Tuesday, June 12, 2007

ATLA Day 1 -- Discussion With Tom Yee

My next several posts are all going to be coming from the American Theological Library Association's annual conference in Philadelphia. As a member of the Education Committee, I arrived in Philadelphia a day before the pre-conference workshops in order to participate in the final planning meeting before the conference starts. This evening I was also able to participate in a Technical Services Interest Group discussion with Tom Yee from Library of Congress. What follows is a summary of some of the items that we discussed with Tom. You can read my complete notes on the discussion here.

It is possible to view the overall tone of our discussion as depressing. MFC continues to be the prevalent pressure at LC: More, Faster, Cheaper. Retirements and early retirements (buyouts) have severely depleted the ranks of experienced catalogers -- much of the LC institutional memory has already been lost. The Cataloging and Acquisitions Department has lost over 50% of the total staff and cannot do any rehiring. At this point, over 50% of the call numbers and subject headings in LC records is coming from SACO participants.

LC is anticipating a significant restructuring in October 2007 or October 2008. Over 600 jobs will be affected as efforts are made to combine acquisitions and cataloging functions. Tom mentioned that one of the most hotly debated areas of the reorganization is who will end up with offices with windows.

On the positive side, though, Tom noted the continuing strong support of library organizations like ATLA for high standards of cataloging.

We also discussed trends in the future: The question was raised whether LC is going to abandon MARC 21 in favor of XML cataloging. LC is experimenting with XML, but it cannot make a large change like this until it is supported by ILS vendors. It is a bit of a chicken/egg scenario: Vendors are waiting to develop XML systems until they see more clear-cut rules for metadata/XML schemas; Librarians are waiting to develop more clear-cut rules until they see more evidence that they will be supported by ILS vendors.

Marketing and business models continue to set the agenda for changes at LC. In response to the question, "What can ATLA do to help improve the quality of religion cataloging?" Tom had several suggestions:

--Increase participation in funnel programs (NACO, SACO, etc.)
--Continue to create good local catalog records; they help everyone.
--Continue to raise consciousness about the importance of cataloging to the retrievability of data.

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