Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

A Rough Measure of Copy Cataloging Productivity in the Academic Library

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

A Rough Measure of Copy Cataloging Productivity in the Academic Library

Article excerpt

Introduction

Cataloging productivity has been notoriously difficult to measure. This is borne out by the fact that, while enough has been written to produce two bibliographies on the subject (in 1970 and 1988--and more since), the vast majority of this work "is fragmentary, limited in scope, and short on detail (Morris, Herbert, Osmus, & Wool, 2000). The research is near-impossible to replicate because it is based on locally produced (and undefined) data, it is focused often on the productivity of individuals in a local circumstance, and it is frequently cast in terms of costs and benefits where costs are often difficult to define and measure and thoroughly monetizing the benefits of libraries has been largely absent (Charbonneau, 2005; University of Maryland Libraries, 2001). The issue has frequently boiled down to the "allegorical battle between Quantity and Quality" (Mandel, 1988, p. 215) with much room for posturing over needs for justification from management and the indignant reply of placing monetary value on such a thing. Hence productivity data is "scanty" and tends to focus on turn around time--a measure itself going back thirty years in ARL libraries (University of Maryland Libraries, 2001).

In turn, much has been said over a long period of time about the death of the book: McLuhan's (1962; 1965; see also Neill, 1971) work implied that the book was dead--superseded by media culture; and F.W. Lancaster (1982, p. 149-150) predicted about a quarter century ago that, as the "print on paper literature of the past" is replaced by electronic versions, we will see "the disappearance of the library ... All that will remain are a few institutions that preserve the printed records of the past"--hence "the paperless society." Despite this, in 2004 (a year of relevance in this article), 375,000 new titles and editions of books were published in the English speaking world, and in terms of U.S. book production, the numbers of titles have grown substantially over the last decade from 104,124 in 1993 to 190,078 in 2004 (Bowker.com, 2005; Grabois, 2005). Academic libraries (both the largest and smaller ones) have in turn increased expenditures and acquisitions of books (Stoller, 2006), so it is still a reasonable assumption for the foreseeable future that academic libraries will acquire a not insignificant portion of this output.

Rider University Library has followed this general pattern. A private, coeducational university located in New Jersey, Rider has two campuses and libraries (Lawrenceville and Princeton), 3,764 full-time undergraduates, 822 part-time, and 1,204 graduate students. The Moore Library in Lawrenceville is a medium sized academic library: 450,000 volumes, 80 databases, and 20,000+ journal titles--mostly in electronic formats, 10 library faculty and 13 support staff with 2 supervisors. In 2003, a major review of spending patterns and curriculum support needs resulted in a significant reconceptualization and shift in collection philosophy at Moore Library. Discontinuing some print duplication of stable electronic periodical content resulted in the ability to shift needed funding into monographs acquisition. This strategy was augmented by a long overdue increase in the monographs collection budget. The result was an increase in monographs acquisition, from 3311 purchased volumes in AY 2000-2001, to 5029 purchased volumes in AY 2004-2005--an almost 52% increase. Total added monographic volumes went from 5173 to 6474, representing an approximately 25% rise. It is due to this increase and a related problem that we produced a rough copy cataloging productivity benchmark. It is worth noting here that by benchmark we mean primarily quantity of work, rather than the concept of "'production benchmarks' ... developed to measure and compare quantitative and qualitative output" primarily applied to professional catalogers working at higher skill-set levels (Charbonneau, 2005, p. 41). Faced with a management challenge in terms of both an increase in monographic acquisitions and recurring requests for additional copy cataloging help, questions concerning the actual need for that help arose. …

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