Twenty four persons, most having direct responsibility for visual resources collections, gathered to discuss issues of software selection for cataloging and imaging. Trudy Jacoby of Trinity College, Hartford, served as moderator. Each member of the group spoke briefly about his or her institution's current state of automated cataloging and/or digital imaging, and some commented on plans for imminent changes.
Software programs mentioned were VRMS, Re: discovery, EmbARK, ImageAXS Pro, Foxpro, FileMaker Pro, Microsoft Access, 4th Dimension, Oracle, Q & A, and Edibase. VRMS users are searching for new software because of lack of support and upgrades for that product. A few visual resource collections are contributing catalog records to OPACs on major library system software such as NOTIS. The question of how to find impartial information about all these programs was raised. John Taormina, editor of the VRA Bulletin, announced that there will be a database review column in future issues. Software and media reviews also appear in Art Documentation.
Choice of a particular program often depends on local considerations, especially on support from the campus computing center. The variety of choices, however, no longer seems to be an insurmountable barrier to cooperation. The group discussed the progress toward data standards--the Core Categories developed by the VRA Data Standards Committee, and the Research Libraries Group testbed project for which Elisa Lanzi is preparing a proposal. The latter will provide an opportunity to evaluate the compatibility of catalog records based on the Core Categories with other records in the RLIN bibliographic database. It may lead to development of a set of rules for application. Information about the Core Categories, which are still under revision, is available on the VRA website at: http://www.oberlin.edu/~art/vra/dsc.html. A print version will eventually be issued as a VRA Special Bulletin, according to John Taormina.
By consensus of this group, agreement on standard data elements is more important than selecting the same software. Sharing of data across systems will be possible with adherence to national standards. As Trudy Jacoby noted, a national database for visual resources, including images, no longer seems like a preposterous idea. Although much work remains to be done, a national cataloging utility for images now appears to be a future possibility. Each institution will need its local fields, but data held in common, covered by the Core Categories, can potentially be shared. Even at a local level, our data may be used in different applications. Clearly, one of the most important features of a software product is the ease with which data can be exported.
The discussion also touched upon issues of digital imaging: politics (administrative directives, faculty interest), security, back-up, transmission speed vs. quality, and in-house scanning vs. Photo-CD. Digitization from our slide collections, John Taormina pointed out, will be selective. Furthermore, images collected in any quantity that have no data attached to them are virtually useless, Trudy Jacoby added. In this time of transition, the issues of software choice involve both cataloging and imaging considerations. Some products have more sophisticated imaging components, while others offer greater flexibility for designing the text database. Client/server architecture, desirable to facilitate access, is possible with various software options. This group recognizes that whatever choice is made now, it will not be a final one. Our data is destined to migrate again and again, and we need to keep that in mind as we make our selection of software for the present.
The 1998 conferences in Philadelphia, where ARLIS/NA and VRA will overlap for two days, will feature a session on data standards, the revision of the Core Categories (version 2.0), and perhaps an assessment of the RLG project. It is also an opportunity for further discussion of software issues with an even larger number of participants, including VRA members who do not usually attend ARLIS/NA conferences. Anyone with ideas for the agenda of a 1998 software issues discussion group should contact Trudy Jacoby (firstname.lastname@example.org).