e-Forum Wrap-Up

ALCTS e-Forums are two-day, moderated, electronic discussion forums that provide an opportunity for librarians to discuss matters of interest on an ALCTS discussion list. These discussions are free-of-charge and available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to the list.

ALCTS Newsletter Online publishes wrap-ups of e-Forums in each issue. To see the schedule of upcoming forums and to sign up to participate, visit www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/upcoming/e-forum. Previous sessions are archived at www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/past/e-forum.

The Incredible Shrinking Cataloging Department

By Wade Wyckoff and Xiaoli Li

Held January 1112, 2012

This e-Forum provided an opportunity to discuss options, choices, and strategies used in various organizations that have experienced or are facing staff reductions. Seventy-five people participated in this two-day discussion with a total of 171 messages posted. Topics were far-ranging and were organized into the following broad categories.

Outsourcing: Shelf-ready

Shelf-ready has become a common practice. It seems to be a cost-effective solution to many libraries. However, several participants mentioned that physical processing (e.g., stamping, labeling) done in-house by student workers was cheaper than what a vendor would charge. Some libraries use their night/weekend circulation staff to do physical processing instead of outsourcing. Most libraries using shelf-ready currently do minimal checking of the records. They rely on public services staff to report problems or use OCLC’s Bibliographic Notification service (free) to enhance or upgrade records. If a record needs correction, many participants reported that such changes were made to the OCLC master record.

Many libraries have changed their end-processing to save money, e.g., reducing number of stamps or eliminating the use of date due slips, pockets, or book covers.

Outsourcing: Authority Control

Authority control can be time-consuming even for libraries that have outsourced the process. Several participants commented on the amount of time that is required to manually review the process reports regularly provided by their authority control vendors.

Where Cataloging Is Performed

Depending on the local environment, libraries have trained their acquisitions staff to perform straightforward copy cataloging; some have their catalogers create records before orders are placed. The latter minimizes the needs for acquisitions staff to learn cataloging and reduces turnaround time from receipts to shelf (items bypass catalogers). There are some libraries that have distributed cataloging responsibilities throughout technical services and even to public services areas such as special collections.

Using student workers to perform cataloging tasks drew lots of discussion. Many participants reported their libraries use students to help with straightforward copy cataloging or cataloging projects.

Several participants reported the cooperative cataloging exchange projects their libraries had undertaken. Associated challenges were also shared.

Cataloging Foreign Language Materials

When there is not sufficient language expertise in a cataloging department, the prevailing practice is to solicit help from non-catalogers (public services staff, students, professors, volunteers) who are fluent with language. However, it can be challenging to apply this method to cataloging of non-roman language materials because of the requirement of following the ALA/LC Romanization guidelines. Some libraries choose to create either “k” or abbreviated level records due to lack of language expertise.

Quality of Cataloging

Batch loading of vendor records has become a common practice, especially for e-resources. Most participants reported that their libraries had relied on some type of programming /software to identify low-quality records which are then being scrutinized by catalogers.

For copy cataloging, some participants argued for the necessity of having copy catalogers review each record manually while others suggested using an automatic way (programming) to separate out the ones that need a cataloger’s attention and accept the rest as is.

General consensus is that accurate and consistent data are essential for finding, identifying, selecting, and obtaining resources.

To read the discussion in its entirety, visit http://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/alcts-eforum/2012-01/


Mary Beth Weber, Chair, ALCTS Advocacy Task Force

Held February 8-9, 2012

The ALCTS e-Forum on advocacy began with a discussion of how participants define advocacy and what it means to them. Many participants agreed that promoting the work and visibility of technical services is vital to our survival in the face of continuing budget cuts and staffing shortages. The conversation included an acknowledgement that administrators may be aware of technical services costs, but not necessarily of the benefits of technical services. Participants shared the ways in which they promote their departments, which included tours and orientations, a newsletter, outreach to different departments/ branches, permitting non-technical services personnel to shadow technical services staff, and teaching courses.

The next discussion topic was about “elevator speeches,” and responses focused on conveying what we do and its value to our colleagues as well as those that we serve. The importance of statistics such as number of items ordered, cataloged, etc. and its impact was noted. Tours, blogs, participating in student orientation, and working at the reference desk were cited as ways to promote the work of technical services.

The third discussion topic was “If you’re a library educator or work closely with a library school, what is your program doing to advocate to new professionals/librarians-in-training (students) about the field of technical services?” The lack of emphasis on technical services courses was discussed. A question was raised as to whether certain courses should be required to earn an MLS or if ALA should accredit programs that don’t require technical services courses.

