Automated Workstations for Professional Catalogers: A Survey of 100 Non-ARL Academic Libraries

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Automated Workstations for Professional Catalogers: A Survey of 100 Non-ARL Academic Libraries

Since the introduction of online bibliographic utilities, much has changed about the way libraries use machines in cataloging. It is taken for granted now that machines for accessing a bibliographic utility at the local library are only part of the library's total automation. Local systems, networks, and even second local systems in several cases are the tools necessary for library automation.

Bibliographic network terminals were once the only signs of library automation in a cataloging department. Not only have those machines changed dramatically, but the microcomputer and printer have become as commonplace as the manual typewriters and electric erasers of old. The concept of automation and all of its ramifications are firmly in place. Workflow, ergonomics, and the stress of working at terminals for prolonged periods are concerns of all. Flexibility and adapting to change are buzzwords in an area that remained virtually unchanged for almost a century.

In 1989 Sally Rogers published "Automated Workstations for Professional Catalogers: A Survey of ARL Libraries." Rogers surveyed the 118 members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) in the United States and Canada.[1] This paper is a report of a replication of Rogers' study, in which medium-sized academic libraries were surveyed to ascertain their progress in the use of automated workstations and to compare it with that of the larger research libraries.

For the purposes of this study, the term workstation refers to a terminal or microcomputer with peripherals attached for the use of an individual cataloger. This definition may be seen as being in opposition to the concept of those terminals, usually found in public areas, that are designed for use by many people. It is assumed that the use of workstations in production areas of libraries is beneficial and has a positive effect on productivity as well as the quality of work. It is also assumed that such positive effects are essential in these days of budget problems and staff cuts, which necessitate greater efficiency than ever before

The main objective of this study was to examine non-ARL academic libraries to find out which have already provided, or expect to provide in the near future, automated workstations for their professional catalogers and to attempt to ascertain some expected and actual effects of automation efforts. Another objective was to learn whether some libraries intend to provide such automated workstations at some future time not yet determined. This study also represents an attempt to replicate the original purpose and goals of the Rogers study and to present comparisons between the two.

A year and a half after Rogers' study, little has appeared in the library literature concerning original catalogers and automated workstations. An article by Diane Vizine-Goetz listed "designing a cataloger's workstation" as a topic for research identified at the November 1988 conference on "Classification Theory in the Computer Age."[2] If electronic mail messages are any indication of interest in this topic, one can certainly say that libraries are anxious to explore and provide, insofar as it is possible, some sort of automated workstation that can provide catalogers access to many bibliographic databases and cataloging tools. Products such as personal computers (PCs) to access utilities and local systems, CD-ROM databases, and miscellaneous online products that could be used by catalogers are abundant. While accessing all of these easily from one station is the ideal, adding access incrementally is probably more realistic. Using PCs to create workforms, as Randall Scott has described,[3] is an intermediary step to actually creating records online and passing them electronically, instead of on paper work slips, to the next processing unit and into the system itself. …