Letters from ALCTS

mary case, alcts president 2009-10

From the President

Mary Case, ALCTS President 2009–2010

The Role of ALCTS

My previous two columns have addressed our efforts to restructure ALCTS as an organization. This month, I’d like to focus outward on our role as contributors to the body of knowledge about our profession.

ALCTS is the only organization that brings together all of the disciplines that constitute collections and technical services functions. We are in a unique position to leverage the expertise of our members to create a body of work that articulates the latest thinking in our field and guides our path to the future. On a very practical level, that means the creation of such resources as best practices, syllabi, competencies, guidelines, principles, policy statements, guides, bibliographies, and instructional materials.

The popular Sudden Selector’s Guides from CMDS, the new syllabi from Continuing Resources on Serials Preservation and Archiving and Managing Print and Electronic Serials, the Fundamentals web courses, and the Definition of Digital Preservation developed by PARS are just a few examples of the range of content-rich resources and tools being developed by ALCTS sections and committees for our members. I applaud all of these efforts and encourage all of us to think about the resources that would help us do our jobs better and offer to help make them a reality.

One of the jobs I want to do better is to plan for the future of technical services and collections in our organization. We are going through a reorganization locally that is bringing cataloging and acquisitions together, creating new Acquisitions/FastCat and Electronic Resource units. But who is going to create all that copy cataloging we are depending on now if LC cuts back its contributions? Can the vendors absorb it? We will need to increase our original cataloging of mainstream publications to help meet demand? What will a new cooperative cataloging environment actually look like? What is the role and scope of our online catalog in an environment rich with numerous other information sources? The role of our collections in such an environment? And preservation? While these certainly aren’t new or enlightened questions, I feel a need for insight from leaders in our profession who can provide thoughtful and provocative statements that will help us sort through the issues, get a glimpse of what is coming, and start thinking about the possibilities.

To this end, I am excited to announce that ALCTS will be starting a new white paper series that will focus on issues, trends, and futures thinking. A new space is being created in the Publications & Resources section of the web site and will be seeded with the essays that were prepared for the ALCTS 2010 Midwinter Symposium, “And Now For Something Completely Different: Our Future from Outside the Box.” We will begin soliciting additional essays in the spring. Essays will be relatively brief (3–5 pages) and available for free on the site. They are intended to be thought pieces, opinion pieces—works that will inspire, aggravate, clarify, hypothesize, provoke, and, we hope, lead to lively discussion and new directions. Watch for more details!

And let’s not forget our web site! With the web site redesign now functioning and sections going about the work of entering data, we have the opportunity to use the web pages to talk about our profession to a broader audience. By this I mean, not focus our content solely on ourselves as an organization and our committees and structures and work products, but use this as an opportunity to describe our specialties as working librarians. Where else might a library student, a new professional, or even a reporter go to find out about what it means to work in technical services or to be an acquisitions librarian or a metadata specialist? Our web site can serve multiple purposes—attracting members, managing the work of the organization, as well as explaining our field and providing resources and a body of knowledge for professionals.

Contact Mary Case (marycase@uic.edu).