ALCTS Technical Services Directors of Large Research Libraries Discussion Group (Big Heads)

January 9, 2004 ; 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
San Diego Convention Center, Room 6D

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 San Diego meeting, see


  1. Welcome, Introductions, Announcements 9:30am
  2. Use of international MARC records (Bob Wolven) 9:40am
  3. Foreign vendor records for acquisitions and cataloging (Arno Kastner) 10:00am
  4. Backlogs that never get addressed: ARL’s Special Collections Task Force Symposium on Exposing Hidden Collections (Beth Russell, Head of Special Collections Cataloging, OSU) 10:30am

Break (15 minutes) 11:00am

  1. Challenges and strategies to meet them (Judi Nadler) 11:20am
  2. Marketing our own services: Cornell’s DCAPS (Karen Calhoun) 12:15am



  1. Welcome, introductions and announcements. Arno Kastner, Chair)

    Introductions. Arno said that in 2004 Big Heads will need to re-calculate its membership; he will appoint a task group to do so.

    Larry Alford announced that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be withdrawing from Science Select.

  2. Use of international MARC records (a topic that came up at PCC Policy Committee) : 9:45am

  3. Bob Wolven (Columbia) said that both utilities (OCLC and RLG) had created connections with foreign databases with full catalog records but they aren’t being used. He wondered why we aren't using them as a source of catalog copy or as sources for original cataloging. He asked if there are different ways we can look at them to make these sources of catalog records more useful. Several possible reasons for their lack of use were put forward. Sally Sinn (NAL) asked if any information is available as to how much use has been made of these foreign bib records. Bob Wolven said it might be desirable to search these databases to find out for what percentage of a library's material records are found there. Joan Swanekamp said that a few years ago Yale had used the CURL ([British] Consortium of University Research Libraries) RLG link but hadn’t found much to make it worthwhile. Not much copy was found and that which was found needed manipulating. Judi Nadler (University of Chicago) asked whether there wasn’t a resource discovery value for collection development that would justify use of these records. Beacher Wiggins said that while LC doesn’t have a workflow in place to use these records, some individual catalogers do use them. He agreed with Bob Wolven that we need to step back and study their use. J.Hopkins asked if these databases just contained records for current materials: the answer was No, they contained records for everything.

    Bob Wolven said that we have no idea about what constitutes an acceptable record in these databases, we have no model for their use, for the mix of copy cataloging and original cataloging they contain. American libraries might be willing to accept notes in the vernacular languages of the inputting libraries but we would need to upgrade the records by adding English language subject headings. Arno Kastner (NYU) summarized the discussion by saying analysis of the records in these databases is needed.

    Cynthia Clark said that the NYPL has lots of foreign language backlogs and it might be useful to search their backlogs against these databases to see how many matches they might find. Joan Swanekamp (Yale) said this approach of searching database after database to find copy flies in the face of existing guidelines for catalogers to encourage them to know when to stop searching. She believed that significant results are needed from these international databases to make changes in existing work habits worthwhile. It was agreed that this discussion would be continued at lunch.

  4. Foreign vendor records for acquisitions and cataloging (Kastner)

    Arno Kastner(NYU) reported that the Italian vendor Casalini Libri is starting to enhance its records by providing LC classification and LC subject headings. Princeton had said in its round robin report that they are making use of these records ( Bielawski (Princeton) said Princeton has been using Casalini cataloging records for about 6 months. 99% of Casalini approval books are now cataloged immediately upon receipt. The Casalini records do vary somewhat from AACR2 and from LC practice. 80% of main entries are already established in the NAF (National Authority File) but Series entries don’t always conform to LC practice. Some quirks are also found in the record leader, 043 field, and in the note fields. Work with the Casalini records is assigned to a high level support staff member who is trained to deal with these quirks. Call numbers, especially for literary figures, don’t always match what Princeton would use. The cost is about $3-$4 per record. (Perry Scott, Budget & Reporting, Acquisitions Department, University of Chicago, said from the audience that the cost is 2.80 euros per record).

    Judi Nadler (University of Chicago) said that the Casalini records are very good with a good depth of subject cataloging. Karen Calhoun (Cornell) agreed that the Casalini records are excellent and said she would like to see other vendor records reach this level. Cornell uses Casalini records in its Classification and Receipt workcycle. They pay about $6000 a year for them and consider them a bargain. They do less tweaking of the records then Princeton does. Several people said they would like Harrassowitz to follow the Casalini approach.

