The theme of this well-attended session was providing effective and economical access to library collections. Moderator Sherman Clarke of New York University Libraries began the session by providing a brief overview of the themes. Outsourcing and cooperative cataloging measures have the potential to save the professional cataloger's time and expertise for redeployment elsewhere, e.g., processing invisible backlogs, etc. In the current bibliographic world, there is a shift in focus from description to access, and a move to re-examine whether accessed materials fit the traditional library cataloging paradigm. The implications for the levels and quality of access, as well as the economics of technical services in the age of outsourcing, were discussed by the four session presenters.
Peter Blank, Assistant Art and Architecture Librarian at Stanford University, spoke of Stanford's redesign of its acquisition-to-access process, known as the "Fast Track" initiative.1 The initiative grew out of the university's decision to re-engineer technical services to save $750,000 over a three-year period. Stanford applied the business principle of "reengineering," defined as: "The fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed."2 The redesign team examined the existing workflow of the acquisition-to-access process to identify the essential outcomes, and recreated the process from scratch in determining how best to achieve those outcomes.
The redesign team worked on the following assumptions: that inefficiencies existed in the technical processing system which cost Stanford University Libraries money; that these inefficiencies could be eliminated by outsourcing and the application of new technologies; that, up to a point of diminishing returns, the more material outsourced and the better the technology incorporated, the more money Stanford would save; and, these increased efficiencies could be obtained without any loss to the strength and unique character of the Stanford collections.
Blank dramatically illustrated the redesign with the example of pre- and post-order database searching. The redesign team found that there was much duplication of effort in the search process which was adding to the costs of firm orders. By working with vendors, and moving towards a Z39.50 and EDI environment, Stanford can cut the search process down to two steps in most cases, freeing up staff time for other tasks.
Blank summarized the benefits of the re-engineering process: it enabled Stanford University Libraries staff to break free from an assembly-line view of technical services; it provided a means for Stanford to strengthen its partnerships with its vendors and develop a more efficient stream of communication among all parties; it allows the libraries to resituate staff to other areas of service; and, Stanford met its mandated budget goals.
Rick Lugg, Vice-President for Library System Services at Yankee Book Peddler, gave an overview of vendor-provided technical services, outlining the tasks vendors can supply at every step in the technical services workflow. He stressed that the entire technical services process must be considered when looking at outsourcing. Every library has a different approach to each process, and the vendor's responsibility is to provide customized and reliable service. Every library has a different approach to each process, and the vendor's responsibility is to provide customized and reliable service that fits into the library's workstream. The principle target in outsourcing is to have vendors supply the "easy" services more quickly, thus freeing library staff to do the more challenging work.
Lugg pointed out that for the vendor, the most time-consuming aspect of the work is in customizing for local practices. Every detail must be specified in the contract, for both parties to measure against. Lugg also mentioned the importance of maintaining good communication between all concerned parties -- the library, the vendor, the integrated library system vendor, and the bibliographic utilities -- because decisions impacting one will impact the others.
Lugg concluded his presentation by illustrating best and worst case scenarios. In the worst case, there is a loss of control and local expertise at the library, delays in processing items, limits to the degree of customization, the inability to return unwanted items, and, overall, a weak relationship between the library and the vendor. In the best case, workflow is streamlined, there is no need for local keying-in of information which can be downloaded from the vendor, staff may be redeployed to other service areas, items are available to the patrons sooner, and there is a strong partnership between the library and the vendor.
Anne Champagne, Head of Technical Services at the Art Institute of Chicago, discussed the institute's use of RLG's Diogenes service. The library sends brief acquisitions records from its local online catalog to RLG for matching against the RLIN database. Diogenes will send full records in return which will overlay the local records. The library decided to use Diogenes because it would save staff time from searching; it did not require additional hardware purchases; the library already had brief acquisitions records in its catalog; and it was a manageable process, because small batches can be sent to the service. It was found that one-third of the records which did not match contained errors created locally in the brief record. As a result, the library made a concerted effort to clean up its acquisitions records, and it was found that, because of the matching algorithm Diogenes uses, including less information on the brief record was more useful and yielded better results. The library was able to reduce its backlog by 25% in one year, and has increased productivity, even with the loss of one staff person. Because of changes in the RLIN pricing structure, however, the library did not save money during the first year of use of the service.
Champagne pointed out the hidden costs of using the Diogenes service. There was a limited amount of time to train acquisitions staff in inputting order records, and more time was spent monitoring acquisitions work to assure quality control. There was some initial mistrust of the service on the part of the catalogers, but through support on all levels of the library, morale and confidence in the service increased. The library also experienced some problems with hardware crashes, and the 48-hour turnaround time RLG promises has been affected by intermittent Internet traffic problems.
Champagne concluded by mentioning the advantages of using Diogenes. The library's relationship with RLG and its vendors has become more of a partnership. The library has been able to establish higher cataloging priorities. Unexpected benefits included the necessity to examine the issue of quality control of the library's acquisitions records, the opportunity to re-evaluate the entire workflow to highlight the core technical services functions, and a better-informed and more flexible staff.
Linda Kruger, Supervisor of Art and Architecture Cataloging at Columbia University (retired), spoke of the core record standard formulated by the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC). The core record standard for monographs was designed to fall somewhere between minimal level and full level cataloging, and has been presented by the PCC as a means to provide "more, better, faster, cheaper." It is a response to the problem of mounting backlogs which began, Kruger stated, with the increased federal funding for library acquisitions in the late 1960s and 1970s.
The core record standard requires cataloger judgment in determining which materials will be best served by this level of cataloging. The core record standard differs from full level cataloging in that it does not require certain fields (most types of notes (5xx), and unlimited subject headings (6xx) and added entries (7xx)). Kruger pointed out that specialized materials, such as art and architecture publications, can lose important and valuable information if notes and access points are omitted because of an institutional policy not to augment core records. She stressed that catalogers with subject strengths possess the expertise to decide upon the level of cataloging required and the research needs of the library's constituency.
The core standard also requires that each access point in the bibliographic record be under full authority control. Kruger discussed the related PCC programs, the Name Authority Cooperative Program (NACO) and the Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO). While the usefulness of core records is enhanced because each access point is fully established, Kruger warned that the time involved in performing authority work, especially of subject headings, can result in a drop in production. To remain cost-effective, an institution may mandate a decrease in access points per record.
Kruger concluded by emphasizing the benefits of authority work but cautioning against unrealistic expectations regarding the savings in time and cost of cataloging by using the core standard. She urged that all library constituencies -- librarians in both technical and public services, researchers, curators, bibliographers, etc. -- must be informed about the changes to the research value of the bibliographic record that occur when abbreviated cataloging is performed. Institutions which join the PCC must fully understand their obligations and balance their responsibilities to the program with the research needs of their clientele. Kruger also stressed the importance of maintaining and developing cataloger expertise by advocating the necessity of cataloging courses in ALA-accredited library and information science programs, and by citing the value of a second master's degree in the subject fields related to art librarianship.
1) Reports and documents relating to the Stanford University Libraries redesign initiative may be found on the Web at: http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/diroff/ts/redesign/redesign.html
2) Hammer, Michael, and James Champy. Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution. New York: Harper Business, 1993.
3) A complete description of the core record standard for books may be found on the Web at: http://lcweb.loc.gov/catdir/pcc/corebook.html
New York University Libraries
[as of July 1997: Cleveland Museum of Art