98 thoughts on “(Discover AND deliver) OR else

  1. Some of the ideas concerning cataloging are totally askew to what catalogers really do. We can’t depend on publoshers for metadata; they are notorious for making mistakes with names, titles, ISBN, etc. that cause catalogers and cataloger users headaches. Just today I had several matches on ISBN that did not match the book in hand.

    There is no mention of name authority as a cataloger activity. Just getting the correct name for an author may take a long time. I had to catalog a disstertation today. I had to check the author’s name and establish a name authority record.

    Bad cataloging is almost worse than none. I had one cataloging record today that had the wrong author and wrong publisher information.

  2. Thanks for the plug. You may be skeptical about a library as a publisher, but my library is already doing that (and a few others are as well), so there’s not really anything special to it. Most of the work is being done by academics anyway.
    In fact, if all libraries would offer what our library is offering, all our infrastrcuture crises would be resolved immediately, with billions in cost savings:

  3. I have to admit, I find this article a bit perplexing. The author dismisses many of the tasks that we do in libraries by saying that the tasks do not require “librarian skill” and can be done “elsewhere.” He also says that students need library space to study but that this space could be provided “elsewhere.”

    Couldn’t the same thing be said of the campus fitness center? After all, information about health and fitness is available online and many people who do not have degrees in physical education can and do teach physical education classes (at your local community center, for instance). Why not fire the fitness instructors and delegate their duties to people in other university departments? Sure, people also need a place to exercise on campus, but it doesn’t have to be in the gym. It could be in a field nearby or in another non-gym titled building or there could be tiny workout centers in all the buildings rather than one big place to work out.

    It seems to me that the author is not taking issue with the work that libraries do or the space that libraries provide, but rather the semantics of the word library and the library’s claim to exclusivity when it comes to providing its services. It’s not clear to me what advantage there would be in divvying up library duties to these supposed other departments or renaming the library “Data Services Center.” Do other University departments want to do our jobs? Can they do them more cheaply? More efficiently? Can they provide a better quality of service? Would renaming the library Data Services Center really make a difference in how services are currently delivered? Just supposing that things could be done differently than they are without saying why that would be a better situation seems specious to me.

    1. Thank you for your concerns. I must say, it seems to me that you haven’t read my post very well. I do not say that all library duties should be carried out by other university departments. I do not say things could be done differently than they are without saying why that would be a better situation. I certainly don’t propose to just rename the university library to data services center. That wouldn’t change anything, would it? Also that would contradict your other remarks.

      What I do say is that for many tasks traditionally carried out by university libraries, there is no need for librarian skills. Do you really believe that driving a book delivery van, managing a study center with a large number of workstations and cataloguing information resources all require the same librarian skills? Sure, in a situation where the library only deals with printed books and journals stored in the same location as the reading room, it makes sense to have a central library organisation and building. But this is not the case in many universities. That is my point.

      Also, dividing up traditional library tasks is not something I simply propose to do because it is possible. It is reality already. For example, in my own university library we have separate divisions responsible for cataloguing/metadata/acquisition, storage/delivery, study centers. Currently they belong to the university library, because of historical origins. But they don’t actually have anything to do with each other. The same staff could provide the same services, but not necessarily as part of the university library. Or indeed an external company could provide these services, just like for instance catering is already done (to use another comparison than the gym).

      And as I tried to show, a lot of tasks are already happening outside the university library or the university as such. Moreover students and staff need new services in order to find the information they need. For this we still require librarian skills, sure, mainly metadata skills and information literacy. But also other, new skills.

      I have been working for large libraries for ten years now. I don’t have a librarian training, I work in the library systems division. Without us, nothing can be found. Just like without librarians nothing can be found. We need to work together to provide our customers with the best possible information services organised in the most efficient way.
      And I really think that we should focus more on better data and metadata integration and coordination, because that is what we are dealing with.
      I must say, that in library systems we are often faced with problems about matching metadata from different systems. Sometimes these problems originate from people with librarian skills (possibly MARC/AACR2/RDA related), inside and outside the university (librarians, systems vendors, publishers, metadata aggregators). To avoid misunderstanding again: I am not saying that all librarians always make mistakes. Not at all. Nor that I never make mistakes myself. Because I do. What I mean is that if everybody keeps focusing on their own familiar area, we won’t get any further.

      1. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my very long comment. It is true that many library services are already outsourced, and perhaps even that some libraries should outsource more of their mundane tasks — particularly those like truck driving that, as you say, do not require librarian skill.

        I try not to propose that my library duplicate any labor that could be better done elsewhere (or, for that matter, is already being done elsewhere). And I wholeheartly agree that more collaboration between those in libraryland and those outside libraryland is what we should strive towards.

        I still have trouble seeing the ending scenario that you propose where “subject specialists” and a “central data coordination unit” are not located within the library though. However, this could be because my job requires coordinating with almost all of the different internal departments of the library — and so the relationship between what cataloging and reference does seems strong to me. It may also be because at my workplace, the library as a physical location shares its building space with the university’s traditional publishing, video production, and IT services and the trend towards collaboration has increased over time rather than decreasing.

        I appreciate that your article made me consider other possible setups for academic libraries though and look forward to reading what you have to say in the future.

        1. April, thanks for your reply to my comment. I appreciate what you’re saying. Of course there are and will be differences in local situations. And I’m not saying that what I describe will actually happen. My main concern is that we should never take anything for granted, and that we must continually look out for the best ways to achieve what we’re supposed to do.

      2. @lukask Interesting and thought provoking! Your concept of ‘librarian skills’, implicitly, is framed in the context of the traditional academic / university (or research) library as an organization. If considered in a more general sense, the profession we used to call ‘librarian’, is developing in the direction of a Knowledge, Information AND DATA manager. The skills of such a KID-manager seem to fit quite well – wether or not we call the organization a ‘library’.

        1. Thanks for your thoughts, Josje. I’m not sure that all the required “KID” skills should or could be united in one individual profession or in one central organisation. It’s not semantics in my view.

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