Using Batchloading to Improve Access to Electronic and Microform Collections

Article excerpt

Batchloading bibliographic records into the catalog, as a rapid and cost-effective means of providing access to electronic and microform collections, has become in recent years a significant workflow for many libraries. Thanks to batchloading, previously hidden collections, some costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, are made visible, and library holdings are more accurately reflected by the online catalog. Subject specialists report significant increases in the use of electronic resources and microforms within days (and sometimes only hours) of loading record sets into the online catalog. Managing batchloading projects requires collaboration across many library units, including collection development, acquisitions, cataloging, systems, and public services. The authors believe that their experiences will be instructive to other libraries and that Penn State's processes will assist them in making their own batchloading policies and procedures more efficient.

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In the age of Google, when digital natives expect everything--or almost everything--to be discoverable online, libraries face the ever more daunting task of providing title-level access to online resources in their catalogs. Providing access to large microform and digitized collections for which no or only limited (i.e., collection-level) access in the public catalog exists is similarly challenging. Batchloading bibliographic records into the catalog is a rapid and cost-effective means of meeting these challenges.

Given its cost-effectiveness and the wide availability of record sets describing large collections, batchloading has become a significant workflow for many libraries. As more print resources are digitized, more born-digital projects created, and metadata becomes easier to convert and repurpose for bibliographic description, Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC) records for more collections are likely to become available. Such record sets can be expensive, but given the immense improvement in access to collections they provide compared to a single collection-level record, they are often worth the price.

Some vendors supply MARC records as part of the packages they sell, realizing that libraries may be more likely to purchase or license a resource when they know that bibliographic records will ensure that individual titles in the collection are discoverable in the catalog. In fact, some institutions, individually or in concert, may find that lobbying vendors to make records available for every resource they sell is advantageous. Use of electronic resources is inextricably linked to discoverability, and evidence suggests that title-level records in a library's catalog increase use. At Penn State University Libraries, subject specialists report significant increases in use of electronic resources and microforms within days (and sometimes within hours) of loading record sets. With each batchloading of records, previously hidden collections are made visible, and the vast richness of the libraries' holdings is more accurately reflected by the catalog.

Managing the process of batchloading requires collaboration across several library units. Acquisitions staff work with subject specialists and budget officers to negotiate with vendors and purchase resources. Collection development librarians decide which files to purchase and set priorities for the order in which to load files. Public services staff review records to ensure their constituents' needs are being met. Cataloging staff assess record quality, customize record sets to meet local needs, and coordinate loads. Systems staff load records and manage the extraction of records for vended authority control.

Penn State University Libraries have devoted substantial financial and staff resources in transforming batchloading (originally a small-scale, project-based activity) into a standardized, institution-wide workflow. We believe that our experiences will be instructive to other libraries and that Penn State's documentation will assist others in making their own batchloading policies and procedures more efficient. …