Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

If You Buy It, Will They Use It? A Case Study on the Use of Classification Web

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

If You Buy It, Will They Use It? A Case Study on the Use of Classification Web

Article excerpt

This paper presents a study conducted at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder) to assess the extent to which its catalogers were using Classification Web (Class Web), the subscription-based, online cataloging documentation resource provided by the Library of Congress. In addition, this paper will explore assumptions made by management regarding CU-Boulder catalogers" use of the product, possible reasons for the lower-than-expected use, and recommendations for promoting a mare efficient and cost-effective use of Class Web at other institutions similar to CU-Boulder.


Catalogers at the University Libraries of the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder) began using Classification Web (Class Web) in June 2002, shortly after it was introduced by the Cataloging Distribution Service (CDS) of the Library of Congress (LC). (1) At that time, Class Web was publicized as the first LC resource to offer cataloging documentation via the Web. Today, it is used by working catalogers throughout the world to formulate classification numbers and subject headings according to the standards and rules published in the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) and the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). (2)

At CU-Boulder, catalogers have come to depend on Class Web for various reasons. The most important is the convenience it offers catalogers, who can now access both LCC and LCSH from their personal workstations. Other noteworthy advantages to using the tool include:

* a correlation feature that links both resources;

* automatic calculation of classification numbers;

* a correlation (added July 1, 2004) between Dewey Decimal Classification numbers and their corresponding LCC numbers and LCSH entries;

* files that are updated by LC on a weekly basis;

* links to other libraries' catalogs (such as LC's Online Public Access Catalog), including the ability to customize a link to the user's own catalog; and

* software features that allow an individual user to limit searches to specific portions of files that are most pertinent to his or her needs.

The first desktop resources for catalogers offered by CDS, Cataloger's Desktop (Desktop) and Classification Plus (Class Plus), were introduced at CU-Boulder in 2001, although they entered the market in 1994 and 1996 respectively. In April 2002, CDS announced that it would be discontinuing Class Plus in favor of Class Web, a new Web interface for accessing the same LC classification and subject headings data. Based on product descriptions at the time, management at CU-Boulder assumed that the 26 catalogers throughout the University Libraries would be able to make a smooth transition from Class Plus to Class Web. Accordingly, the heads of CU-Boulder's cataloging, acquisition, and systems departments decided to switch the Class Plus subscription to Class Web and to keep CU-Boulder's user agreement at 24 concurrent users at a total cost of $1,500 annually.

Because Class Web was viewed as simply an enhanced version of Class Plus, and many catalogers were already knowledgeable about how to use Class Plus, department heads did not think that offering specialized training for Class Web was important. Catalogers were simply referred to the tutorial built into Class Web to help them make the transition between the two products. The decisions made during the switchover to Class Web regarding the number of concurrent users, the type of transition, and training were based on assumptions that were thought to be valid for the specific needs of the cataloging department at that particular moment. The validity of these assumptions, a users' survey, and a statistical analysis of Class Web usage are examined in this paper.

Literature Review

The cataloging literature includes several papers that address the importance of providing catalogers with access to cataloging resources in electronic format. …

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