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ALCTS Technical Services Directors of Large Research Libraries Discussion Group 1998 Midwinter Meeting (New Orleans, LA)

January 9, 1998
9:30 AM-12:30 PM
Hilton Riverside
Grand Salon 15,18

Recorded by Judith Hopkins, University at Buffalo

For the text of the Round Robin on issues of concern to these institutions, which was distributed via the Big Heads electronic discussion list in the weeks prior to the New Orleans meeting see


  1. Opening remarks/ announcements - Chair (John Lubans)
  2. "What's bugging Mike?" Technical Services Leadership Issues
    1. Preservation
    2. The Program for Cooperative Cataloging
    3. Technical Services future
  3. Break
  4. Audience input about Technical Services Leadership Issues
  5. Update on Dublin Core - Metadata and discussion of implications for research libraries
  6. Adjournment


  1. Opening remarks/ announcements - Chair (John Lubans)

  2. "What's bugging Mike?" Technical Services Leadership Issues

    1. Preservation: Where is it all going? How do we track preservation issues? What is Technical Services' role in this fundamental information issue? Big Heads actions to take?

      Mike Bruer (NYPL) said he had been asked by Wendy Thomas, editor of Microform & Imaging Review, to write an article on digital preservation. Among the points he makes are: There is an unseemly rush to digital imaging at the expense of a more balanced approach to preservation (Some comments he has heard: "Digital imaging is too important to be left to preservationists!" "Digital Imaging is about access." as though that were not what preservation was all about.) He holds that digital imaging is a preservation tool, one that is as integral to library services as are cataloging and reference, it is not an end in itself.

      Judy Nadler (University of Chicago): asked why he feels there is not a balanced preservation program?

      Mike Bruer: It is not that there are NO balanced preservation programs, but that balanced preservation programs are being compromised by (among other things) the fact that money is available for digital imaging but not for other preservation activities.

      Christian M. Boissonnas (Cornell): How many institutions have money for preservation in their regular budgets instead of depending on special resources?

      Mike Bruer: That is the fundamental problem: too many institutions do not allocate ordinary budgetary funds to ordinary preservation activities (at least not nearly enough is allocated). The tendency is to treat preservation differently from acquisitions or cataloging. A case in point: since the 80s at NYPL money has been available for "special projects" which included cleaning of the collection. As special project funding dried up so did the money for cleaning which should be a regular part of the preservation activities.

      Bob Wolven (Columbia): The importance of crafting the balance is something we need to monitor. Preservation microfilming has a well developed management infrastructure which is lacking for the Digital Imaging projects.

      Duane Arenales (NLM): said that NLM has had an institutional preservation program for years. Digital Imaging, while exciting, will require even more funds. With print we have a choice of preservation means. With electronic publications the problems will be much greater.

      Catherine Tierney (Stanford): As individuals we have tracked these issues as part of the library community but it is difficult to keep track of what various organizations, inside and outside of the library community, are doing. Can Big Heads as a group track the issues and where they are going?

      Roxanne Sellberg said that the Northwestern program, which is not part of Technical Services, includes a wide variety of programs. She observed that digitization projects seem to present more collection building issues than other types of preservation activities in the past.

      Judith Nadler (University of Chicago): As at Northwestern, preservation at Chicago is not part of Technical Services (nor part of Collection Development.) It is a separate program with both internal and external sources of funding. An Administrative Committee discusses budgetary considerations for library programs, including the preservation program.

      Sharon Clark: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has an integrated and collaborative preservation program. Digitization has not matured yet; it comes from a specialization outside of librarianship. She is concerned with quality control; it is important to tap the real expertise that is outside of the library community.

      Lee Leighton: The University of California at Berkeley has a well-established preservation program which is almost entirely externally funded.

      John Lubans: Duke has no formal preservation program, however the establishment of one is seen as a key need in their strategic planning. He referred to a German study ("Digitization as a method of preservation:" Final report of a working group of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Association) by Hartmut Weber and Marianne Dorr. Washington, D.C. : Committee on Preservation and Access, October 1997 [OCLC record number 37924067]) on digitization as a means of access. It concluded that microfilm is the preferred medium for storage while digitization is preferred for document delivery.

      Brian Schottlaender said that UCLA had just eliminated its preservation unit as part of a budget cut. The quo was not cost efficient for the quid provided.

      Brian is not convinced that having others deal with a problem is unsatisfactory, AS LONG AS WE ARE INVOLVED. The costs of the care and feeding of print and microfilm collections will be nothing compared to the costs involved in preserving digital collections. No-one is doing anything about the RLG report on this topic.

      Bob Wolven (Columbia) said that a place where we can put our efforts is the Digital Library Federation where Don Waters now is.

