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

June 15, 2001 ; 9:30 a.m. Ė 12:30 p.m.
San Francisco Marriott Hotel, Salon 9

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 Francisco meeting see


  1. Welcome, introductions and announcements (Lee Leighton, Chair)
  2. Election of a new Chair-elect (Alford)
  3. Big Heads/ALCTS Research Initiative update (Nadler) 10 min.
  4. E-acquisitions and license tracking update (Tim Jewell, Univ. of Washington) 15 min.
  5. Big Heads Copy Acceptance Policies survey (Kastner) 30 min.
  6. Bicentennial Conference on Bibliographic Control for the New Millennium (Wiggins) 30 cm.


  1. What is a catalog? (Hemmasi and the group) 40 min.
  2. Temporary and long term location options for technical services: principles and best practices (Diedrichs and the group) 35 min.
  3. Suggestions for the next agenda (time permitting)


  1. Welcome, introductions and announcements. (Lee Leighton, Chair)

    Lee Leighton introduced two new members: Beth Picknally Camden (University of Virginia) and Rosann Bazirjian (Pennsylvania State University).

    He announced that David Banush of Cornell would be speaking at the BIBCO meeting on Sunday about his survey of core records. [His report is available at JH]

  2. Election of a new Chair-elect

  3. Bob Wolven of Columbia nominated Sally Sinn (NAL) and she was elected unanimously.

  4. Big Heads/ALCTS Research Initiative update (Nadler)

    Judith Nadler (Chicago): At Midwinter we discussed three research initiatives to be presented to the ALCTS Board for funding. The questions were aimed at generating information that would help us focus our operations and services on what is most useful for our patrons.

    1) Cataloging coverage: What is the percentage of overlap among collections of large research libraries? Is there evidence that the percentage of overlap for monographs and serials is growing or shrinking? Are there unique materials that are not being cataloged?

    2) Copy acceptance policies: What are the record acceptance policies of large research libraries for printed monographs and serials and how do these policies affect cataloging production? What are the record acceptance policies for electronic resources and their affect on cataloging production?

    3) Classification and subject analysis: Are the standard subject analysis policies and practices in large research libraries adequate for contemporary library patrons who must search library catalogs as well as the web in conducting their research? What level of uniformity is necessary?

    All three questions were deemed important by the Board. A combination of questions 1 and 2 had support in that they would provide much needed information, but could be performed by BigHeads on our own. (This then lead to the Copy Acceptance Policies Survey to be reported on by Arno.Kastner later in this meeting.)

    Question 3 was supported as the one true research question. Funding would be required for refining the question, designing the survey, and carrying out the research. The Board recommended that this question be tabled for further discussion and resolution.

    Subsequently it was suggested that we rephrase the question along the lines of "How much effort is necessary to put into checking subjects and classification access on cataloging copy from member libraries to ensure the level of access desired by our patrons."

    I polled BigHeads and we agreed against this change of wording which focuses on cataloging rather than on user needs. Also, we wanted to wait for the results of Arno's survey before we decided on what to take back to the ALCTS Board.

  5. E-acquisitions and license tracking update (Tim Jewell, Head of Collection Management Services, University of Washington)

    At Midwinter he had reported on a paper he was preparing for the Digital Library Federation on practices of different libraries relating to the selection and presentation of commercially available electronic resources This is an update. He has completed the survey. The systems he had looked at included, among others, the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, MIT, the University of Texas at Austin, Pennsylvania State University, Yale, and the University of Virginia. Under developme nt are systems are UCLA, Stanford, and Cornell. His spread sheet is available on the web: The URL is:

    The web site was prepared by Adam Chandler of Cornell, Tim, and Diana Rosolowsky of Washington. They also maintain an e-mail list, instructions for joining which can be found on the web site.

    He has identified basic elements, organized them functionally, and is defining them. Designing a prototype database system remains to be done. He has had expressions of interest from several vendors and plans to meet with people from Ex Libris USA and III.

    He will try to develop a topical discussion of some of these elements on the list, get people together for face to face meetings to discuss them, and try to develop a white paper for standard development.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford) asked if there was any information on the database of record in his survey? Tim said that the schema had to take into account the existing system. Catherine said that was not quite what she meant. At Stanford they do maintenance of records in their local system. They pass the MARC 245 field (Title and statement of responsibility) to the local system, Unicorn, but the information in the 260 field (Publication, Distribution, etc. (Imprint)) was not adequate for acquisitions. Tim responded that his quick answer is Yes, the relationship of data.