    Arno Kastner said that if Casalini improved their records (in terms of series entries, etc.) the records would cost more and wondered if the added cost would be worth our while. Judi Nadler said it would be desirable to review such upgraded records to see if we could fit them into our workflows of dealing with acceptable records without recycling or tweaking. Arno pointed out that Casalini is a business and would need some assurance that libraries would be willing to buy more expensive records. Catherine Tierney (Stanford) spoke about YBP+ in-process records which Stanford uses. Duane Arenales (NLM) said we need to ask ourselves hard questions before we agree to pay more for tweaking of records. Are the existing records good enough on the whole? Arno Kastner asked Marvin Bielawski to provide a full report on Princeton’s use of the Casalini records and of the enhancements it believes still are needed. The rest of the Big Heads could then study the report and determine if they need records which are even more upgraded. Princeton's use of Casalini cataloging records

    Gary Houk of OCLC (which isn't acquiring the enhanced records, only the basic Casalini vendor records) wondered if the basic records are still needed. Marvin Bielawski thought that the brief records are still valuable for acquisitions purposes. He pointed out that Princeton receives the enhanced Casalini records along with the materials they describe so that the material can then be cataloged immediately without any database searching. Someone said it would be greatly helpful to have OCLC or RLG purchase the enhanced records. Catherine Tierney (Stanford) asked if anyone on the collections side had done any overlap studies on how much overlap there was in the collections that various libraries get from Casalini. Gary Houk said perhaps OCLC needs to acquire the enhanced records instead of minimal. Karen Smith Yoshimura said RLG could ask vendors to supply enhanced records instead of minimal ones.

  5. Backlogs that never get addressed: ARL’s Special Collections Task Force Symposium on Exposing Hidden Collections

    Beth Russell, Head of Special Collections Cataloging at Ohio State University, described some of the outcomes of the ARL Symposium (held Sept. 8-9, 2003 at LC) and what OSU is planning to do as follow-up. The Symposium addressed the challenge of providing access to uncataloged and unprocessed archival, manuscript, and rare books materials. Over 190 people attended. For the conference summary go to ( Traditionally, access to these materials hasn’t been to a level we would expect. Ms. Russell attended two break out sessions:
    1. Weigh carefully the balance between the level of processing and cataloging an item and the impact on public service staff. Materials that are described are more easily findable, and thus usable, by local and remote users. How to make people aware of materials that aren’t in the catalog? How to make use of cataloger tools such as controlled vocabulary?
    2. Strike a better balance between resources expended to acquire materials and those expended in processing them. There was general acceptance of the idea that a library's primary responsibility is to get the material whenever it can. There was interest in getting real numbers on what it costs to catalog these various types of collections. Perhaps we can get donors to contribute to processing costs.

      There were two take-home messages:

      • Tension between cooperative and local action.
      • Pilot surveys of 3 collections in highly different areas; attempts to get inventories of unprocessed materials.

      Ms. Russell said that at OSU they do circulate some unprocessed archival collections. They will try to map the accession records to MARC to minimize human intervention. They have the ability to link brief records that curators have maintained for control purposes to web sites. Catherine Tierney (Stanford) asked if OSU is strategically looking at federated searching so that they don’t have to force things into the OPAC? Beth Russell replied that OSU is studying consortial access more than the OPAC but that they still are interested in providing some sort of access through the catalog. Joyce Ogburn (University of Washington) said that Washington is using the OPAC for providing access; moving away from the use of the software called Gencat, which is a stand alone pc-based system designed for special collections. They will be using the III ILS and have found that the features of the module developed for electronic resource management will facilitate the change from using Gencat and moving to III to manage special collections' records. Washington also intends to use the electronic resource management module to input information on their digitization agreements.

      Larry Alford (U. of NC-Chapel Hill) asked how many of the Big Heads are responsible for special collections cataloging. Judi Nadler said that at the University of Chicago her area is responsible for rare books but not for manuscripts. Judi said the conference might have generated a paradigm shift; there is now much greater interest in cataloging special materials. Beth Russell commented that the problems related to providing access to these specialized materials are institutional problems and will need institutional solutions. Duane Arenales (NLM) asked if the symposium had addressed the problem of potential deterioration of these collections. Beth Russell answered that doing a preservation assessment wasn’t discussed but that that is always part of dealing with such materials. Cynthia Clark commented that the NYPL tries to have collectors take preservation into consideration when accepting collections.

