Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

The Year's Work in Technical Services Automation, 1989

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

The Year's Work in Technical Services Automation, 1989

Article excerpt

Denise Kaplan is Assistant Director of Lincoln Library, Springfield's public library in Illinois. Her responsibilities include technical services and automation. The author gives special thanks to the interlibrary loan staff: Jeanne Kains, Lincoln Library, and Pam Ewing, Rolling Prairie Library System.

This article provides a different perspective than the other "Year's Work" articles. For the first time, each technical services area is viewed only from the aspect of automation. The reader might ask, of course, if there is any area of technical services not affected by automation. The answer in 1989 is no.

While automation solves some problems, it creates others. Duplicate or triplicate data entry of bibliographic information for acquisitions, cataloging, and circulation was not uncommon in the early days. A solution was desperately needed to streamline workflow. It came in the form of system interfaces and then integrated systems. The existence of MARC cataloging and its acceptance as the de facto standard provided the foundation for the library's integrated database.

Changes in the technical services work environment are not simply the result of outside factors. Technical services librarians are themselves change agents, having initiated and managed the transition from manual to automated systems. (Dumont) This transition has placed many demands upon staff, including analyzing, learning, teaching, and managing these new systems. In some cases, responsibilities have included designing and/ or debugging the system. With the experiences and scars of veterans, technical services librarians share their expertise when the library expands its automation throughout the organization.

Maliconico discusses the current environment of libraries and, by implication, technical services: "New technologies have changed the way libraries operate and are managed. They have put enormous power at the disposal of both library managers and operating staff" (Malinconico). The power of these opportunities and these options is presented below.

This article defines technical services in its traditional sense: acquisitions, cataloging, processing, and serials control. Topics such as circulation, online public access catalogs, and preservation are not covered. With each article, the author has made a judgment as to whether the focus is the automation of the technical service. For example, the user retrieval problems of online catalogs were not considered relevant, but the process of creating the online catalog was.

This article does not seek to be comprehensive. It concentrates on English-language articles published during 1989 judged to be significant and thought provoking. Press releases and product announcements are not included, but independent product evaluations are covered.


The possibilities and practicalities of library automation are comprehensively covered by Saffady's Introduction to Automation for Librarians, second edition. This revision of the 1983 predecessor is divided into two parts, the first covering system fundamentals and the second dealing with library applications. Part two devotes three chapters to automated cataloging, descriptive cataloging, and catalog production; automated acquisitions; and serials control. For a shortened overview, the reader should consult Saffady's Library Trends article. The major areas and motives for automating are outlined, while the current dominant approaches are illustrated by representative products and functions. A picture of technical services automation for microcomputers is given by Manson. With a focus on the United Kingdom marketplace, she discusses systems for cataloging, circulation, and acquisitions.


Acquisitions receives relatively little attention in the library literature compared to cataloging. Two monographs published this year look at the topic of acquisitions as a whole, a valid approach. …

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