    Duane Arenales (NLM) said she thought that this was not specifically a licensing issue but rather an acquisition issue. She said that Marti Sheel, NLM's liaison to MARBI, was in the audience and might have more to add. Ms. Scheel noted that a proposal to make the 260 repeatable would be brought forward to MARBI for discussion at the upcoming meeting. [Note by JH: MARBI approved the proposal. The text of the proposal can be found at]

    Bob Wolven (Columbia) asked what kinds of influence could be placed behind this work. He also asked what the Digital Library Federation's role is in this activity.

    Tim said that someone from DLF (Dan ?) thought the work could have a major impact and wanted to support it. One possibility would be through an invitational conference.

    Duane Arenales (NLM) asked how soon a standard could be expected and what we could do to advance that. Tim said that UCLA has put together a data dictionary which is on the web site. The web site also contains related working documents from various sites. He has no idea of a timeframe but thought it important to have Integrated Library System vendors provide input and be involved.

    Bob Wolven (Columbia) asked if there has been any discussion with publishers about licensing? Tim replied that he hasn't thought much about bringing publishers into the discussion. Duane Arenales agreed with Bob Wolven that publisher involvement was important and asked what Big Heads could do to at least standardize what rights publishers say libraries have or donít have. Tim said they were very early on in identifying stakeholders. He hoped Big Heads would be deeply involved in doing so.

    He hoped to have definitions worked on in Fall 2001 and a white paper prepared. He hoped to have further discussion at Midwinter ALA 2002.

    Lee Leighton (Berkeley) said the Big Heads would do whatever we could to help.

  6. Big Heads Copy Acceptance Policies survey (Kastner).

    Arno Kastner (NYU) said that the Task Force had been set up following Midwinter ALA 2000 to gather information on institutional policies for accepting and using cataloging copy from other libraries and to make recommendations to improve the processes. He was still collecting data. As in any survey there was room for ambiguity and he had had to interpret some answers. He would need to get back to some respondents for clarification.

    The basic assumption under which they had worked was that in a shared cataloging environment an item should be cataloged only once, made available quickly to others, and should be of such quality that it didnít need to be reviewed in detail.

    The TF had found that the meaning of the word "acceptance" was critical. There were various levels of acceptance involving levels of staff used, types of data examined, source of records, etc.

    They were surveying policy, not exceptions to that policy.

    He wanted to underline that there are different types of copy involved: full LC, LC core, CIP, member full, member core, minimal, vendor-created, etc. Many libraries didnít base their policy on such questions but rather on whether or not there was a call number and subject headings in the record found.

    There were certain observations he could make after a quick look at the responses.

    A. Are there trends in who does the copy cataloging?

    It is being done in 10 libraries in Acquisitions. At least 9 libraries have students handling copy of various types.

    B. Are there certain types of copy cataloging that is pass-through?

    Almost all copy gets some type of review (to ensure you had record that matched the piece: 245, 260 etc., matched). Even beyond this almost all copy had some review.

    Only 4 libraries said they add a call number (050 or 082) yet call number availability is a major criterion for acceptability of copy. Perhaps many libraries had misunderstood questions.

    Many libraries still review the final Cutter number to see if it fits into their shelf-list, doing so even for LC records.

    Many libraries still check class numbers against the classification schedules.

    Seventeen libraries do some type of post-catalog authority work which means we are not sharing the improvements to access points.

    C. Is there a distinction between processing PCC full and PCC core records?

    Four libraries checked LC core and over 2/3 took a quick look at all access points for typos. LC full and LC core are treated the same by just about every library.

    Three libraries take PCC core records and search for fuller records.

    D. Is there a treatment difference between checking done for PCC and non-PCC copy?

    Marginally; there is slighter greater confidence in PCC.

    E. What levels of staff are being used to look at copy?

    He had expected that lower level of staff would be used for LC and PCC, with higher level staff left to look at other copy. Some institutions said they had team approach based on subject or language expertise and didnít differentiate very much on level of staff.

    Judith Nadler University of Chicago (member of the Task Force) said she had tested the survey with her staff which had recently been re-organized. They had found that there were inconsistencies in what different people did. As a manager she was pleased that they did a lot of cataloging and that they used their human resources efficiently, using high level of staff for poor cataloging and using lots of students.

