Re-inventing the Online Catalogue

The traditional definition of the library catalogue as a ‘key to exploit the resources of the library’ is now considered as something of the past. Technologies have pushed the limits of the catalogue beyond the holdings of the library, as many academic libraries are nowadays providing pointers in their online catalogue to items not only in their holdings but also to digital contents stored on servers in remote places outside the geographical boundaries of the library.  There has operated a paradigm shift in library operations with a  focus on accessibility to materials, irrespective of their location rather than  on the availability of locally held materials. It matters little, or not at all, for the user then to know where the item is held, provided the librarian provide access to the required document within the premises of the library or even outside the library. The explosive growth of  digital contents on the web backed by a customer-centric policy have led academic libraries in more advanced countries to add machine-readable catalogue records to their online catalogue to link hundred of thousands of URLs with freely available contents.

The Penrose Library at the University of Denver is one such academic libraries which has added links to MARC records and by 1999, the catalogue contained about 1,848 URLs for government documents available freely. Gradually, the library also added URLs with licensed documents, microfilms, full-text online version of  publications, links to publishers’ Web sites, reviews, or tables of contents and online serials. The catalogue search function enables users to locate print and digital content easily as formats are distinguishable from both the browse screens and the full record in the OPAC including the clear display of URLS. Consequently, the library catalogue now not only provides access to its own holdings but also serves as a gateway to web content that the library has selected for its users.

It is worth noting that when the State of Colorado made MARC records for state online publications available on a monthly basis to all libraries, the Penrose Library became the first virtual Colorado depository for state documents with an enhanced access to over 6,000 online titles.

However, several measures are adopted by the library for the smooth running of such platform and written procedures are developed to ensure that the digital materials are integrated effortlessly into the existing workflow. A Catalogue Management Group (CMG) is formed to look after user convenience that minimizes user confusion by providing clickable links to online contents.  It also facilitates interaction between the teams directly affected by the online catalogue. Moreover, a Collection Development Team is put into place to develop policies for selection of online content for inclusion in the catalogue. There are also copy cataloguers in the Monographs Unit who provide systematic access to digital materials.

Since physical processing (barcode, label, etc.) of items is not needed in the digital world, the library is able to load large numbers of records. At  the Penrose Library, loading batch records is accomplished by a team comprised of the head of Technical Services, a catalogue librarian, a catalogue technician, and a student worker. Furthermore, the MARCEdit software is used to manipulate these large record loads.

It is evident that the staffs have responded to the ever changing environment by developing innovative strategies. They were driven by the need of the users and focused on easing accessibility. They saw this as an opportunity to improve and expand their skills too while becoming full-fledged citizens of the digital world. Libraries are evolving over time as digital content is proliferating at an exponential rate. The answer to the question of how to harness the tide of digital information on the web seems to be the provision of a one-stop shop service to access both information held locally and from external sources via a revamped online catalogue with links to full text digital content. It is a model worth studying to be adapted in the local context.

Lalita Chumun

REFERENCE

Meagher, Elizabeth S. and Brown, Christopher C., (2010). “Turned loose in the OPAC: URL selection, addition and management process.”, Library High Tech, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp.360-376.

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University of Technology, Mauritius Resource Centre on Facebook

The University of Technology, Mauritius Resource Centre  is now using Facebook applications, the much hyped social media,  to connect with its users and to develop professional networking.  You may access the pages by clicking here. You are invited to share your views, comments and opinions.

P. Hauroo

Creation of Digital Libraries in Mauritius: Challenges

During the last few decades, the library and information landscape in developed countries has changed drastically. One of the major drivers of this cataclysmic change is the application of ICTs in processing, handling, manipulating, storing and disseminating information. Providing access to information 24/7 round the clock is a reality in our digital era. Digitization projects have mushroomed throughout the world and this phenomenon is bringing a revolution in the information sector. The World’s Digital Library, the Gutenberg Project, Google’s Digitization project, the Library of Congress Digitization Program and many other programmes are well under way. World famous national libraries and big cultural organizations are major players in the field of providing access to electronic sources of information on a global scale. Small nations of the size of Mauritius do not have the ambition to play a big role on the world stage in face of the British Library, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France or the Library of Congress. However, national libraries of small smart countries can contribute in the global movement of free flow of information and knowledge, and to ease the transfer of information from developing countries to other more developed nations. By doing so, they may play a more active role of information producers, rather than being merely information consumers.