Day One closed with the discussion topic “What can ALCTS do for you or for our profession in terms of advocacy?” Responses included developing a set of recommended competencies, skills, or job requirements for paraprofessional and professional catalogers and other technical services staff for determining job level assignments in regard to compensation and hiring. A suggestion was made to include an advocacy section on the ALCTS web site that includes talking points, elevator speeches, and ideas for promoting your services internally and externally.

Day two opened with a continuation of the topic “What can ALCTS do for you or for our profession in terms of Advocacy?” The question of where and to whom should we advocate was raised. Our public services colleagues do outreach to their communities and technical services personnel need to find ways to do this. Publicizing services on a web site or LibGuide was suggested; staff at one institution also have a MyPage that explains their work.

The next question discussed was “ALCTS can provide publications and documentation to enable our members to meet the needs at their institutions and to facilitate collaborative problem solving. What do you see as the critical areas of need?” A participant noted that advocacy with coworkers, the library director, the campus technology department, the faculty, the administrators, and the trustees would be much simpler if one could consult a basic knowledge guide that defined and described what typically occurs in technical services, and asked ALCTS for assistance in compiling one. The task force will also compile and make available on its Connect Community a list of elevator speeches geared to different environments. A desire for assistance with long-range planning as we prepare for the future was expressed.

Education was the third discussion topic, which was introduced with the question “Education is critical for new professionals as well as established technical services professionals. What do you consider to be core competencies? What areas could ALCTS address in terms of offerings?” Participants also stressed that core competencies for all library personnel (not just librarians) would be helpful.


ALA and some of its divisions have addressed advocacy. ALA has an Advocacy Committee and advocacy is included in the strategic plan (www.ala.org/advocacy/advleg/advocacyuniversity). PLA has advocacy resources on its web site (www.ala.org/pla/advocacy). ACRL has undertaken advocacy efforts (www.ala.org/acrl/issues).

Past ALA President Camila Alire notes, “‘Advocacy’ means supporting a cause or course of action, and in the academic library world, everyone who works for the library…needs to think of herself or himself as an advocate—a frontline advocate—for the library.” (www.camilaalire.com/initiatives.html)

The Advocacy Task Force’s ALA Connect Community: http://connect.ala.org/node/167038

To read the discussion in its entirety, visit http://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/alcts-eforum/2012-02/msg00002.html.

Transforming Collections

by Sarah Simpson and Lisa German

Held February 2223, 2012

The first Transforming Collections e-Forum was lively and informative. Approximately forty-five people came together from February 22 to 23 to discuss what library collections mean in the twenty-first century. The following themes or topics were discussed.

Patron Driven Acquisitions (PDA)

This model of acquisitions is being adopted by many of our libraries for a portion of their collection acquisitions. A detailed profile is very important to a successful PDA plan.

Use of Metrics

All of us are struggling with how we use metrics in decision making and how to get the best metrics to use for assessment. The California Digital Library’s metrics for assessing scholarly journal value was mentioned as an exciting model and pointed us to www.cdlib.org/cdlinfo/2012/02/13/calculating-scholarly-journal-value-through-objective-metrics/ .

TERMS: Techniques for ER Management (http://6terms.tumblr.com) developed by Ann Kucera was also mentioned as very valuable.

Collaborative Print Repositories

Collaborative print repositories are seen as both a way to reclaim space in our libraries and so as an essential preservation strategy for twenty-first century libraries. One exciting initiative is the ASERL IMLS grant designed to create a shared repository of government documents.

Staffing Needs Are Changing

As our collections transform, current staffing models must transform also.

New types of positions are being created such as collections assessment librarians or digital curators.

Budget Needs are Changing

As our collections transform, financial resources must also be redirected from print to digital materials. A very interesting comment was the possible need to re-examine the basics about how we budget—since electronic resources are often used by multiple departments, breaking up budgets based on academic programs may not be as useful anymore. Additional discussion about whether to purchase both/or print and electronic copies, and how many of each.

Getting Records into the Catalog

As we begin to batchload between hundreds and thousands of records into our catalog, we need to address the issue of quality control, how much time will be spent evaluating and cataloging or classifying these records, and what are the implications of those decisions?

Handling Data Sets and Grey Literature

These are two types of data and materials that need to get into our catalog, but that bring up questions of who, how, and at what cost?

Will Collection Development and Acquisitions become Obsolete?

As we begin to buy large sets of titles, will the whole notion of building a collection be replaced by simply providing access to huge amounts of material? If so, what will that mean for our collections, and what will we need to do to ensure access to the information our customers need to find in there?

The discussions on each day were thought-provoking, and it is clear that there is no clear consensus on how our collections will look five, ten, or fifteen years from now. However, it is clear that many issues that will create those new collections require our attention right now, and it will be important to address these issues thoughtfully as we proceed.

To read the discussion in its entirety, visit http://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/alcts-eforum/2012-02/msg00213.html.