      Beacher Wiggins (LC): At the Library of Congress, preservation activities are administratively combined in the service unit, i.e., department, that has responsibility for technical services. Preservation is recognized in its own right by being designated a separate directorate. The Preservation Directorate plays a vital role in LC's approach to preservation in its various manifestations. Certainly, digital imaging is not the primary focus; it is one among several, including microfilming, binding, phased conservation, research and testing, and deacidification.

      There is the separate National Digital Library initiative that involves digitizing various elements of the Library's collections for sharing our collections beyond the Library. The Preservation Directorate interfaces with these digitization activities.

      Beth Warner (University of Michigan) emphasized the importance of the long term issues of standardization, including standards for the bibliographic access of digital materials.

      Mike Bruer (NYPL): While there are some balanced preservation programs there are many others that are not and the rush to digital imaging is a symptom of that. The NEH Brittle Books program is an example of this imbalance. Although there is no denying that the Brittle Books program is dealing with an important issue, nevertheless many institutions are finding that other reformatting needs are going begging because the NEH funding does not include them in its plan. There is relative ease in getting funds for "sexy" programs like digital imaging. We should not need to attract funds for mainstream library activities, including preservation. We need to solve the problems and fund the solutions ourselves, rather than depend on others outside librarianship. This is not to deny that others are doing useful work, but we need to focus on providing routine preservation support from internal sources and to strive harder to establish and maintain truly balanced programs.

      Return to Agenda

    2. The Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC): What do we do to make it a success? What commitments must we make? Big Head actions to take?

      Catherine Tierney (Stanford): If we can't make PCC work, we should all lose our jobs!

      Judith Nadler (Chicago) said that it was her impression that PCC was generally considered a success. She wondered how those who didn't think so defined success.

      Christian Boissonnas (Cornell): If a library hasn't become a BIBCO participant how can it say it is truly participating in PCC?

      Arno Kastner said that NYU is not a BIBCO member. He is not yet sure that it is a worthwhile investment. He feels that it adds another level of cataloging management and he is yet to be convinced that it will increase productivity.

      Jane Ouderkirk (Harvard) said that the PCC program needs to be flexible enough to support efficient workflows within its member libraries, particularly as it relates to authority work. If we support another program that suffocates under its own weight the way the NCCP did, THEN we should lose our jobs.

      Joan Swanekamp (Yale): If we can accept PCC records as we do LC, it will make a difference. Many of us are still re-working them.

      Judith Nadler (University of Chicago): The benefit of the PCC program will occur if we can accept other libraries' cataloging. At Chicago they do not contribute everything. One problem is that local catalogers may not understand how other libraries use these records; they use BIBCO records pretty much as they do non-BIBCO ones and assume other libraries do as well. They need to understand how BIBCO records differ from other shared cataloging records. We need to have more information on the impact that use of BIBCO records has on local workflows.

      Duane Arenales (NLM):

      Brian Schottlaender said that UCLA is increasing the amount of triage by which materials are streamed in one direction or other with the aim of sending more material to Rapid Cataloging. Public Services are providing evidence of the value of PCC records; core records are providing sufficient for the end users. Public Services prefer receiving more records, at core level, than fewer but full records. The rare exceptions are in special formats.

      Christian Boissonnas (Cornell): We don't have a whole lot of facts, just some facts and some impressions after almost one full year of core level cataloging. 72% of our original cataloging meets PCC standards, and 67% of that is at the core level. Cornell has retrained staff to catalog digital materials.

      Rhoda Kesselman (Princeton) is authorities librarian there. Princeton was one of the earliest NACO contributors and is still the largest contributor outside of LC. But they are not a BIBCO library because of some problems they have with the technical requirements. At the present time it would be too burdensome for them to meet the requirement that all series decisions match those of LC since they have local series authority records in their local system, and many of their series decisions have historically differed from those of LC.

      Sally Sinn (NAL): There is more to PCC than BIBCO. In addition to building a national resource of shared bibliographic and authority records, the Program, through the work of its operations and standing committees has influenced bibliographic standards development and the development of automated solutions and improvements, as well as providing outreach and training to catalogers.

      Brian Schottlaender (UCLA): Those of us who are committed to the BIBCO portion of PCC are moving more slowly than we had expected because many of our catalogers are not comfortable doing NACO work.

      Mike Kaplan (Indiana): While we have discussed more and better, one of things we haven't addressed is faster. Timeliness is a crucial factor if we want to use BIBCO records in copy cataloging. The number and amount of use of BIBCO records has to be a measure for the value of the PCC program.

      Arno Kastner (NYU): What are our cataloging departments doing with BIBCO records? Are they being sent along a fast track? Are we evaluating them? Or have we created another category to evaluate?

