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.

Discovery Tool Implementation and Selection

May 1516, 2012

“Discovery Tool Implementation and Selection” was held on May 1516, 2012, and moderated by Nara Newcomer and Bill Walsh. It gave participants the opportunity to discuss a wide variety of issues related to selecting, implementing, and maintaining these services. Day one kicked off with a participant asking for clarification on what was meant by discovery tools being able to “integrate multiple content silos.” A description of how Serial Solutions’ Summon allows you to load catalog and local digital collections data while providing indexing for articles and other content normally found in individual databases followed. Throughout the course of discussion, a number of different tools of varying scope were also mentioned. In addition to Summon, EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), WorldCat Local, Primo, Encore, VuFind, AquaBrowser, and Endeca were also mentioned.

From this opening, discussion for day one focused mainly on the following topics:

  • How difficult it is, even with these tools, to provide a seamless user experience.
  • How discovery tools can bury search results for locally held books and other materials under an avalanche of hits for full text articles.
  • Pros and cons of not loading e-resources into your ILS when using these tools.
  • Issues with integrating consortial holdings into a discovery product.
  • The makeup of discovery tool selection teams at particular institutions.

Day two began with a question that asked how institutions should approach a successful implementation of a discovery product. In general, responses stated that implementation and postimplementation maintenance teams for discovery tools at institutions were cross-departmental groups comprised of people from both public and nonpublic areas. Some responses indicated a level of staff dissatisfaction with the launch of a discovery service. In addition, discussion for day two covered the following topics:

  • How people are promoting discovery tools at their institution.
  • How people approach teaching these tools in library instruction.
  • Is cataloging more or less important in the discovery tool environment?
  • Are you better off launching a beta version of a discovery product that is refined over time, or should you delay launch until you have the best possible product?
  • Are people doing usability testing with students on these tools?

Near the end of the e-forum, Nara highlighted her work heading a group that is creating a document detailing the needs of music materials in a discovery tool, and called for those in other specialist communities (e.g., maps or archives) who are interested in or who are already doing something similar to come forward.

Brittle Books Strategies in the 21st Century

July 1112, 2012

A range of librarians participated in the e-forum “Brittle Books Strategies in the 21st Century,” held July 1112, 2012. Kara McClurken, University of Virginia and Kimberly Peach moderated. Participants were mostly from mid- to large-sized academic institutions, but with preservation departments ranging in size from two people to more than 10.

Many of us have similar procedures regarding how materials get to us—mostly from service desk points (circulation, reference) or through the cataloging department. Also, brittle books are being routed into broader “heavily damaged” workflows now, but still make up a large part of those workflows.

Costs appear to be consistently, and civilly, shared between preservation departments and those responsible for purchasing replacements (such as acquisitions departments/subject specialists).

The Review Process

MIT realizes cost savings using a Filemaker Pro database to analyze decision-making data and automatically generate emails to those who need to take an action (i.e., to acquisitions to find a replacement or to cataloging to process a withdrawal).

As part of the review process, most participants gather similar information, like the number of:

  • times item has circulated
  • additional copies and other editions in-house
  • regional holdings, or consortial holdings
  • holdings in OCLC

One participant mentioned the benefits of review the condition of other copies and editions in the stacks to not only determine the action to take on the item in hand, but to work with collection development to ensure the overall quality of the collections.

Review of available digital copies on HathiTrust and Internet Archive (and to a lesser degree on Google Books) was also often noted but seems to be less formal.

And while many of us have a similar range of options for what we do with brittle books, each institution makes very different decisions. For some, withdrawal is a popular option; for others, withdrawal is not even considered. Digital surrogates have become viable options at most institutions, but physical facsimiles are still created at most places as well.

Actions mentioned included:

  • boxing
  • shrink-wrapping
  • tying
  • restricted use
  • move to offsite storage
  • move to special collections
  • withdrawal
  • making a paper facsimile (often done in-house, and a couple people mentioned sometimes printing from a quality reviewed copy available online)
  • digitizing (some pointed out that they only digitizing if the time is in the public domain)
  • purchasing a replacement (microfilm replacement for serials)
  • repairing

Case Western Reserve University, Vanderbilt University, The University of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University all shared the flags that they use for their workflows. MIT shared the decision-making rubric they’ve documented in an in-house wiki. [Just after the e-forum, the hosts also learned that the Library of Congress Preservation Department will be mounting a Sample Damaged Item Workflow decision tree on their website soon, as part of Safety Net: The Federal Library Mutual Disaster Assistance Program.]

One very small library noted that reformatting is not an option for them. They either do minor repairs in-house or send damaged items to the commercial bindery. They also will replace the item if warranted.

We also received a valuable glimpse into the reformatting and housing issues of the vast collections of sheet music at the University of Rochester. Sheet music is especially vulnerable to damage when it becomes brittle due to its size and heavy use.

The following study was referenced in regards to making effective preservation decisions that will increase the longevity of our collections: “Scarce and Endangered Works: Using Network-level Holding Data in Preservation Decision Making and Stewardship of the Printed Record” (Sept. 2011), a forthcoming publication by Jacob Nadal and Annie Peterson, currently available in draft form on Nadal’s blog, www.jacobnadal.com/162

Also mentioned was the IMLS/University of Michigan study, “Validating Quality in Large Scale Digitization.” This study will likely be useful to institutions as they establish quality guidelines and are looking to train new staff in what to look for in digital surrogate quality. Ongoing project information can be found at http://hathitrust-quality.projects.si.umich.edu/index. htm.


