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ALCTS Technical Services Directors of Large Research Libraries Discussion Group 1998 Annual Conference (Washington, D.C.)

June 26, 1998
9:30 AM-12:3O PM
Library of Congress
Mumford Room

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 Washington, DC meeting see


  1. Opening remarks/ announcements, introductions - John Lubans, Chair
  2. Election of Chair-Elect - Catherine Tierney, Incoming Chair, presiding
  3. "What's bugging Mike?" Technical Services Leadership Issues
    1. Retention policies: the joys of de-accessioning
    2. Responsibilities for and expectations of electronic "publications"
  4. Break
  5. Electronic publications: a conversation with Kate Wittenberg, Editor in Chief, Columbia University Press, and David Millman, Academic Information Systems, Columbia University Libraries
  6. Project to analyze technical services costs, inter-institutionally; Christian Boissonnas reporting
  7. Audience input about Technical Services leadership issues
  8. Year 2000 barometer on your campus
  9. Adjournment


  1. Opening remarks/ announcements, introductions - John Lubans, Chair

  2. Election of Chair-Elect - Catherine Tierney, Incoming Chair, presiding

    Lee Leighton, UC Berkeley was unanimously chosen to be Chair-Elect.

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

    1. Retention policies: the joys of de-accessioning

      Mike Bruer said that his question about de-accessioning has several sources, including Nicholson Baker's article in the New Yorker on withdrawals from the San Francisco Public Library and a letter to the President of NYPL from a book-dealer about material getting out of that library and into the hands of others such as himself (material that had been withdrawn after being microformed). The question has grown into a larger one: Is there a difference between accessioned and owned? A member of Congress (who shall remain nameless) is understood to be preparing legislation that would make it almost impossible for research libraries to get rid of anything. Under what circumstances is it legitimate to dispose of material? What means of disposal are legitimate? He emphasized that this is something we may all need to deal with.

      In response to a question from Brian Schottlaender (UCLA) Mike said that NYPL routinely discards originals after micro reproduction unless the original has intrinsic artifactual value. In response to another question from Brian Schottlaender he said the potential legislation would apply to gifts as well as purchases.

      Brian Schottlaender asked what grounds the potential legislation was predicated on? What was the logic behind it? That a research library is supposed to keep everything?

      John Lubans (Duke): Does the public think we should keep everything? In his opinion most people don't think much about that question but a few individuals have a reactionary view of the matter. Brian Schottlaender said the cultural heritage argument says that libraries in the AGGREGATE are responsible for preserving the aggregate heritage, not that each library has to preserve everything.

      Judith Nadler (Chicago) suggested that collection development policies should state the library's policy for removing material. Mike responded that NYPL has a new 25 or so page policy that is much more conservative than its predecessor. It will need to be accompanied by a statement of Policy and Principle, and then by specific procedures.

      Sharon Clark (Illinois) asked if there is New York state law that governs such matters as there is in Illinois. The answer was Yes; institutions in New York State must first offer material to all other state institutions that might want it.

      Bob Wolven (Columbia) suggested that the feeling behind the proposed legislation probably is that libraries are wasting public money when they discard material that might have been sold. Mike said NYPL is doing a survey of a sample of material discarded in the past and having Christie's or Sotheby's value it. Early indications are that most of the stuff that has been discarded, as we would have assumed, is of a routine and essentially valueless nature.

      Return to Agenda

    2. Responsibilities for and expectations of electronic "publications"

      Michael Kaplan (Indiana) and Brian Schottlaender (UCLA) were the presenters of this topic. Brian said the major issue in his view has to do with input streams. He spends inordinate amounts of time coordinating 'acquisition' of such material, reviewing licenses, talking to the right people about IP addresses, getting resources on webspace, publicity, etc. Many decisions are now being made by those external to university; more and more people are getting involved in the process and there is need to keep them all informed.

      Michael Kaplan asked who in your organization is responsible for electronic publications? One or several people? Do you maintain a legal review? By whom, with what background? What is meant by 'cataloging' for electronic resources? Indiana University has a project to acquire about 1100 ejournals. What if you later decide not to keep all of them? The Peak Project which was predicted to provide input about user behavior on full-text journals has not provided the level of information that had been hoped, at least to date. In general, he feels the need to put one person in charge.

      Sally Sinn (NAL) said this question is taking more of her time than anticipated. NAL uses a team of public and technical services staff. They are taking a detached view towards cataloging. Users are having no problem finding ejournal text without catalog records. NAL's primary interest is in connecting Agricola database (which indexes the material) to the electronic texts.