    We as a group (all the survey respondents) produced relatively little original cataloging. Does that mean backlogs are being developed? Not many libraries felt a need to place importance on subject analysis? Why? Why don't many institutions use students? Because they donít feel students are qualified? Because they just don't employ many students?

    Bob Burger (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) wondered if any libraries had actually sampled the copy they used in order to see what percentages of error actually existed rather than routinely check every record.

    Arno Kastner said that question hadn't been addressed in the survey.

    Joyce Ogburn (Washington)) asked if libraries that had provided lots of NA answers could re-do the survey. Could the survey be re-tweaked? Arno said the Task Force would be getting back to some institutions for clarifications.

    Karen Calhoun (Cornell) said that libraries have lots of exception categories that the survey couldnít bring out.

    Jeffrey Horrell (Harvard) pointed out that the Harvard answers represented only one library, Widener, but that the university had many other libraries, each with its own policies and practices.

    Duane Arenales (NLM): wondered what effect would this survey have? Are people finding errors in PCC records?

    Judith Nadler (Chicago) said it was not clear if the answers represent historical practice in libraries or thoughtful analysis of what work is needed.

    At the end that there were suggestions that perhaps the survey could be revised to eliminate some of the ambiguities and then recirculated and a second suggestion that it might be useful to circulate the survey every couple years to see how/if libraries are changing/evaluating their acceptance policies.


  7. Bicentennial Conference on Bibliographic Control for the New Millennium (Beacher Wiggins)

    Beacher Wiggins (LC) reported that the conference participants had made 150 recommendations from which LC had teased-out six over-arching objectives to serve as the framework for an action plan (; they think the objectives represent the essence of the recommendations. These six objectives, under which action items are placed, are:

    1. Increase the availability of standard records for selected electronic resources.
    2. Enhance the access to and display of records for selected Web resources across multiple systems.
    3. Work collaboratively with metadata standards communities to improve bibliographic control of selected Web resources.
    4. Develop automated tools for harvesting and maintaining metadata to improve bibliographic control of selected Web resources.
    5. Provide appropriate training/continuing education to improve bibliographic control of selected Web resources.
    6. Support research and development on emerging metadata standards and address the challenges of interoperability to improve bibliographic control of selected Web resources.

    From this point onwards LC will be seeking advice on the content of the plan. They have identified some potential collaborators and Big Heads are identified as collaborators for some of the action items. Beacher said that if any of the action items resonated with anyone and made them want to participate in the work, they should get in touch with LC. All comments, etc. should be sent to Judith Mansfield at LC (

    LC had looked at the prioritization of the action items in terms of 2 aspects:

    1. Time to carry out. Near term could be accomplished within 18 months; long term could be accomplished in 5 years.
    2. The aspect of HIGH, MEDIUM or LOW was assigned on the basis of the benefit each action would bring the library community relative to the expense involved in carrying it out.

    The actions will be worked on concurrently. About one-third have LC as lead contributor.

    Harriette Hemmasi (Indiana University) commented that under objective 1 there is no mention of many records produced and distributed by vendors.

    Beacher replied that they would be involved to the degree that vendors produce records for web resources. Vendor records cover a range of materials but perhaps not web resources.

    Bob Wolven (Columbia) commented that Big Heads is not set up to do formal research but it can react. Karen Calhoun (Cornell) said Big Heads could set up small groups to participate.

    Lee Leighton (Berkeley) summed up the general feeling with the comment: LC has taken on a monumental task!


    After the Break Lee Leighton introduced Charles Wilt, the new director of ALCTS.

  1. What is a catalog? (Harriette Hemmasi).

    Harriette said that she had talked with Judith Nadler (Chicago) and Joyce Ogburn (Washington) when the possibility was raised at Indiana of loading the entire inventory of netLibrary records even if they didnít have access to all the titles in the collection.

    During those discussions the following issues were raised.


    Karen Calhoun (Cornell) agreed that the role of the catalog is definitely changing. Lots of substitutes for and accessories to the catalog now exist. We are starting to put more and more in the catalog to provide access to materials not owned by the libraries. At the same time, new products are emerging -- like Endeavor's EnCompass and Ex Libris' Metalib-- that could make it feasible for the catalog to be integrated with, and searched alongside, other kinds of digital collections. So, the catalog could eventually go back in the direction of being a repository for what the library owns.

