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.

Data Access and Management

Moderated by Brad Gulliford and Jeff Downing, University of Texas at Arlington Library

The topic “Data Access and Management: The Library's Role” attracted 53 messages from 19 participants during the e-forum held March 26–27, 2012. The moderators wanted to find others who have seen the opportunity for library professionals in the growing field of data sources and stewardship, and what initiatives and programs have started.

The forum began with some basic questions about data, and as hoped, some of the libraries who have stepped out with data services shared explanations of their services and personnel. Some are based on their institutional repositories, and some initiatives came through university IT and administration. Relationship with faculty members is essential; that may come from a mandate from above, a campus-wide discussion, or librarians cultivating collaborative opportunities.

Discussion moved to needs assessment and implementation of services. Some libraries have sent out surveys (and nobody reported inadequate response rate); some mentioned survey or audit tools from Georgia Tech, Purdue, or Penn, or ones based on the JISC/DCC Data Asset Framework. Questions on researchers' perception of librarian abilities to provide data management services were raised; it appears that awareness is directly dependent on marketing from librarians.

Participants suggested library roles ranging from noninvolvement (leaving data management activities to researchers) to providing a complete suite of services, including data hosting and archiving. It was agreed that the library has a role, but the exact role has to be determined based on the individual needs and cultures of each institution.

One area where it seems obvious that libraries could have a role is providing consultancy on writing and submitting data management plans (especially National Science Foundation requirements), and is the service that most libraries currently involved in data management offer.

The moderators thank Kristin Martin for her support as e-forum coordinator, and the participants for exploring new territory. We all came away with ideas, answers, and a few new contacts.

BISAC and Beyond—Making Word-Based Classification Your Own

Moderated by Logan MacDonald and Loretta Mainock, Rangeview Library District, Colorado

The topic “BISAC and Beyond—Making Word-Based Classification Your Own,” covered many issues related to the use of BISAC and other word-based classification systems in libraries. Participants from a variety of viewpoints contributed to the lively and informative conversation, held April 17–18, 2012.

The first day of discussion centered around two primary issues. The first issue discussed was the relative strengths and weaknesses of word-based classification systems compared to Dewey or LC. Some participants expressed their concern that the use of BISAC to classify materials would lead to "dumbing down" libraries. Others pointed out the strengths of traditional classification systems like Dewey or LC in grouping subjects and providing an excellent level of specificity. Participants who are familiar with BISAC-based classification schemes related their views on the strengths of such systems including increased browseability, the use of customers’ own natural language, and ease of moving from the OPAC to the shelf for findability.

The findability of materials under a BISAC-based system was the other main area of discussion for the first day of the e-Forum. Several participants praised Dewey and other standard library classification schemes for their structure and ability to specifically classify individual works. Others shared a concern that BISAC-based classification could lead to increased findability issues if the library were organized like a bookstore. The lack of a uniquely specific call number for materials under a word-based system was also a concern that was brought up. BISAC users described how items were arranged in their libraries and shared their experiences with findability under that model. Most BISAC libraries alphabetize materials within the BISAC categories, either by title or author. Some participants stated that materials were about as findable in a word-based system as with a more structured system.

Day two continued the themes of the first day, for the most part. Participants continued to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of BISAC and findability issues. Other topics discussed during the e-Forum were the appropriate MARC tags to use for BISAC data, the cost and process of transitioning from Dewey to BISAC, customer response to BISAC, the most appropriate collection size for a word-based system, and whether classification in libraries even needs to move away from traditional systems at all.

Great comments, vigorous discussion, and a wide range of viewpoints helped make the BISAC and Beyond e-Forum both illuminating and exciting.