At local level, a few digitization projects has been conceptualized by the AUF at the Reduit university campus. Other institutions such as  the University of Mauritius, the MSIRI, the Mauritius Institute of Health and the National Library have plans to develop their own digital collections. However, the movement of digitization of locally produced materials seems to be really very slow.

Challenges:

  • Preservation & Conservation of national heritage materials.

It would be appropriate here to distinguish between ‘preservation’  and ‘conservation’. Preservation is “concerned with maintaining or restoring access to artifacts, documents and records through the study, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of decay and damage” while ‘conservation’ “refers to the treatment and repair of individual items to slow decay or restore them to a usable state.”  (Wikipedia). In this context, preservation is meant to describe all actions, processes and methods to preserve for posterity the national heritage materials.

  • What to preserve?

Countries of the size of Mauritius cannot compete with big players in the field and will have to preserve only indigenous materials. Digitization of heritage materials may help in the preservation of these materials. If the physical documents cannot be conserved beyond a certain time due to its inherent properties, digitization may at least preserve the contents of the documents. There is no other alternative than to preserve the digital contents to make them available for research and scholarship.

  • Provide enhanced accessibility to authenticated contents.

A paper document is bound to be physically located in one place and the user of that document has to be at the same place for consultation/reference to take place. In many instances, the user has to travel kilometres to consult the required document. Providing online access, 24/7, round the clock will enhance accessibility to users and that also free to all. Rapid Internet connection together with appropriate  ICT equipments may enable a multi-user approach for scarce documents if they are digitized. Digitized versions of rare and old documents/ manuscripts may be made available to users, thereby preserving the original one to avoid usual wear and tear. The digital divide and digital illiteracy have also to be addressed by libraries offering.

  • Seamless flow of information

Information is often scattered throughout various places and centres. Which library holds what material is not known to users who, in some instances are unaware of the richness of the holdings of libraries. Online accessibility to the holdings of libraries may even be enhanced by a centralized database (Union Catalogue) .

  • Training & Education of library personnel.

Technical expertise is scarce in the field. There is urgent need to have fully qualified personnel, with skills and competencies to collect, build and manage digital collections. Tailor-made training programmes and even well-structured formal courses have to be mounted to train people to manage and maintain digital libraries. Expertise in metadata creations, competencies in evaluating digital imaging, quality control, etc will have to be developed; capacity building with use of ICT (distance learning, online courses, etc) may equally help.

  • Equipments and tools

Heavy-duty scanners and other hardware will be required.  Back-up services along with a disaster recovery centre for all digital contents have to be ensured. Acquisition of all the hardware and provision of back-up service along with a disaster recovery centre have to be catered for.

  • Standardization of practice

It is forecasted that various institutions in the educational, cultural, scientific, research and law sectors will eventually undertake digitization programmes. Each institution may adopt its own norms and use its software, whether proprietary or open source.  There is need to ensure compatibility of software used by all the institutions to be able to share information. It is critical to ensure inter-operability of systems to facilitate resource and information sharing among institutions involved in digitization programmes.

  • Unsolved Copyright Problem

For public domain documents (out of copyright materials), the problem of copyright does not arise. Digitization of such materials does not present any problem.  For copyrighted materials, digitization is a big problem. The Google digitization project and various cases entered in court by authors and association of publishers are indications of the legal complexities of the situation.

For digitally born documents also, there seems to be difficulties to enforce copyright and intellectual property regulations. In case of violation of copyright, especially by users who may make unauthorized use of digitized documents, who is held responsible? Other issues are related to the digital content: who owns what? Is it the service provider who purchases access rights from information brokers or the information broker who also archives past issues of journals? This problem is also linked to the preservation of digital contents. Traditionally, libraries had this preservation role but nowadays they do not have ownership of digital contents; they only buy access. There is presently no legislation to make the preservation of digital content binding on these vendors. There is real big risk for loosing in the long run much of the digital contents.

A strategy to provide a common access to all digital materials on Mauritiana has yet to be crafted and implemented. The viability of such a project will have to be brainstormed among stakeholders and a common platform should be developed to provide access to provide electronic contents and services from all sectors – health, education, libraries, cultural and scientific institutions.

P. Hauroo

Generational Change and Academic Libraries

An academic library consortium based in Australia has established that understanding the effects of generational change help recognize and anticipate the future professional development needs of library and information workers. Findings of  a survey indicate that for the former generation (1960-1980), “the more they learn the more they stay” and for the new generation (1980-2000), “continuous learning is a way of life”. This compels academic libraries to use better  strategies to attract and keep the right staff from both generations.

