Basic Values and the Future of Cataloging

Tamera Hanken, Tacoma Community College

Frame 5. Budgets are the outcomes of political processes; budget decisions have ethical and moral implications�. Technical Services librarians too often display passive negativity with regard to budget and staffing decisions. Each of us has a responsibility to shape our environment and be a positive influence for change�.

In my response to the above frame I chose to illustrate how we, at the Tacoma Community College Library, attempt to proactively respond to the reality of limited funds for collections and staff development.

Before joining the Tacoma Community College (TCC) Library staff (2+ years ago) I worked for a public library system that was fortunate to have a significant and reliable annual collection budget and a large number of technical services staff with a fairly diverse skill set.

At the TCC Library, one of my responsibilities is in the area of Collections & Technical Services. One of my earliest adjustments to the college library environment was the ongoing competition for limited funds for purposes of collection development and technical services staff development. (I believe this situation is typical of community college libraries—although I am new to the community college system.)

Approximately two years ago I began talking with staff about making workflow changes to increase efficiency so that we could ‘stretch our dollars,’ create time for staff training and development, and possibly incorporate new activities into the workflow (i.e., digital projects or more assistance in the area of collection development). My ideas were not met with enthusiasm. My sense was that staff was overwhelmed with the current workflow—a workflow that had been in place for some time.

But, after our first collection analysis project we discovered that many of the books we had purchased (with our limited funds) were not getting used. Due to diligent Technical Services staff, the books were on the shelves and ready to circulate within days—but students were either not finding them or not finding them relevant. It was this discovery that motivated all of us to experiment with new workflows and find the time for training & development.

My staff and I began meeting regularly to discuss workflow issues and look for opportunities to streamline, delegate routine tasks (to circulation staff), and sometimes just eliminate tasks. In the past year, progress has been slow, but there has been enough success to keep all of us motivated to continue with our efforts.

The most significant workflow change we implemented, resulting from our attempts to merge the activities of acquisitions & cataloging, was to set up PromptCat with our primary vendors. Staff was able to stop spending time searching for and downloading cataloging copy and instead spend time on subject analysis (key to finding the new materials!).

We meet weekly to review areas of the collection or new acquisitions that are not circulating and review subject headings together (to learn the tools & rules). We think about ‘why’ the item was purchased, for what local program, audience, etc. and we make adjustments as appropriate.

An important and related activity we have been able to incorporate, as a result of minor workflow changes and delegating routine tasks to others, is collection development support. Staffs work with Librarians on selection and de-selection tasks as well as maintaining a Collection Development Blog—using Flickr to display images and Del.ic.ious to ‘organize’.

In conclusion, I don’t believe that we are doing anything cutting edge or revolutionary but we have created a more productive working environment. Work is generally more interesting for all of us. We feel better about how we are spending our collection funds. And for me—as we look forward to an ILS upgrade later this year, I have a staff planning for more change!