      Break at 11:10 to resume at 11.25

    3. Challenges and strategies to meet them (Judi Nadler) Text provided by Judi Nadler

      PREMISE: As managers we are expected to envision the future and to develop strategies that will enable the realization of this future (strategic planning). At the same time, we are faced with the challenge of dealing with immediate realities to which solutions have to be found right now. Opportunities are potential means to meet some of these challenges, if we can recognize and take advantage of them. In the context of strategic planning, opportunities can be defined as situations that can benefit, enhance, or improve the situation of the Library.

      For the purpose of this discussion, I have grouped challenges into four clusters: 1) Challenges relating to the changing role of the library, 2) Challenges relating to digital resources, 3) Challenges relating to human resources, and 4) Challenges relating to professional competence.

      We will take these separately. I will briefly introduce each topic and give a few examples of how we deal with them at my institution. We will then open up for discussion.

      1. Challenges relating to the changing role of the library from a place where information is held and managed, to an organization that serves a broader educational role

        Libraries must work to remain relevant by creating value in their services to new generations of users. Changes in how information is taught and in how students learn, raise the expectation to expand library space to include media services, academic computing services, computer clusters and classrooms, centers for teaching and learning, and student writing centers. These expectations introduce questions about organizational structures and the benefits of alliance with other technology units on campus, and best models for building and maintaining such alliances. In most institutions there is growing collaboration among information technology and library staffs in order to meet campus needs. At my institution, developments along these lines have ranged from strategic to opportunistic.

        Building on a history of cooperation between the Library and the IT and Academic Computing units on campus, collaboration was formalized by creating several computing facilities on library premises:

        • In 1999, the USITE Computing Cluster and digital media laboratory opened on the premises of the Crerar Library. The USITE/Crerar incorporates a general computing cluster with other technology-equipped spaces such as seminar-oriented collaboration areas, a multimedia and visualization classroom, video conferencing facility, cybercafe, and digital media laboratory into a single space open to any member of the University of Chicago Community.

        • In 2002, NSIT’s (Network Services and Information Technology) Digital Media Lab moved into proximity of the Library’s recently established Digital Library Development Center. For nearly 11 years, the Digital Media Laboratory has helped faculty and researchers explore and apply emerging and established digital media technologies in research and teaching. With the addition of Chalk, the Blackboard course management system, the possibilities for incorporating new media into the curriculum has grown dramatically. Moving the Digital Media Laboratory into the Regenstein Library has further facilitated the collaboration between faculty, Library staff, and academic technology.

        • Most recently, IT has served as a consultant for the renovation of the Seminar Room in the Library’s Special Collection Research Center into a teaching environment equipped with document cameras, plasma screens, and permanent Internet connections allowing faculty to use primary resources and technology to enhance the learning experience. Periodic, joint Library and IT events highlight digital media use, production, and delivery for research and teaching, and using the room's digital media to teach with original sources. Bringing together the broad based technology perspective with subject expertise has resulted in an excellent model for a technology enhanced reading room.

        Collaborating on facilities, services, and technologies, proved to be beneficial for the Library, for IT, and for the users. Physical proximity facilitates “one stop shopping” for the users. The Library benefits from IT’s latest technology expertise; IT has learned from the philosophy of the Library, which is to focus on people, and on service, not just on technology.

        What was opportunistic and what was strategic in these developments? -- IT needed space, a very scarce commodity on campus. The Library is also running out of space, but recognized the great potential of these strategic consolidations, and said yes!

      2. Challenges relating to digital information

        These are multifold, but for the purpose of this discussion my focus is on digital preservation and archiving:

        Developing the technical and organizational infrastructure needed to insure the long-term preservation and access to electronic scholarly resources raises issues of outreach, partnering, and alliances between the Library, the University, other Information Technology units, and the commercial sector. The question of who is best equipped to carry the responsibility for capturing and preserving of digital content is challenging.

        Understanding copyright issues and regularizing and documented rights-related practices, is also a challenge.

        • We have convened an Archiving Group to explore the role of the Library in digital preservation efforts and to recommend steps to ensure that digital information with lasting value is preserved for future access. The group is working on a recommendation for a digital archiving program, including its mission and scope.