Historical events, economic trends and social upheavals have definitely an impact on a generation that usually takes about twenty years to reach full economic maturity. Friction and change that often arise between generations are not new phenomena. It also includes the different interactions in the workplace where three or even four generations are represented. The academic libraries are exposed to continuous technological change and could be at the risk of marginalization if generational change is not managed effectively. Consequently, recruiting and retaining new library professionals are critical to secure the future of academic libraries.

To attract and keep a new cohort of library professionals, libraries need to consider a range of enticements that align directly with the core values and characteristics of both generations. Selection of staff incorporates added skills such as teaching, marketing and promotion and liaison roles with academic departments. The learning style of the former generation is generally given more consideration because it is motivated by a desire to enhance professional skills. In addition, their thinking is clear; they work across a range of professions whilst they remain with an organization for a longer term. The new generation on the contrary looks for transferable careers whilst its needs extend to a greater degree of personal flexibility, professional satisfaction and immediacy. The new generation can also afford to be fussy in its choice of employment and employer as social networking technologies become more pervasive and there is a trend towards “smaller entrepreneurial operations”. For the new generation, born since the advent of the Internet, self-employment is a real alternative. It provides additional career challenges such as moving to knowledge Management, Administration or Public Relations where better opportunities for skills development and personal flexibility exist. Hence, for the new generation, continuous learning is a way of life and the “talent squeeze” of younger professionals is increasingly becoming in the composition of the actual librarianship workload.

As a result, three simple strategic measures are employed during the selection process of library professionals to satisfy the rigours of the academic libraries. These are:

1. Value the individual – in word and deed

Flexible workplaces and work-life balance should be part of the nuts and bolts of the work environment, along with a fair share of remuneration for the library professionals. These “basics” avoid talented staff to compare and contrast elsewhere. While both generations of staff work together, factors such as the degree to which they will be respected as individuals and colleagues in the workplace, how their ideas are valued, how they will be developed professionally, and how they are supervised are considered. There is no value, for example, in offering flexible work hours at an organizational level if supervisors or outdated work practices make their application problematic at the operational level.

2. Provide plentiful access to meaningful professional development opportunities

It is a fact that professional development preferences of the library workforce are moving inexorably away from higher-level conceptual matters towards more vocational and work-based skills. The library workforce is looking for professional development that is directly relevant to their needs, credible, convenient, good value for money, and above all, practical which is related to outcomes and outputs. Professional development must have meaning and training must be effective, relevant, interactive, personalized, and entertaining.

3. Provide rich and varied access to mentors and other living career guides

Despite an apparent confidence and independence, both the old and new generations do not have all the answers. Like generations before them, they still require guidance from older and hopefully wiser colleagues. Hence, academic libraries looking to attract and retain staff into the future provide access to a mentor or coach as part of any employment package.

In short, the understanding of generational change and commitment to professional development plays a critical role in the recruitment and retention efforts of future academic libraries. Seniority as a concept has almost ceased to have meaning in many contemporary work settings. In addition, merit selection and the “talent squeeze” are causing later generations to leap ahead of earlier generations in terms of responsibilities and remuneration. The same scenario is mirrored in the local context too. For a long term success, the academic libraries could consider giving library workers similar variety of work and attractive opportunities for their professional growth and development.

Lalita Chumun

REFERENCE

Sayers, R., 2007. The right staff from X to Y: generational change and professional development in future academic libraries. Library Management. 28 (8/9)

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 3 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 18 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 63 posts. There were 11 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was July 13th with 155 views. The most popular post that day was Vacancies.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were orange.mu, search.conduit.com, mail.yahoo.com, portal.unesco.org, and google.mu.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for mauritius examination syndicate, innovation in libraries, mauritius examination syndicate vacancies, university of technology mauritius vacancies, and mahatma gandhi.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Vacancies January 2009

2

Organisational Behaviour: Corporate Culture April 2009
4 comments

3

Book/Website review November 2008

4

Organisational Behaviour: victim of workplace bullying? April 2009
5 comments

5

Mobile Computing & Libraries January 2010
4 comments

Managerial Complacency in Libraries

Let us be clear on this point: libraries like any other organizations, whether small or big, have been set up with specific missions, goals and objectives. Consequently, librarians (Directors, Heads of Library Department, etc) who are the executives invested with the required power and authority have responsibility to achieve the specified mission and objectives of the organization.   They are the managers in the real sense of the term and they do carry out all the managerial functions of planning, organizing, directing (leading) and controlling. Without going into the technicalities of the definition of the term, I would take a first definition (though not the only definition) of management as the responsibility for the performance of a group of people. If the organization fails, management fails! There is no other explanations if an organization fails to deliver as per specified expectations. Internal problems of an organization (employee’s problem for example) not solved within but referred to an outside party is symptomatic of an ailing organization.