      Beacher Wiggins (LC) said that LC is developing a model. LC had internal staff work with a contractor to see what all the pieces of the question are. The final report from the contractor and group, submitted in late 1997, included a list of recommendations. One major recommendation was to create a position for an 'electronic czar' to have oversight over all aspects of dealing with electronic materials. Questions to be addressed include: Who will report to the czar? What will be the copyright implications? Budget implications? Collection development guidelines? Cataloging issues? LC is currently drafting a budget initiative for FY1999 to encompass these identified needs.

      Judith Nadler (Chicago). At Chicago they think e-publications activity falls into four aspects or categories:

      1. Selection and licensing is done by Collection Development; the Head of Reference is also involved.
      2. Organization and access, including metadata is the responsibility of technical services.
      3. Interpretation and distribution falls to the Head of Reference.
      4. Local digitization projects are suggested by individuals and departments.

      They need good coordination among these.

      Carol Diedrichs (OSU) said that OSU has been heavily involved in the licensing aspects, with much of the work delegated to the Head of Serials who is working with University Counsel. The Head of Serials has educated the University Counsel about libraries. The University Counsel has indicated that the Head of Serials now has the skills of a paralegal in this area. University policy is that if you sign a contract you are responsible for your own legal fees.

      Jeffrey Horrell (Harvard) described Harvard's digital initiative infrastructure. There is a Digital Acquisitions Coordinator who will be responsible for licensing and renewals and the position was just filled by Ivy Anderson. Robin Wendler is serving in the position responsible for metadata and Steve Chapman holds the reformatting position. A position devoted to digital archiving will be developed and recruited for in the not to distant future.

      Lee Leighton said that Berkeley set up an organization structure similar to Chicago's but after a reorganization it didn't work so well. People have taken it upon themselves to learn as much as they can.

      Beth Warner said that Michigan has had a Digital Library for several years. They have moved from having everyone involved to having things funnelled through a few teams to more decentralization through creation of teams with technical services representation. The team decides what level of cataloging is needed for various categories of electronic materials. Michigan decided to put everything in catalog as well as to create a special database of e-materials for people who want only e-materials and who need to be informed of local web pages.

      Joan Swanekamp said that Yale has had a fair amount of experience over the last several years. As to notification: Ann Okerson and her staff inform library staff of all new electronic resources through an electronic discussion list; they are also listed on a webpage. Yale has been entering their records for web cataloging for several years.

      Sally Sinn (NAL) said that one problem is dealing with purchasing officers.

      Larry Alford that at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) they make vendors compete with each other. This is done more by discussion and negotiation rather than through formal purchasing agreements.

      Duane Arenales (NLM) said that they have been concentrating on the input stream. Perhaps for the next Big Heads meeting (Philadelphia) we could combine this with Mike Bruer's retention issue to discuss questions relating to access and preservation. Perhaps we need to revive the old idea of a National Periodicals Center and to create a National Electronics Center.

      John Lubans , in noting how rapidly things change in the electronics area, offered this definition: A geek year is 90 days.

      Return to Agenda

  4. Break

  5. Electronic publications: a conversation with Kate Wittenberg, Editor in Chief, Columbia University Press and Director of Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO) and Chair, Library/University Press Relations, Association of American University Presses, Inc; and David Millman, Head, Academic Information Systems, Columbia University Libraries.

    The URL for CIAO is:

    Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO) is designed to be the most comprehensive source for theory and research in international affairs. It publishes a wide range of scholarship from 1991 on that includes working papers from 65 university research institutes, occasional papers series from NGOs, foundation-funded research projects, conference proceedings, journal abstracts, and books published by the CUP. The site also contains a schedule of events and links to other online resources. Each section of CIAO is updated with new material on a regular schedule. Working papers are augmented every month, as are conference proceedings. Links and resources, the schedule of events and the response files are updated weekly. New journal issues and books are added as they become available.

    CIAO is a collaborative publishing project of the CUP, the CU libraries and its Academic Information Systems, and the Faculty and Librarian Advisory Board.

    The participants share responsibilities and skills, e.g.:

    • The Press and the Libraries wrote the grant proposals
    • The Press provides content and organization
    • The Libraries' technical staff provide design, markup, server and technical support
    • The Press provides the marketing and sales staff

    The project combines traditional values with new technologies. It has high quality scholarly content, skilled acquisitions and editing, professional marketing and sales staff and infrastructure, global accessibility, rapid dissemination and updating, and interactive capability.

    CIAO Goals and future development involve evaluation of how scholars and libraries use online publications in this field and development of additional funding.

    David Millman then took over. He showed some transparencies (which can be viewed at

    He provided a description of their local work toward enabling online sites comprised of highly fragmented and distributed collections. In order to do this, they extend the notion of metadata to include "structural" information, such as the nature and relationship of small digital fragments to each other.