    Bob Wolven (Columbia) said the question is more one of preferential access. There are various methods of access: e.g., we have this, we can get access to this if you want it; and we can purchase this for you. There is also more gradation in the tools we use to provide access. The end user has a role: by choosing a netLibrary record they acquire the work for the library.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford): we need to ask 12 year olds, freshmen, etc., what the catalog is to get idea of what the catalog will be in five years. The catalog is more the interface than the records it contains.

    Bob Wolven (Columbia): There is both a selection aspect and a monetary aspect. We are saying we are letting you find this and that will entail financial commitment on our part.

    Jeffrey Horrell (Harvard) noted that in a few years journals may disappear and individual issues may become the basis by which information is disseminated. Younger people are looking for information in new ways and that will have a profound influence on what we do.

    Cynthia Clark (NYPL) commented that the interface is more important than the records

    Lee Leighton (Berkeley) wondered what principles we could articulate that we could all agree on: Financial commitment? Selection? Quality control? Could we load mass numbers of records without a concern about quality control?

    Beacher Wiggins (LC) said that at LC everything added to the catalog database must have headings compatible to what is already there. That is basic.

    Judith Nadler (Chicago) agreed that the question of maintenance is very important. She referred to the CRL (Center for Research Libraries) records. The University of Chicago has chosen not to bring those records into their catalog: they can't maintain them and they don't think it is forward looking to bring more and more into the catalog. It would be better to work on improving access via search capabilities across bibliographic resources, including the catalog. Joyce Ogburn (Washington)) agreed.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford) commented that public services people really value controlled headings.

    Joyce Ogburn (Washington)) wondered how much time is spent on things like web pages that could be used on providing access through catalog?

    Harriette Hemmasi (Indiana) said she saw a disconnect between this conversation and the results of the copy cataloging acceptance survey. We are acknowledging that all these resources exist that people use but yet we are saying that everything we put in our catalogs must be polished.

    Arno Kastner (NYU) replied that cross-database searches can be confusing to users.

    Bob Wolven (Columbia) said the disconnect is a real one but one of the things we try to get from catalog copy is to identify that "this" record represents that item rather than providing 50 records for the same item.

    Harriette Hemmasi (Indiana) said that one of IU libraries had loaded the netLibrary records in a partnership with one public library. The public library spent all its acquisitions money in 3 months; the IU library asked not to load any more to avoid that danger.

    Judith Nadler (Chicago) asked if anyone had compared the holdings of netLibrary against its own collection. The University of Chicago Acquisitions Department had done such a thing against ISBN numbers and the results had been surprisingly high. Fifty percent of the netLibrary records matched records in their catalog.

    Carol Diedrichs (Ohio State) said that if we make electronic material available use will greatly increase. That will have great financial implications for the library.

  2. Temporary and long term location options for technical services: principles and best practices (Diedrichs)

    Jeffrey Horrell reported that Harvard has just relocated its Widener Library technical services staff; eighty staff members have been relocate a mile and a half away from the library. They had less than a year to plan for the move which took place in December 2000. Those who have moved have improved work space. A side benefit is rethinking of work-flows and procedures. However, psychological aspects were very important. He had wondered if it would impact recruitment; it hasn't. But there are obstacles. Interactions between bibliographers and catalogers need to be worked on.

    Lee Leighton (Berkeley) said that Berkeley was five years along in a move to a location one-eighth mile away, connected via a tunnel. There don't seem to be psychological problems or questions about where committees meet. Adjacencies and workflows have been improved. There has been a reduction in the number of forms needed to hand on materials.

    Rosann Bazirjian (Penn State) said their move had been a temporary one and that, after a three year absence, they have since returned to the main library. During the period when they were absent from the library they needed a good delivery system, good communications facilities (wiring,etc.) in their new site, time for paging books, etc. Things didn't happen as quickly as they had before the move out of the library.

    Jeffrey Horrell (Harvard) echoed the comments on time.

    Joyce Ogburn (Washington) said they had had a temporary relocation several months ago. Since some technical services staff also work in public service area they had to set up a van service.

    Carol Diedrichs (Ohio State) asked about the impact of having non-tenured staff separated from the rest of their colleagues who would have to vote on their tenure.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford) asked if there were any management changes needed, such as a need for additional managers. Jeffrey Horrell said that at Harvard they had made changes and assigned someone to supervise the distant staff.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford) followed up with a question about planning for staff adjacencies. Were components in the space plans driven by movement of collection materials (books, etc.) versus movements of paperwork or online-only work?

