Ramsey Library Technical Services Staff
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes in any library to acquire books, audiovisual materials, and periodicals, and to create a library catalog that keeps everything organized. The people who make these things happen are the Technical Services staff members. Not much is written for the library user about technical services, so here is a short tour of what we do. While this page may be more than you ever wanted to know, we hope it will take some of the mystery out of "how stuff gets on the shelves."
Each library faculty member, whether in Public or Technical Services, works with several UNCA academic departments to order suitable titles for Ramsey Library. All orders are sent to Technical Services, where they begin a lengthly journey, eventually emerging as items on the shelf. Each added title will be represented by a new record in the library catalog.
The Acquisitions staff checks each order for duplication in both Ramsey Library and in the Western North Carolina Library Network. Duplicate items are usually not ordered unless there is a special need for local ownership or multiple copies. Someone must then make sure that the title has actually been published and is available.
All the titles that have been checked, or "verified," are ordered from a central supplier called a "vendor." It is much more efficient to order everything online from one vendor. Sometimes, however, a title must be ordered direct from the publisher; these orders go to another staff member who deals with many publishers, out-of-print dealers, and audiovisual distributors.
One of the most important tasks of Acquisitions is to find and download a matching catalog record for each ordered title, so that other library staff and you, the library user, can see what is on order when you search the online library catalog. To avoid duplicate orders in the WNCLN, this step must be accomplished as soon as the order is placed. If no library has ever cataloged the title, Acquisitions creates a brief record for it, and the Cataloging staff will create an "original" catalog record when it arrives.
Computers and communications technology have made it possible for libraries all over the world to create and share catalog records. For the user, the result is some consistency from one library to another. For the library, it means that a few people can efficiently create and maintain a catalog with good, accurate records, a catalog with "integrity."
An online catalog is, after all, just a big database, with many indexes that let you locate materials by author, title, subject, keyword, location, material type, publisher, or date. The usefulness of the catalog depends very much on the reliability and consistency of the data in its records.
To ensure that records are predictable in format and accurate in content, most libraries strictly adhere to the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR2) for describing materials, the Library of Congress Subject Headings for subject indexing, and technical standards for Machine Readable Catalog (MARC) Records.
The records are entered into huge shared databases, such as the one maintained by the Online Cataloging Library Center (OCLC) in Dublin, Ohio, which contains 30 million catalog records from 15,000 member libraries. Also, only a few libraries, such as the Library of Congress, have the authority to revise and upgrade "master" catalog records created by LC catalogers or other libraries.
Ramsey Library, like other modern academic libraries, searches and downloads most of its catalog records from OCLC. There may be several records for the same title in this enormous database, but the catalogers select the best record for the item in hand, and often edit it to make it better, or more suitable for our library.
For new trade books, a catalog record created by the Library of Congress is often available. Our "copy cataloger" can quickly adapt these authoritative records for our online catalog.
Titles that do not have "LC" records go to experienced Ramsey Library catalogers who either edit records created by less-authoritative sources or create original records to contribute to OCLC. We get "Brownie points" (credit on our OCLC invoice!) for creating original records . :-) Our head cataloger creates many original records, especially for videocassettes and computer files.
Most new titles added to the library collections are published as "monographs," or single titles. Once they are cataloged, no more record maintenance is required until the item is lost, withdrawn, or destroyed by some unfortunate accident. A new edition of an old book is also a monograph, worthy of its own new catalog record.
Serials, on the other hand, are issued at intervals, from daily to annual, or less often. The daily newspaper and the index issued quinquennially are both serials. ("Quinquennially" is a great word. We don't know of many serials issued less often than every 5 years.) Serials continue on and on like the Energizer Bunny. If a title is published in a predictable number of volumes, it's simply a "set," not a serial (and a lot less trouble for all concerned). Serials issued 3 times per year or more are usually called "periodicals."
Serials take constant effort to track in the library catalog. They have a bad habit of changing titles over time. Some don't make any money and "cease" within a year or two after the first issue. Others change publisher, format, or migrate from one subject area to another.
For every serial that Ramsey Library selects, the Serials staff creates an order record, locates preliminary cataloging copy, and creates a check-in record for received issues. They track all of our multi-subscription orders with vendors, claim missing issues, and process electronic invoices. Some subscriptions are complicated membership arrangements ordered direct from a publisher or organization; but most are single subscriptions efficiently ordered through a "jobber" or central distributor. The Ramsey Library Serials staff also publishes printed lists of our periodicals and detailed reports for UNCA academic departments.
Unlike monographs, serials are a continuing investment for the library, so each title recommended for ordering is reviewed by the Library faculty Collection Development Group. If the title falls into a specific subject area, the appropriate academic department reviews and recommends the title. Sometimes, one subscription in the Western North Carolina Library Network is sufficient and we can rely on the ABC Express service for access. Every new title is reviewed after two years before a permanent retention decision is made. If the periodical is of value to the UNCA community, and is indexed by a reference resource that we can access, we will probably keep a bound or microfiche backfile.
Technical Services library faculty provide general computing support for integrated library system development and maintenance, telecommunications, public access PCs, library catalog terminals ("OPACs"), the library LAN, CD-ROM LAN, and library staff computers.
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