloging competing with other specialties; noncompetitive salaries and image problems. More creative partnerships for training, such as ALCTS/PCC, the OCLC Institute, and library schools linking with practitioners could help catalogers promote their specialty.

The Map Cataloging/MAGERT Discussion Group had an open discussion of map cataloging interests and concerns such as retrospective conversion, outsourcing of cartographic materials, digitization projects and metadata, developing standards, and rule revisions.

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Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS) Discussion Groups

The Cooperative Preservation Programs Discussion Group heard Janet Gertz (Columbia University) report on the results of the Cooperative Preservation Survey. Sheryl Davis (University of California, Riverside) described the activities and plans of the California Preservation Clearinghouse. Members present shared updates on activities and projects undertaken by OCLC Digital and Preservation Resources Services, SOLINET, NEDCC, AMIGOS, NEH, and institutions in the Pacific Northwest.

The Library Binding Discussion Group entertained a proposal from the chair of the Binding Automation Discussion Group that the work of that group has been completed and should be reintegrated into the Library Binding Group. There was unanimous support for the reintegration of the two groups. Thus the Library Binding Group will in future discuss issues related both to automation as well as traditional binding issues.

Karen Anspach, on behalf of NISO, reported the standard Z39.76 (relating to binding automation) was up for review in 2001. NISO was considering discontinuing this standard as it appears to have had very low use thus far. Members within the group felt strongly that although the standard has not been fully used yet, it will be as more libraries begin using binding automation systems. Discussants were unanimous in their wish that the standard be retained as is. Marco Smits (SF-Systems) discussed updates and improvements in SF-Systems’ software product, Linc +.

The PARS Discussion Group explored “The Role of the Discussion Group.” Wes Boomgaarden (Ohio State University) led a spirited interchange that started with the question: “How do we, as professionals, communicate at our semiformal, semiannual meetings?” Noting that the ALA Handbook of Organization begins the description of each discussion group with the phrase “To provide a forum . . .” Boomgaarden presented the group with quite a challenge. This discussion noted that the best interaction occurs in groups of about thirty individuals. When asked whether or not discussion groups require more direction, participants noted the paradox that a well-prepared forum must be formal, yet that same formality serves to defeat communication. Support was raised for the mini-program format, as many have led directly to larger PARS and ALCTS programs.

Majority opinion held that (1) combined sessions should be planned in advance, (2) cancellations should be planned in advance, and (3) cancellations should be permitted if planned in advance. However, prevailing opinion held that discussion groups should not be cancelled without sufficient notice, as it is the chair’s responsibility to lead the meeting. The final point raised by this group about the discussion groups’ role was that smaller groups generally benefit from a more free-flowing structure, and Preservation Administration Discussion Group requires more formality. There was also a general consensus that new discussion group chairs are not necessarily well prepared for their duties. PARS needs to develop better internal guidance for new discussion group members—perhaps a cheat sheet—and ALA should be encouraged to develop the PARS Web site as a resource for institutional memory for locating reports from past discussion group meetings. This would further the development of new professionals within the section.

Anne Marie Lane (American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming Library) summarized the ACRL/RBMS Security and Theft Guidelines, after which participants discussed how to encourage rare books and special collections librarians to better protect their collections—a discussion that touched on the fine points of permanent inks, micro embossers, and micro stamps.

The Preservation Administration Discussion Group heard a panel discussion about preserving historical audio visual (AV) collections, with speakers from Columbia University, University of Maryland, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill describing important collections in their institutions and commenting on preservation needs. Dan Gaydos from VidiPax, a magnetic media reformatting and preservation service, discussed degradation patterns and causes, as well as current standards, practices, and new research and preservation possibilities for media collections. Jeff Field from NEH underlined the importance of these collections and mentioned NEH programs that support AV preservation. Andrew Hart provided an update of the CLIR study “The State of Preservation in American College and Research Libraries.” Irene Shubert (Library of Congress) and Elize Gilligan (Smithsonian Institution) described the damage to collections from irradiation in the U.S. mail.

The Preservation Instruction, Education, and Outreach Discussion Group (a newly formed discussion group) discussed their electronic discussion list survey on topical training of in-house conservation technicians or repair staff. Discussion revealed concerns such as staff recruitment and retention, differences in training different levels of staff (students versus salaried staff), best practices for training in particular techniques, how to identify and fund training needs, and how to evaluate the success of training methods. At 2002 Annual Conference the group will discuss preservation awareness training for all library staff.

The Small to Mid-sized Preservation Program Discussion Group focused on mold. Will Meredith (Harvard Law Library) described his dealings with a repeated mold outbreak in his facility. Joe Holzhalb (Munter’s Moisture Control) explained some options available for preventing and controlling mold.

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Serials Section (SS) Discussion Groups

The Journal Costs in Libraries Discussion Group did not meet.

The Research Libraries Discussion Group addressed the topic “Evolving Access to Electronic Journals.” The major topics the group discussed were:

  • What discovery tools are you providing for e-journals?
  • How are you creating and maintaining records and pages for e-journals?
  • How are you including e-journals in your OPAC? (Single record, multiple records, a mixture of combined print and electronic for certain electronic sources?)
  • How are you representing the holdings of your e-journals?

More than half of the attendees contributed to the discussion. Attendees expressed their satisfaction with the discussion format, particularly because they were able to hear so many viewpoints.

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