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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Professional Placement reflection: Resource Services

I spent my first day for professional placement observing the Technical Services division of this Library.  My mind was blown by the complexity of the department but also the challenges that they face both operationally but also organisationally.

Picture of one of the processing shelves, older resources
get bookmarks rather than stamped covered and barcoded.

I kept on referring back to a conversation with a colleague last year, where he said "why do we need the library, the kids can get everything on the internet".  The internet is the mechanism by which students get access to information, but essentially it is databases that are being accessed to find information. 

Yes, but who brings it all together for students to access easily? The Resource Services Department.

They are the engine room of the Library, they keep it going and their job is to make resource provision as seamless as possible. They are often the unsung hero's of a library and tend to be the first area where jobs or money is cut from. Some aspects of the observation which I compiled myself from spending a day observing.
  • Efficient processing physical resourcesThere is an online procurement system via their Information Library Management System (ILMS) where each department head and campus can order physical resources. Majority of them turn up 'shelf ready' and the files are already placed into the database. It is expected that this department acts quickly on the procurement of resources. If the resource can't be bought from a company which does 'shelf ready' resources, then this department processes the physical books.
  • Integration of online resources into the Information Library Management System
    The morning that I spent observing, the library tech's were grappling with a unique problem. They had access to thousands of streaming video's, of which about only 46% of these resources had MARC records that could be integrated into the ILMS. The remaining MARC records needed to be obtained from somewhere. They needed to integrated into the system to provide equitable access to all students. Then there was the problem of the MARC records being incorrect. Many of the companies that provide electronic resources aren't necessarily from an information management background. Often the MARC records produced have errors in them. With the impending integration of RDA into the mix, the data being imported into the system needs to be correct or it will provide the library with issues later on.  This then poses ongoing maintenance issues for the Resource Services team.
  • Resources are accessible via a single entry search pointIn order to do this, electronic resources need to be accessible via the ILMS which means lots of lovely time crunching data and making sure that there are RDA compatible MARC records for each resource. This university was using Primo as their single point of entry to allow access to all their databases, they called it the 'Discovery layer'. One advantage of a university setting is that they have the volume of students to afford the technology to make single point of entry possible.

The Information Library Management System sits in the background and manages access to these resources. There was discussion about libraries that were moving the catalogue to the 'cloud' given the pervasiveness of handheld devices and technology. Continuity of service seemed to be the biggest attraction, followed by cost and not having to maintain physical infrastructure.


As more and more resources are arriving shelf ready the traditional role of the Library Technician has moved away from physically handling resources to ensuring that online resources are easily accessible in the OPAC. 

Even though copy cataloguing can occur easily with programs such as Marc Edit, the Library Technician still needs to ensure that the entry into the database meets the needs of the client base. So for part of my observation I helped catalogue some resources. I needed to think about who was going to use them and what they would be looking for.

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