      Bob Wolven (Columbia): It doesn't make much difference because we haven't made much of a study of copy cataloging records as a whole.

      Rhoda Kesselman: Princeton has benefitted from the NACO program. They don't have to do any authority work on LC copy (which forms more than half of their copy cataloging) except verify series against their local decisions. Yet they can still have consistent authority control since they catalog against the same authority file as LC. Their NACO statistics have dropped slightly while their cataloging statistics have been going up because more and more libraries are contributing authority records through NACO.

      Roxanne Sellberg (Northwestern): In response to an earlier question about why PCC records are any better than other records available for copy cataloging, Sellberg emphasized that BIBCO records have authority records for every heading in a national database. That makes those BIBCO records easier to use and maintain, either by local staff effort or through the services of an authority control vendor.

      Return to Agenda

  3. A break occurred at this point. When the group re-assembled there was an agenda change to focus next on item 5 of the agenda (Update on the Dublin Core) before returning to the third of the Technical Services leadership items: the future of Technical Services.

  4. Update on Dublin Core - Metadata. Discussion of their implications for research libraries.

    Bob Wolven (Columbia) distributed two handouts related to the Columbia University Master Metadata File Project. There will be an ALCTS/LITA institute on metadata at Georgetown University in May 1998 (

    The whole Dublin Core movement started out as an effort to identify a set of core elements needed to identify electronic resources and make them available. It was never intended to be a replacement for library cataloging. Based on the recognition that the World-Wide-Web was growing faster than libraries could deal with, it was designed to allow various web engines to discover and retrieve documents.

    Further elaboration of the Dublin Core occurred at later meetings. Rights and permissions metadata information resulted from the 2nd Dublin Core conference (the so-called "Warwick stage"). Syntax (how to encode data elements in some useable scheme) followed.

      Other aspects that are new receiving attention:
    • Elaboration and refinement of original Dublin Core elements
    • A series of working groups resulting from the Helsinki conference on the Dublin Core [the fifth such conference] are working on: sub-elements, definitions, relation type, format for use types, etc.[for information on the Dublin Core see:; for information on the Resource Description Framework (a new specification for extended Web metadata, the first draft of which was presented at Helsinki), see:, and for RDF metadata activity, see:]
    • There are projects using the Dublin Core in Australia, the UK, and Germany but only a few in the US. Work on the Dublin Core is concentrated in institutions of higher learning but not in libraries per se. OCLC maintains the list of Dublin Core elements at:

    Metadata work at Columbia. Columbia is taking a somewhat different approach from the Dublin Core. They are concentrating on developing an SQL database (Columbia Master Metadata File) but are not yet using the Dublin Core because the projects they were dealing with required treatment in ways that had not yet been developed as part of the Dublin Core at the time they had started. They needed to bring in structural and administrative metadata and they were dealing with projects over which they had very little control.

    Bob concluded by saying he hopes there will be some congruence between these two approaches.

    John Lubans (Duke) referred to the Mellon-funded CIAO (Columbia International Affairs Online) initiative from the Columbia University Press. This is a conglomerate of over 50 international affairs societies with plans to publish preprints, ejournals, books, as well as providing sites for reader feedback. They hope to try many different things and see how they work. The question for research libraries is how will we facilitate access to sources like this. Lincoln Ellis is the Editor in Chief and he is hoping that libraries will begin to use the URLs he is providing for each item. [later insertion: To see CIAO on the web, look at There is also an informative article on "Redefining Scholarship in Cyberspace" on p. 18 of the most recent (December 1997?) issue of the YPB publication: "Yankee Newsletter", that explains CIAO and what it is trying to do.]

    Judith Nadler (U of Chicago): Who should be involved?

    Bob Wolven (Columbia): The partners are very wide-spread: Library administrators, academic computer centers, content providers, commercial sector.

    Lee Leighton (Berkeley) said he had attended the Helsinki meeting on the Dublin Core [Oct. 6-8, 1997]. He had been interested in watching the political process involved in seeing another standard developing, one that was looking for a place to be legitimized. ALA will need to take it into account.

    Brian Schottlaender (UCLA) said he was glad to hear that catalogers were present at Helsinki. He has heard the Dublin Core referred to as CIP for digital data and wondered how it will be used.

    Lee Leighton (Berkeley): Libraries have MARC which is more elaborate but doesn't do as well as the Dublin Core with showing relationships.

    Brian Schottlaender (UCLA) said he wonders about the need to massage input data before outputting into MARC or other outputs.

    Bob Wolven (Columbia): Massaging is usually needed. The process is not as transparent as the handout might make it appear.