    Among the points he made were:

    • The product is very fragmented, consisting as it does of:
      • Books and journal issues
      • The database plus interface (CD-ROM)
      • The web-site which consists of both Content and a search engine
        • Various types of indexes
        • The catalog, a site map, manually edited, bibliographic/ MARC integration
        • Corporate image (jobs, design tricks)
        • Navigation strategy
        • Interactive conferencing, chatting
        • Evaluation of navigation: right site design?
    • Services provided to the Consumers include:
      • Key words, search engine
      • Authority of source: journal, publisher
      • Citation of papers, links to other web sites
      • Are publishers establishing naming and preservation policy?

    Mr. Millman concluded by putting fragmentation and integration into the context of metadata:

    • Descriptive metadata
      • Bibliographic records
      • Dublin Core metadata
    • Administrative metadata
      • Terms of use
      • Licensed populations
      • User identification
      • Capture and preservation of data
    • Structural metadata
      • Nature of collection
      • Navigation guidelines

    Bob Wolven said that cataloging the contents of CIAO was not difficult. They had decided to catalog all the working papers as an unanalyzed series; the same was done for the conference proceedings. Digital contents appear in more than one place and are accessible through more than one webpage. Since they lack a full holdings record capability they "kludge" together locations, the bibliographic record. One interesting challenge is keeping up with updates of CIAO materials; they need continually to monitor the site.

    Michael Kaplan (Indiana) asked how are the libraries were kept updated? Kate Wittenberg said that a monthly list of new materials is sent to everyone involved.

    Christian Boissonnas (Cornell) noted that this cataloging was add-on work for the catalogers at Columbia and asked how they determined work priorities. Bob Wolven said that they had added an Electronic Resources Cataloger and added a portion of the time of one existing staff person, a Bibliographic Resources Specialist. They gave priority to Columbia products.

    Arno Kastner (NYU) asked for more input on levels of cataloging. Bob Wolven responded that they had a single collection level bibliographic record for each of the 65 research institute. They do not analyze at the working paper level but then, they had never done so in the past either.

    Sally Sinn (NAL) asked about the purpose of the structural metadata and the ability to structure the item in various ways as contrasted with brief cataloging? Bob Wolven said they needed to decide what aggregation of images forms an item.

    Brian Schottlaender (UCLA) said that sounded as if this is the future we are all working towards. What is your thinking about archiving? Kate Wittenberg said that their licensing agreement allows for provision of a CD of all that a library has subscribed to up to the point at which they unsubscribe. Brian pointed out this implied that Columbia is taking responsibility itself for archiving. Ms.Wittenberg agreed.

    John Lubans (Duke) asked if there is tension between those who think electronic resources siphon dollars away from books and supporters of CIAO. It is a question of measuring the utility of the electronic approach.

    Kate Wittenberg wondered why she had to provide the libraries with a monthly list of the working papers added to CIAO if they are not cataloging at the working paper level.

    She noted that she gets requests for sample subscriptions from scholars at institutions that are subscribed and they didn't know. Does whether or not the project succeeds depend just as much on what people know about it as it does on providing the content?

    Mike Bruer (NYPL) noted that a real issue is getting the right publicity out to the scholars who need it. They need to provide a list of working papers on a web site with metadata added to provide keyword access.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford) asked for what percentage of the content is copyright held by individuals vs by the University? Kate Wittenberg said that the Press holds copyright to all books on CIAO (about 40 % of site); authors hold copyright to working papers.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford) asked what change Ms. Wittenberg foresaw in the balance between scholarly and commercial publishers? The answer was: Not much.

    Joan Swanekamp (Yale) asked if they will publish an evaluation of the project. Ms. Wittenberg said they submit a report to the Mellon Foundation each fall. She will ask if they can make it more widely available.

    David Millman said he would supply some data to Bob Wolven to provide to the Big Heads electronic discussion list.

    Return to Agenda

  6. Project to analyze technical services costs, inter-institutionally. Christian Boissonnas reporting

    The project involves the libraries of Cornell, Iowa State, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Missouri at St. Louis, and Vanderbilt, and is headed by Dilys Morris, Assistant Director for Technical Services at Iowa State University.

    The group is working on 4 activities:

    1. The development of cost centers and tasks applicable to a group of libraries. Tasks are customizable at the institution level.
    2. The development of a reports structure applicable to a group of research libraries.
    3. The development of software to handle data manipulations and reports. This software will not be free.
    4. The development of documentation on time and costs methodology and the use of the software now being developed.

