Tag Archives: technical services

NETSL Presentations Available Online

The New England Technical Services Librarians section of NELA gave another successful spring conference this year and the presentations are available online. The topic 2020 Vision: A New Decade for Technical Services brought in a wide range of people from New England and beyond. One of the themes that struck me was the mantra to do less with less. Many in technical services (or whatever your unit is now called) know all too well that jobs are being lost. The majority of institutions have lost staff and positions over the years. What technical services could do in the past is no longer an option or viable alternative for many. Actually, one of the themes of this conference suggested that we not go back to doing business as usual. Technical services are now usually not known by this name, staff has decreased, duties have increased or morphed mainly into e-resources and digital collections. In an effort to address these changes, the presenters at NETSL’s spring conference said to do less of what technical services has always done and/or stop trying to do more with less in order to focus on new initiatives such as digital collections, data management plans, and/or e-resources. In a sense, the presentations showed how libraries and technical services can remain relevant with few staff but a skilled workforce. I think the presentation, Research Data and Libraries was most effective at showing this. Because of the recent requirement of the NIH (and other agencies) to provide a plan on how to manage data as part of the grant, libraries have the ability to step into this process and help those who need to formulate a data management plan. This is definitely a presentation to read. But of course, all the presentations are great and worth taking time to read. See what you can learn!

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Bradford Lee Eden on Technical Services

In the current issue of Information Technology and Libraries (June 2010, v.29, n.2), Bradford L. Eden, Associate University Librarian for Technical Services & Scholarly Communication at UC Santa Barbara, wrote an article called, “The New User Environment: The End of Technical Services?”. The claim that technical services will die either a slow or quick death is something many of us have already heard in many flavors. Does anyone remember Tennant’s death to MARC? The twist with Bradford’s article is not that he predicts that technical services will end by a certain date. On the contrary, technical services as a unit within the library will undergo or should carry out drastic changes to meet the needs and demands of users today. Bradford concludes that staff in technical services are still needed because of their skills to organize and describe information.

He writes:

…technical services staff, with their unique skills, talents, abilities, and knowledge in relation to the organization and description of information are desperately needed in the new information environment. It is the responsibility of both library administrators and technical services staff to work together to evolve and redesign workflows, standards, procedures, and even themselves to survive and succeed in the future. (page 99)

This is Bradford’s conclusion. He begins by offering a picture of where we’re at currently and some suggestions as to how to get to this future. I would like to highlight some of his points that I find of particular interest and importance.

  • Instead of complaining that no one understands or appreciates technical services, consider what catalogers/metadata specialists already do and can do
  • Instead of fighting change, accept change in ways that support technical services to meet users needs
  • Instead of staying in the back office, go out, seek support in new ways, and leave the office

Though these points sound like news bits hot off the press, there is some very good advice in what Bradford offers in relation to new skills for those in technical services. It is necessary to open up to more collaboration with colleagues and users. Whether you want to refer to these people as catalog or metadata specialists, it is necessary in particular in organizing and describing digital collections to speak to everyone involved. This requires an understanding of how to interact with the public, project management, and definitely IT skills among other things. This also requires being flexible because change is becoming more of a constant within technical services. Whether it is a new format, a new standard, new information or new user needs, it is necessary to be able to assess these changes and adopt those that really do help users with their information needs.

Bradford is right on the spot when he says that catalogers or metadata specialists (I use the two interchangeable not Bradford) need to be comfortable in both the print and non print worlds – meaning AACR2, RDA, metadata schemas, XML, data collections, batch loads, automated metadata, and the like.

However, I don’t agree with Bradford on everything. For example, take this excerpt on WorldCat Local:

The appearance of WorldCat Local will have a tremendous impact on the disappearance of proprietary vendor OPACs. There will no longer be a need for an integrated library system (ILS); with WorldCat Local, the majority of the world’s MARC bibliographic records are available in a Library 2.0 format. (page 95)

The switch from several integrated library systems to OCLC’s WorldCat does not seem to me to be one of dropping vendors all together. Sure, OCLC is officially known as a non-profit organization. Yet, I think we all know that many of their practices resemble those of a vendor. I see this switch that Bradford describes as going from many vendors to one.  I’m not sure that WorldCat Local is the answer, especially if records are in MARC.

Despite some differing of opinions, this is a short but good read from Bradford. It will definitely get you thinking of how to try creative things in technical services or at least see how to approach the changes that are already here.

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