As for retention of originals, we leaned toward the conservative in our discussions. Most participants who chimed in on the subject noted significantly limiting withdrawals or leaving that decision up to selectors. And the number 10 seems to be the benchmark for most, regarding holdings in OCLC, before they will begin to consider withdrawal.


Institutions seemed to have varying experiences regarding the level of subject librarian or selector participation. In some places, they played an active role and in others, they let the preservation staff make the decisions. If we do involve selectors, it’s usually only for items in need of extensive repair or especially costly reformatting. Also, we will consult a selector if we’re unsure about possible artifactual value. Thanks to streamlined workflows and communication systems, selector involvement in the review process isn’t as cumbersome as it could be, and our relationships with selectors sounds positive all around. Surprisingly to some, selectors, more often than not, will decide to withdraw damaged items.


Most of us are utilizing note fields or linking to surrogates in our catalogs to some extent, but not necessarily uniformly. Many participants mentioned adding a note when a paper facsimile is made; less frequently will we add a link to a digital surrogate.

University of Iowa mentioned talk of eventually putting a note in a record to reflect when a digital item has been reviewed for quality.


It sounds like we would all like to explore strategies for greater collaboration, both to reduce cost and redundancy and to ensure that we’re getting an accurate picture of our own collections and how they relate and compare to those of our colleagues.

The ALCTS preconference, “Local Collections, Collective Context: Managing Print Collections in the Age of Collaboration,” was mentioned as presenting means of collaboration that, though not always intended, have a significant positive impact on collections preservation.

Digital Use by Patrons

At the University of Rochester, digitized sheet music is being widely embraced by patrons even though they likely end up printing it out for use.

The following study was mentioned as providing some insight into patron use of digital books: “UC Libraries Academic e-Book Usage Survey” (May 2011), published by the University of California Libraries.


The University of Iowa’s “Preservation Masters Collection” (materials are only accessible through the Preservation Department) is an interesting and apparently unique concept that presents a means of addressing Section 108 limitations.

Two tools related to copyright were discussed:

  1. The Stanford University Copyright Renewal Database is useful for books between 1923 and 1977 published in the U.S.
  2. Another tool that just recently came out is the Copyright Genie, created by Michael Brewer with funding and support from the ALA Office for Technology Policy and the OITP Copyright Education Subcommittee.

Neither of these tools helps with foreign or musical scores, but they are a good starting place for books printed in the United States.

Turning Statistics into Assessment: How Can Technical Services Measure the Value of Their Services?

“Turning Statistics Into Assessment: How can Technical Services Measure the Value of Their Services?" held August 22–23, 2012, was moderated by Sarah Simpson, Tulsa City-County Library, and Buddy Pennington, University of Missouri-Kansas City. The moderators wanted to discuss how technical services departments collect and utilize statistics to measure their value.

Day one began with a lively discussion about the statistics we keep. Many of us do count almost everything anyone does; there is a sense that counting production is the bottom line. We count orders placed, items received, titles cataloged, items processed, serials added, and on and on. There were discussions of additional things that can be tricky, such as keeping track of money spent by subject area or department, OCLC cataloging and authority work, usage statistics, and how to deal with tracking our work on electronic resources. These give us a whole slew of new processes to count! This also led to a brief discussion of numbers we wish we had, like turnaround time, cost/item, and catalog use, with some people offering up their own methods of procuring these numbers, which was very helpful.

Another discussion focused on the complexities of using our ILS systems to pull these statistics, with some people noting that they still relied on manual counting, and others offering help with using the system to get those numbers. It became very clear that this is something that varies wildly from ILS to ILS, and can involve third party software as well. However, manual counting definitely has its challenges, in both validity and time spent.

Reasons for collecting statistics included making collection decisions about what to buy and what to weed, assessing staffing levels, evaluating staff, justifying funding, demonstrating productivity, and making information available to many of the stakeholders for our organizations.

The second day turned toward the assessment component. We started the morning out by discussing how we use the statistics we collect for internal assessment activities. It is critical that we ask ourselves why we are collecting the data in the first place. Statistics can be utilized to establish production benchmarks that can be used to determine staffing needs and/or training priorities. It is difficult to compare different libraries so many establish internal benchmarks.

We also discussed reporting. Many of us issue reports and include statistics in those reports. Reports and statistics can be used to highlight accomplishments as well as trends from year to year. North Carolina State University posts their statistics on the open web, pointing out that potential recruits can get an informed sense of the technical services operations from such information. Many of us are issuing reports to collection development librarians and/or to fulfill accreditation reporting needs.

Discussion on reporting inevitably turned toward discussing the impact or value of technical services. Assessment is turning into demonstrating the value of services to various stakeholders (Megan Oakleaf, The Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report (Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2010. Available at www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/issues/value/val_report.pdf). How well do our statistics and reports do that? Demonstrating value can be done, but it can also be more challenging particular when trying to demonstrate technical services value to stakeholders outside the library. Technical services can demonstrate the value of services internally by educating other library departments on technical services through tours, cross-training, open houses and orientations.

The moderators thank Kristin Martin for her support as e-forum coordinator, and the participants for a thought-provoking discussion, and for some great ideas to consider moving forward.