    Lee Leighton (Berkeley) said they went through that at Berkeley. Their primary concern was the movement of books; people who dealt with paper were considered more flexible.

    Joyce Ogburn (Washington) said that at the University of Washington they didn't move all staff, e.g., Serials Receipts was not moved as they didnít want to change addresses. Physical Processing, which is highly student intensive, was not moved either.

    Jeffrey Horrell (Harvard) said that Harvard also did not relocate serials check-in.

    Rosann Bazirjian (Penn State) said that once you have moved a group of people you have them locked in as "the" technical services staff; you lose the flexibility to add other groups to technical services.

    Karen Calhoun (Cornell) said that Cornell has been experimenting with electronic materials; it is much more collaborative process than dealing with print materials. She asked if those who have moved staff have considered that people's jobs have become more social?

    Joyce Ogburn (Washington) said that at Washington both professional and classified technical services staff interact with faculty and that maintaining that interaction had been a problem while the staff were relocated.

    Judith Nadler (Chicago) said the University of Chicago has not faced the problem of moving technical services staff out of the central area. She wanted to know, If I were asked whether we could move technical services out of the central area, should I argue against it and what should those arguments be? She noted that their recent reorganization has brought some functions closer together. Some improvements are based on proximity.

    Jeffrey Horrell (Harvard) said the old Widener operation was on 3 floors in 7 different areas and the staff had doubled since the building was opened in 1915. If you believe you can end up with a much better working environment even at a distance, moving to a more distant location can be an advantage.

    Bob Wolven (Columbia) said that at Columbia they had reorganized within the main library building and got many advantages of consolidation. However there are some technical services units outside of the main library. Would they be better off with the main technical services operation?

    Jeffrey Horrell (Harvard) said that while perhaps copy cataloging might be done centrally, specialized technical services staff work closely with staff and faculty in their areas of expertise and need to be where they are.

    Cynthia Clark (NYPL) said that at a previous institution where she had worked they had built a new science library with same physical area as the main library. Three subject areas had been merged and re-located there. The Bio-medical staff had problems being further from patrons they served but work was done more efficiently.

    Katharine Farrell (Princeton) asked about opportunities for meetings, for staff to interact with each other, etc. Jeffrey Horrell (Harvard) said there was a conference room at their new site.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford) wondered if anyone had made a point of putting the responsibility on remaining central staff (public services, collections, etc.) for helping a remote Technical Services operation feel part of the whole? She was considering requesting that it be a specific charge to all central units to figure ways to mitigate the sense of disenfranchisement that TS staff might feel being far away.

    Lee Leighton (Berkeley) said that after their move the book budget went up while adjacencies and work-flows improved. Technical services got more staff.

    Duane Arenales (NLM) asked about telecommuting. Joyce Ogburn (Washington) said they allowed both librarians and classified staff to telecommute. It is a privilege, not a right. Telecommuting was not usually done for a full-time schedule; it usually involved about one day a week. The staff took materials, invoices, etc. home. To work it requires close communication with one's supervisor.

    Jeffrey Horrell (Harvard) said that Widener has one person doing database management at home.

    Beacher Wiggins (LC) said that LC is negotiating with the professional staff union about telecommuting. Once they do it for professional staff, they will have to face the question of doing it for non-professional staff.

    Catherine Tierney (Stanford) said that Stanford has a policy on telecommuting. One cataloger is doing it one day a week. There is an unwritten rule that you can't take materials home, but this cataloger is an electronic resources person. Stanford might possibly allow NACO work based on Xeroxed copies.

    Judith Nadler (Chicago) commented that this is extension of flex-time. She would be interested in those having such policies sharing them. She wondered how you identify who is good candidate for it? One criterion might be how quantifiable is your work. Should people be allowed to take materials home?

    Duane Arenales (NLM) noted that the kind of support you provide for the home commuter is a question that needs to be answered.

    Cynthia Clark (NYPL) asked how telecommuting is managed in a union environment.

    Lee Leighton (Berkeley) suggested asking questions such as: How much of a self-starter are these persons? How good is their judgement in knowing when to ask questions? He would be more reluctant to let a supervisor do it than staff member who can work more independently.

    Beth Picknally Camden (Virginia) said that UVA has a policy. The university does not provide a computer but can provide software and technical support.

    Jeffrey Horrell said that Harvard devoted one day to discuss this.

    Harriette Hemmasi (Indiana) noted that questions of integration and recognition are an issue wherever technical services is located.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m. without time for item 9 on the agenda.