The six chapters in Part II of our book deal with automation in technical services. A major theme is the bibliographic database. Changing from cards to computers has been neither simple nor cheap and many mistakes have been made along the way (in Chapter 11, Cassandra Brush covers some of those old mistakes and why we made them). One of our favorite clichés in libraries is: ‘‘Yes, building an electronic database is very expensive but it’s a long-term investment in our future and that justifies the costs.’’ We are learning, however, that maintenance costs can make that investment even more expensive. Catalog databases deteriorate with age. As cataloging rules, rule interpretations, classification codes, subject headings, and Machine Readable Cataloging formats evolve, old records become obsolete. We’d like them to be fully modern, something we often neglected in card and book catalogs.
The core problem here is one we have always had to deal with in library automation. Library staff might have to work with a card catalog containing records prepared over a 50-year span. Often staff and public cope with this reasonably well. This success happened because all kinds of informal but workable judgments. We haven’t taught library computers to be very good at informal judgments or coping with the kind of variations and inconsistencies we used to tolerate in card catalogs. Librarians can use all the help available in maintaining bibliographic databases while containing costs.
In Chapter 6, Stephen P. Foster and Maryhelen Jones bring together two topics not usually associated, technical services and off-campus programs. Typically, reader services bears the responsibility for supporting off-campus