The end of technical services or a new beginning?

In one of the recommended readings for our October 21st session on Metadata Standards & Applications, Eden (2013) makes some excellent points in asking whether there is an end to technical services. Given that users bypass library catalogs for search engines, librarians would do well to shift efforts from cataloging to more user-centric technical services that would fulfill demands for full text articles online, a unified search engine that can help manage and navigate thousands of search results, and better metadata to help determine whether a particular result is useful or not.

Eden, B. L. (2013). The new user environment: The end of technical services? Information Technology and Libraries.


3 thoughts on “The end of technical services or a new beginning?

  1. I agree with the shift of moving more to user-centric based services. Online search engines and more complex databases require less human tending, but technical services staffers are important to have on hand to ensure that the online catalogs are clean and that records make sense.

    Anecdote: I observed a basic library instruction class at a college earlier this afternoon and the personal librarian pointed out that Google Scholar isn’t exactly the most reliable research database. She did a search for the Mexican writer Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz and one of the top search results ended up being a random article on calcium deposits.

  2. While I agree that Technical Services as we know it will change, I don’t see how the department could disappear. The need for original catalogers is dwindling as record sharing is growing, but libraries will most likely always need to have at least one copy cataloger on staff to make sure records display correctly in the OPAC. At least for the time being. Technical Services departments will get smaller and more efficient, but that means having shared job descriptions where multiple people will share the work in collection development, acquisitions, and cataloging. Also, while the article makes some pretty bold claims that WorldCat Local could be the end of Integrated Library Systems and OPACs, the author fails to include anything about E-journals. WorldCat Local is a great tool for Searching Monographs and E-books, but Searching for E-journals is a totally different story. Many libraries these days, Pratt included, use Serials Solutions to manage their Electronic Journals. As you turn on subscriptions in Serials Solutions, it will send MARC records to your ILS system. If you turn off subscriptions, it will send a monthly batch report to your ILS system to delete those records. Serials Solutions also requires an OPAC, as it creates the pages that display a library’s E-journal list, it provides the online citation linker, and it provides the actual links to the resources. As an example, here is the link to Pratt’s citation linker, which you can see is generated by Serials Solutions:

    After some searching, I found that University of Arizona is using WorldCat Local, and has a really nice demo explaining how to use it:

    However, you will notice you can only search for books, articles, and media. If you click down on ‘Other Search Options’, then click on the ‘E-journals’ link you will be directed to a page of their current Electronic Journals. If you scroll down all the way to the bottom of the page, you will see that their E-journal page has been generated by Serials Solutions.

    While Serials Solutions is a useful tool, it can fail just like any other system, and it requires maintenance. That’s why you will see job descriptions in Tech Services departments including “Electronic Resource Management”. Until someone finds a better way to handle Electronic Journals and their records, I believe Tech Services, ILS systems, MARC records, and OPACs will be around for a while.

  3. I’m not exactly sure if it is the end of technical services, but just like with many other library functions and tasks we are going to have to explore a new way of performing these tasks that make it as easy and useful for the patron to use as an internet search engine. Like the legal profession, it appears that the profession of librarianship is constantly struggling to keep up with technology. I think it is just a matter of changing with the times.

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