          The challenges posed by the digital materials currently coming into the University Archives, selected grey literature, born-digital library materials, and other scholarly materials such as course materials or web-base faculty projects, cannot be postponed. The University if grappling with same issues, and so are other institutions, and funding agencies, and the commercial sector. Thus, it is opportune to address these challenges now.

        • At the recommendation of the Library’s Computing Council, an Ad Hoc Copyright Group is being formed to address some near-term Library needs with regard to copyright. The group is charged to create a centralized, online resource which documents current Library copyright practices and to produce a report on areas where policies or procedures are not yet established.

      3. Challenges relating to human resources

        The challenge to transform the librarian from an information provider to a knowledge provider; from someone who merely gives access to information to someone who more actively supports the user in acquiring the needed knowledge, is a challenge.

        This is an expectation for positions across the board – access services, collection services, technical services. There is less difference now between the expectations for “back-room” and front-room” library functions. Bringing this philosophy into the areas of so-called back-room” functions is a challenge.

        Staff turn-over provides the Library with opportunities for bringing in new skills, different attitudes, different positions, and incorporating new recruitment and marketing strategies.Vacancies provide the opportunity to rethink positions and job expectations along the lines of strategic planning.

        Some examples

        • A position in Administrative Desktop Systems becomes vacant; could this responsibility be better (or equally well) carried out by systems-liaisons? (Staff from various departments who have systems expertise)

        • A position in cataloging becomes vacant (alternatives are backlogs, outsourcing, or filling). If we can fill, we should be looking for the potential to bring to the organization what cannot be outsourced: interest and ability to contribute in an environment that provides opportunities for shaping future directions; ability to carry out traditional services and to envision new services; ability to present, and teach; the potential to become an asset to the institution, and not just to the department or area of primary responsibility.

        • We need a “metadata specialist”. Do we recruit externally, or do we reshape one of our internal positions? Do we centralize metadata creation, or do we decentralize by integrating metadata responsibilities into cataloging and/or digital preservation-related positions?

      4. Challenges relating to professional competence

        How do we keep up with what we need to know? How do we help staff keep up with what they need to know? A continuous learning environment is necessary for staff at every level.

        This is probably the biggest challenge of all, because it is under our control, and we cannot expect anyone else to do it for us.

        Some examples from my institution:

        • We have created a Staff and Organization Development Librarian position. This is a new, but not an additional position to the staff. Because of the high priority assigned to it, we created this position by using a vacancy from another area.

        • We have a Staff Development and Training Committee charged to advise Personnel about staff training and development needs, as well as the implementation of a comprehensive, ongoing, Library-wide staff training and development plan. The committee acts as one of the vehicles for informing staff of training and development activities.

        • We have conducted a Staff Development and Training needs Survey.

        • We provide an extensive training and development program for library staff, including Computer training, Leadership development program, Supervisory training, Performance appraisal training, Library orientation program, and Brown Bag Lunch programs.

        • We have a Library School tuition assistance program and a UHRM/Graham School remission program.

        • We have revised and posted our policy on Training and Travel support for staff

        • We have revised and posted the Appointment and Promotion Criteria for Librarians to emphasize the expectation of individual growth and continuous learning, and the shared responsibilities of the individual and the organization to support this expectation.

        • The Library’s Strategic Planning Process (ongoing) provides opportunities for interdivisional dialog and professional growth.


        Catherine Tierney and Bob Wolven said that many of the same things are going on at Stanford and Columbia. Bob noted that the trend towards new ways of using library space creates more pressure to move materials offsite and therefore to make them accessible by scanning Tables of Contents, providing more accurate holdings records, etc. Cynthia Shelton said that UCLA has been expanding the role of the library in information literacy for undergraduates and is now working on projects to match graduate students with hidden collections of which they might be unaware and that would be of value to them. Larry Alford (UNC-Chapel Hill) mentioned the use of library labs, Instant Messaging reference sources, and the development of tutorials for information access via laptops, etc.

        Catherine Tierney said that the Stanford Cataloging Department is working on metadata development. Joyce Ogburn said that the University of Washington has a metadata development staff composed of catalogers, classified staff, and faculty; she commented that "metadata" is a word that is being used all across campus. Karen Calhoun (Cornell) agreed that more people across the library and the university are doing some metadata work. Duane Arenales (NLM) asked to what extent people working on metadata are helping faculty assign metadata to new publications as against assigning metadata to older material that is being digitized. The consensus was that probably more of the former is being done.