    Return to Agenda

    2. c. Technical Services future: Five years out, what's Technical Services going to look like? What's changed? Where are we on the S-shaped organizational growth and decline curve? What's the next "growth curve"? What are our core skills carried forward, and what new skills must we acquire? Big Heads actions steps?

    Mike Bruer (NYPL) gave a historical perspective, describing how it was forecast that various library functions would disappear because of this and that. Despite changes in systems environments and new technologies, nothing is going to wither away and disappear. One of the lessons of technology is that almost everything "new" ends up as add-on, not replacement.

    Judith Nadler (U of Chicago): A good motto is to quickly assess what is needed and to make yourself indispensable to doing it. Philosophy and outlook are more important than skills; the latter can be taught. We should focus on what we want to do rather than on how we have been doing whatever we do.

    Christian M. Boissonnas (Cornell): Whatever technical services work looks like in the future it will be there and we should be the ones to do it.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford): We need to get the best staff and to apply the best business rigor in applying technology. We need to balance business needs and the academic role of our institutions. She is getting managers who can handle process even if their functions are disappearing. Our core skills are that we handle details and process well; we are still needed.

    Mike Bruer (NYPL): Technology is just a tool; it isn't taking over our work. We make use of it, not the other way around; it is not a threat to our functioning. As far as change is concerned there is "nothing new under the sun."

    Rhoda Kesselman (Princeton): There is room in technical services for developing the skills and standards necessary to adapt techniques for bibliographic control to materials in digital form. There is work to be done by Technical Services in organizing web-based materials and presenting them to users in proper perspective, as they relate to the total universe of library resources.

    Arno Kastner (NYU): Things have changed and will continue to change. Our business is processing and will continue to be so but will be more on the level of metadata than on copy or even original cataloging for books.

    Christian M. Boissonnas (Cornell): We are not in the business of processing but rather in the business of providing information to users. Processing is just a part of that. The nature of library work is changing in such a way that it requires us to change, to become less departmentalized. The term "processing" is misleading; our work is much more than that.

    Joan Swanekamp (Yale): One of the things we need to do to ensure that we have the right people in the right places is to recruit the right people. Library school directors don't think of cataloging as an area with a future.

    Sharon Clark (Univ. of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana) said she agreed with Joan. Pools for Technical Services positions are noticeably smaller than those for public services positions. Illinois has an aging staff; they are looking for people just starting their careers. With new client-server based systems how they are serving their users changes so much that training becomes a large part of their time. They need to be pro-active in recruiting for technical services positions; they also need to work with Public Services.

    Return to Agenda

    4. Audience participation:

    John Attig (Penn State): The earlier discussion of PCC focussed on global issues. There needs to be, as a complement, a focus on more specialized topics, e.g, a group of catalogers who are getting together to produce faster, better.

    Martin Joachim (Indiana): With BIBCO they find they need over 100,000 authority records to do their cataloging; they find existing authority records for about 95%. They do NACO authority work for all original cataloging; he urged others to do the same.

    Robin Wendler (Harvard): Brian Schottlaender made a remark about Dublin Core records serving as a form of CIP. Although envisioned as a very general, universal data element set, to date the Dublin Core has been implemented only in community-specific databases in ways which stretch the semantics of the defined elements perhaps out of all recognition. What we do not yet have is any proof of semantic interoperability between different "pools" of Dublin Core data, which will have to be demonstrated before Dublin Core data can be systematically integrated into library processing as source data.

    Sally Tseng (UC-Irvine) said she was fascinated by digitization. The Dublin Core would be one way for us to provide a standard access to Internet materials.

    Ganga Dakshinamurti (University of Manitoba) agreed that Technical Services will have to align itself with public services to determine what users really need.

    Christian Boissonnas (Cornell): When Cornell next hires it probably will not be "just" a cataloger but rather someone who will be expected to work on multiple professional activities. Some catalogers are already doing this. They have taken on responsibilities in collection development, the management of special projects, and for the Central Technical Services website.

    Brian Schottlaender (UCLA): ALCTS is concerned with the graying of profession.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford): The investment in cataloging in BIBCO is not insignificant. Expertise in our core Technical Services mission will need to be balanced with expertise in reference and collection development. We (technical services staff) have been rigorous in our thinking; how rigorous are the reference staff, she wondered.

    Ganga Dakshinamurti (University of Manitoba): We need forums in which the two groups talk to each other and get a better understanding of WHY we do the things we do and how does that relate to satisfying needs of users, many of whom are searching the Internet in preference to searching catalogs.

    Mike Bruer (NYPL): As I said earlier, virtually nothing is new. In the 1940s Frank Lundy's staff at the University of Nebraska was concerned about over-specialization and instituted programs to cross-train staff.

    Return to Agenda

    6. The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.