Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Enhancing the Processing Environment: The Development of a Technical Services Workstation

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Enhancing the Processing Environment: The Development of a Technical Services Workstation

Article excerpt

Although automation had an early impact on technical services operations, the rate of progress has been slow. Recently there has been a great deal of professional interest in the concept of a "cataloger's workstation," a customized configuration of hardware and software designed to enhance the processing environment. A project was undertaken by the staff in the Albert R. Mann Library to design and implement a technical services workstation (TSW) for cataloging and acquisitions staff Using inexpensive and readily available products, the project showed that microcomputers can provide significant benefits for processing staff Technical Services staff have only begun to exploit the power of microcomputers, however, and new developments in computing and networking will have a significant impact on the technical services workstation of the future.

At many libraries, automation came to technical services before it came to any other division. Beginning with the specification of the MARC record in 1968, followed by the creation of the bibliographic utilities and the implementation of local online cataloging and acquisitions systems, automation has had a profound impact on the conduct of technical services worK.

In some respects, however, the rate of progress in automated systems has been slower in technical services than in library departments that automated much later. For many staff, automation of technical services has meant primarily that cataloging records are stored and created in an online environment, using a terminal instead of a typewriter.

Recently, the ultimate promise of the benefits from automation for technical services has been embodied in the concept of the "cataloger's workstation," a customized configuration of hardware and software designed to vastly simplify the life of original and copy cataloger alike. It has partial parallels in other areas of library operations in which the microcomputer has been used to soften or completely replace rigid mainframe environments. Examples include pre- and postprocessing software for online searching and CD-ROM search stations.

Unfortunately, much of the promise of the cataloger's workstation remains undelivered. Although general-purpose microcomputers are increasingly replacing dedicated terminals on technical services desks, staff continue to be underserved by the power and flexibility of the microcomputer. This is particularly true in large research libraries that still rely heavily on mainframe-based online catalogs such as NOTIS and on the bibliographic utilities. However, it is not necessary for the cataloger's workstation to emerge fully formed from the laboratory before technical services staff can enjoy more of the benefits that microcomputers have brought to other departments. Microcomputers can offer relief from some of the more tedious and burdensome mechanical aspects of technical services work right now, using inexpensive and primarily off-the-shelf products.

What follows is a description of the background and rationale for the development of Mann Library's technical services workstation and the details of the microcomputer-based enhancements provided to staff. A concluding section discusses the potential application of other existing and emerging technologies to simplify further the mechanical and intellectual aspects of technical services operations.

BACKGROUND

Mann Library is the land-grant library of New York, serving the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Human Ecology, as well as the Divisions of Biological Sciences and Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. The project described here is a joint effort of the Information Technology Section, consisting of 6.5 FTE staff providing systems development and technical support for staff and patrons, and the Technical Services Division, consisting of 16.5 FTE staff, who carry out acquisitions, cataloging, and serials tasks.

Those technical services staff who have worked at Mann since the early 1970s have witnessed and weathered four major shifts in the automated environment. …

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