    The project is open-ended and will include several phases. In phase 1, the current one, the cost centers and tasks involve only staff costs. Overhead and other costs (equipment, supplies, contracts) will be addressed in subsequent phases. The methodology has been tested in several of the participating institutions (twice at Cornell, once for two days and the second time for a full week). Data will be gathered in all the institutions during the same six weeks each year. The first week of the current fiscal year, chosen at randon, will be in August 1998.

    The software that is being developed has not been tested yet. It is based on the Microsoft Access database management program.

    Some basic principles agreed upon by the group are:

    1. Participants must have a common understanding of the top-level tasks. Definitional issues have been hard to resolve but this process is essentially completed.
    2. Product centers and tasks are customizable down at the option of the local institutions.
    3. The unit being measured is the title, not the volume.
    4. This effort must balance institutional needs vs. the need to compare oneself to others.

    Mike Bruer (NYPL) asked why this is being done. After all, there have been lots of similar efforts tried in the past. Once the project is done, what is one to do with the data generated?

    Christian responded that he liked dealing with numbers; that he believes it is important to cost the things we do; and that this is worth a try.

    Judith Nadler (Chicago) said she thought comparing times is more important than comparing costs (latter vary by levels of staff, local costs, etc.) The data collected would be useful in determining whether to outsource an activity. She thinks the definitions will be very valuable. She asked if effort would be expanded to cover other activities within libraries? Christian agreed that it was important to record times as well as costs, but he could not answer the question about what activities beyond technical services might be involved. Right now this has been conceived and is being implemented as a technical services project.

    Mike Bruer (NYPL) said that comparing times can also be comparing apples and oranges, depending on different local processing structures.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford) said this data would provide a benchmark that could be used after outsourcing.

    Christian Boissonnas said that the comparative institutional approach is one thing. The really important piece is understanding the various components within your own institution. Why do we spend so much time on this or that activity? Why is this category of staff doing this? In short, it is a management tool.

    Bob Wolven (Columbia) asked how they were coping with the fact that many costs cannot be attributed to staff? Christian said he had dealt with that by apportioning non-staff costs to the staff cost centers.

    Return to Agenda

  7. Audience input about Technical Services leadership issues

    Dilys Morris (Iowa State) said they had been doing time/cost studies at Iowa State for 13 years; they have been expanded and improved since the group project began. She agreed that time is a more important factor than costs. It has proved to be a remarkable management tool. She has used it to show that technical services have increased productivity, etc. It has facilitated getting positions reclassified. Her son, a software engineer, is developing the software.

    Chris Filstrup (North Carolina State University) He asked about general practice of pushing this paralegal work related to electronic publications licensing into middle management such as Head of Acquisitions instead of University Counsel?
    Catherine Tierney (Stanford) said that until recently all contracts at Stanford had to be signed by University Procurement; now it can be done in the Library Director's office.
    Christian Boissonnas (Cornell) said he didn't spend any time on that stuff; his Acquisitions Librarian does all the licensing and signs all contracts.
    Sally Sinn (NAL) said that work is being pushed down to lower levels but is providing more work for all involved.
    Brian Schottlaender (UCLA) said he sends very little to campus counsel. He does much of that work himself in his other role as Head of Collection Development.

    Karen Hsu (NYPL) asked Bob Wolven whether Columbia provided MARC records in the catalog for CIAO material or only as embedded metadata in CIAO? She noted that NYPL provides collection level records in the catalog with 856 links to individual items. She said that some divisions there feel very strongly that they need individual item records, eg., for each piece on a sound recording.
    Dilys Morris said that Iowa State has established an Electronic Resources coordinator position. They use MARC records and put them into an access database to create the web page. They capitalize on the MARC record. They use this approach to stop everyone in library from creating their own web pages.
    Bob Wolven asked what can publishers do about providing metadata? What do you mean about item level? Working paper, chapter in book, image?

    Catherine Tierney asked for audience suggestions for future Big Heads topics. John Lubans said to send them to his email address:

    Return to Agenda

  8. Year 2000 barometer on your campus.

    A quick look around the table showed that, generally, this is no problem. Sally Sinn said that financial systems are experiencing more of a problem than are catalogs.

    NAL is still investigating.

    Robin Fradenburgh said that the University of Texas at Austin anticipates some problems.

    Lee Leighton (Berkeley) said that the catalog is OK but that the University as a whole faces problems.

    NYPL requires all suppliers to contract in writing that everything supplied is Y2K compliant.

    Illinois expects to be OK with its new DRA TAOS integrated library system.

    Here are the URLs for the University of Michigan Year2000 and other related sites:

    Return to Agenda

  9. Adjournment: 12.31 pm.