        Sally Sinn (NAL) asked how many were looking at the development of the administrative/housekeeping aspects of metadata to deal with the challenges relating to digital information, particularly digital preservation and archiving. Joyce Ogburn said that the University of Washington wants to put lots of this information in their Digital Management system. Larry Alford said that the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Libraries and the School of Information are working with the Duke University Libraries to develop policies for managing digital materials. They are also concerned with the rights to archive their 18th century materials. Karen Calhoun (Cornell) agreed that the time was opportune for dealing with these matters but commented that progress in this area is painfully slow. She said that Cornell has a Metadata Working Group that has reached agreement on a preservation metadata element set.  (See for details) Duane Arenales (NLM) emphasized the importance of users having reasonable expectation of such material being findable. Judi Nadler (Chicago) said this was an important point for the utilities as well. Cynthia Shelton said that UCLA has found interesting the pushback they get from librarians on changes to fair use; there is a disinclination to work on copyright and get material protected.

        Arno Kastner said that at New York University systems-liaisons haven't worked well. Sally Rogers said that a systems-liaison has worked well for Ohio State; they have a person who spends 80% of her time providing desktop support for all technical services areas. Someone else seconded Sally's statement that it is extremely important who the person in that systems-liaison position is.

        Marvin Bielawski said that Princeton reviews every library vacancy to see how the positions can best be used. He noted that three recent vacancies were re-defined to fill new needs. Catherine Tierney (Stanford) commented that it is a challenge to maintain cataloging productivity while filling all these new needs.

        There was no discussion of Point 4.

      5. Marketing our own services: Cornell's DCAPS (Karen Calhoun)

        According to Karen, Cornell's Digital Consulting and Production Services (DCAPS) has existed for little over a year. Noting she would come back to DCAPS in a moment, she talked briefly about marketing library services in general.  She placed her remarks in the context of a Mellon-funded project in which she had participated called Models for Academic Support.  Mellon funded several projects of this type, among them one at Cornell.  The purpose was to plan for an innovative, entrepreneurial library service center that would support learning, teaching and research at the university as well as for external organizations.  A lesson reaffirmed in the Mellon research was that people are often not aware of what the university library has to offer. Libraries are not as good as they could be at marketing themselves, that is, gaining awareness of the services that libraries provide. DCAPS is an example of how the library at Cornell has tried to begin closing the awareness gap by doing a better job of marketing the library's digital life-cycle services both on and off campus. In connection with the Mellon planning grant, Cornell did a market survey of about a thousand cultural heritage organizations in New York State.  They were able to confirm that the DCAPS suite of services, especially the "relationship-based" services like consulting and training, have promise for offering to external clients.

        Among the points that Karen made were:

        • DCAPS is made up of a virtual team from several functional areas of the library.  The staff members have different reporting lines but they represent one service--DCAPS.  This has been an advantage in working with faculty and external clients--it provides integrated service and one stop shopping.

        • Marketing costs money.  It has been important to include the costs of getting the word out in the budget for DCAPS.

        • It is difficult to get the attention of faculty, who are busy and focused on their own research.  The Library has tried several approaches such as a technology exposition but hasn't hit the right answer as yet. One thing that helped them connect to faculty was a university faculty grants program which helped the libraries identify people who are using information technology and/or building digital assets in their teaching or research. 

        • Vocabulary is an important point: DCAPS does the job of mapping people’s questions and needs to the areas of the library that can best answer them.

        • It is important to work with the computing center to define areas of responsibility.

        Judi Nadler (University of Chicago) asked, "Since you said that DCAPS works as a virtual group in the Libraries, who is behind it"? Karen responded: the University Librarian and two of the AULs. Duane Arenales (NLM) said this sounds very exciting; it is perhaps a blueprint of what the technical services area of the future should be like. We need to push as much production work upstream to utilities and vendors and we should become the experts in managing; we need to focus on what we really have to do and where we can add value. Karen Calhoun pointed out the age demographics of catalogers and said that library schools won’t be turning out many people interested in cataloging; we will have to do things to attract new talent. To a question on pricing from Rosann Bazirjian (Penn State), Karen Calhoun said a customized price is quoted for each project. There are different rates for off-campus and on-campus projects, as well as for those within the libraries.

        Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 12:40 p.m.