In our local context, most libraries are in a really sad state of affairs. Why can’t they improve? Some library executives are smart, capable and fully qualified but they are stuck and cannot do much better than the daily routine things. Years in and years out, they keep on doing the same activities, without any novel idea, project or innovation. Why management (librarians) can’t improve? What’s stopping them from doing better? The answer seems to be: the librarians themselves!

Some librarians, after obtaining the so much desired position in the LIS sector are just practising the traditional librarianship of a bygone era. Other  executives having attained a certain level of proficiency have ended up by accepting things as they are. They are tuned to the “keep going” mindset and have ultimately become complacent. Still others are clinging to their post as if there would be no end even after reaching normal retirement age. They forget the simple truth that everything, whether good or bad, has an end. They pretty well know that they are where they are, not on the strength of their professional aptitudes or reputation as good library executives, but on the basis of a particular set of skills known to everyone. All these have brought in a generalized lethargy in the LIS sector. What ought to be a dynamic field is now perceived by people outside the profession as a sluggish, moribund and unattractive profession.

Library executives have tried to “woo employees” by adopting friendly attitudes. Their management style is based on personal relationship with their employees. They favour “managerial populism” and want to be liked by (or become popular with) all their employees. They are as if permanently electioneering to contest an election for which they need to secure votes. Others have become tyrants/ autocratic with the ” I am the only boss”, “do as what I say or else you will be fired” attitude. With such friendly attitudes, managerial complacency sets in the organization and the tyranny of the boss contributes in the high turn over of employees. How librarians can improve themselves?

Asking questions about oneself, “how good I am”, ” am I doing things correctly”, “can I do better“, etc is the first step toward improvement. Librarians must first manage themselves.  Librarians should take time and effort to grow and develop themselves. The day that they stop growing, they start dying. Moreover, they should project a positive image of  themselves,  command respect of their employees and their authority should come not solely from the chair of the position they occupy,  but also from personal and professional competencies. They should be perceived by their employees as  good and great managers, fair and just in dealing with staff matters. One of the common blunders of awful managers is the allocation for overseas training to employees, not on the basis of merits to meet the needs of the organization, but using it as a reward to mediocre employees for their faithfulness and docile attitude.

Managers should be aware that what they do, their beliefs, their actions and values and how they communicate, are constantly being observed by their employees who create a perception  of their managers on the basis of these observations. It is good to remember that managers achieve results through people. How could librarians/managers exert productive influence on their people? To be effective, librarians need to be able to exert influence that makes a difference not only in what their employees do but also in the thoughts and feelings that drive their actions. For this to happen, people’s trust in their managers is important. Without this trust no manager can influence the attitude and bahaviour of the people they are supposed to manage. Managers should believe in their own competence, their values, what they do and how they do. Their motives and intentions should be equally transparent enough to all employees to serve as the foundations for the trust people will place on them.

Are our library executives capable of this transformation?

P. Hauroo

7 Major Ways We’re Digitizing Our World…

In an interesting article entitled “7 Major Ways We’re Digitizing Our World, And 3 Reasons We Still Want Hardcopies”,  Jaymi Heimbuch of San Francisco, California  identifies and discusses   major ways we have digitized our world. These are

  1. Books to e-Books
  2. DVDs to Streamed Movies and Television
  3. CDs to MP3s
  4. Road Maps to GPS
  5. Photos to Flickr
  6. Snail Mail to e-Mail
  7. Magazines, Newspapers & Journals to Online Article Databases

The author argues that our digitized content is also at risk in case of fire or other calamities. The entire data may be lost for ever. However, the issue of preservation of digitized content is not fully discussed though a point  is made for less environmental damage. Read the full article 7 Major Ways We’re Digitizing Our World, And 3 Reasons We Still Want Hardcopies” here..article

P. Hauroo