Discussion Group Reports

European Vendors Poised to Offer Shelf-Ready Books to American Libraries: Romance Languages Discussion Group and Catalogers' Discussion Group Hear Presentations from the Library of Congess and from Vendors' Representatives

by Charles R. Croissant, Chair, Catalogers' Discussion Group

WESS Newsletter
Spring 2006
Vol. 29, no. 2

previous article next article

Dominique Coulombe, Chair of the Romance Languages Discussion Group, invited a distinguished panel of presenters to the Discussion Group‚s San Antonio Midwinter meeting to speak on current initiatives by the major European vendors to offer cataloging records along with their books. The degree of interest which this topic exerts was apparent from the large attendance at the meeting, which was held on Saturday, January 21, 2006, at the Saint Anthony Hotel . For years, the major European vendors (Casalini, Harrassowitz, Touzot, Puvill, Aux Amateurs de Livres) have supplied minimal-level cataloging records for the books they distribute. In most cases, these records were loaded into the national bibliographic utilities and thus made available to all the utilities‚ members. The primary purpose of these records was to assist in the acquisitions process, and they have been successful in filling this role. Problems arose, however, when libraries imported these minimal records into their local catalogs. Headings for names and series often were not formulated according to the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, and were thus out of synch with headings for the same entities already present in the local catalog. The records routinely required extensive editing by the cataloging staff of each end-user library. At the same time, many American cataloging departments have been experiencing difficulty in getting their foreign-language books cataloged; as catalogers with foreign language expertise retire, many libraries have searched in vain for qualified catalogers who can replace them. Clearly, an opportunity was arising for the European vendors, if they could develop a feasible plan for providing shelf-ready books complete with full cataloging records. The first of the presenters to speak was Dr. Donald Panzera, Chief of the European/Latin American Acquisitions Division of the Library of Congress. Dr. Panzera gave a most informative description of the Shelf-Ready Pilot Project which LC has been conducting with the firm of Casalini for the past year. Casalini approached LC in March, 2004, with an offer to provide shelf-ready Italian books. Perhaps the most compelling part of Dr. Panzera‚s presentation was his description of the reasons that impelled LC to accept Casalini‚s proposal. The Library‚s costs are dramatically outpacing its available resources, both in financial and personnel terms. In 2004, the Library cataloged 37% more print items than it did in 1988. Yet fully half of the Library‚s cataloging staff is close to retirement, and the Library is seriously concerned that it may not be able to fill these positions once they are vacant, both because of budgetary constraints and because of the difficulty of finding qualified applicants. As Dr. Panzera put it, "We cannot go back to the way things were." The Library must be open to new options that will help it conquer its workload. As the Library sees it, the Casalini Pilot Project amounts to an extension of the very successful Program for Cooperative Cataloging, or PCC. LC entered into an agreement with Casalini whereby LC, in March and July 2005, provided extensive training to the cataloging staff at Casalini‚s Italian headquarters. The training began with bibliographic description and was then expanded to include authority work. Casalini has committed to providing records that meet the PCC core-level standard. For its authority work, Casalini has contracted with OCLC to contribute authority records to the LC/NACO Authority File via OCLC. Following its training, LC provided (and continues to provide) extensive follow-up in the form of review of records to ensure they meet the required standard. The Library of Congress is now committed to purchase 4,000 core-level bibliographic records from Casalini in the current fiscal year, along with the accompanying books. LC‚s intent with this pilot project was to determine feasibility. Can such a project help in achieving the goal of "More, faster, better, cheaper?" Can the vendor meet the required standards over the long term? Can they supply the records in a shorter time and less expensively than LC could itself? The Library believes at this point that the answers to these questions will be "Yes."Casalini is a commercial operation, and a business model must be found whereby it receives just compensation for the expenses it incurs in producing full-level bibliographic records. LC pays Casalini about 6 times more for full-level records than Casalini charges its other customers for its minimal-level acquisition records. The Library of Congress is licensing these records rather than acquiring full ownership. The 1902 law which governs LC‚s distribution of its own records mandates that the Library, in distributing records, may recover only the cost of distribution plus 10%. The law thus prevents LC from distributing these Casalini records to the national utilities: if it were to do so, it could not recover a sum equal to that which it must pay out to acquire them from Casalini. Casalini will of course make these records available for direct purchase by any interested library. Happily, at least for libraries who are OCLC members, it was announced at San Antonio that OCLC has reached an agreement to purchase (at least for the coming year) these full-level records from Casalini, so that they will thus become available to OCLC member libraries.LC feels that the Pilot Project has been successful in meeting the goal of cost reduction. LC will save $100,000 this year that it would otherwise have spent on cataloging Italian books. This money is being re-allocated to meet more pressing needs, in particular the cataloging of electronic journals.After Dr. Panzera spoke, the Discussion Group heard from vendor representatives: Gilles de Rochefoucauld and Jane Maddox, Aux Amateurs de Livres; Joachim Bartz, Casalini; and Oscar Puvill, Puvill. Mr. Rochefoucauld informed us about Aux Amateurs de Livres‚ plans to offer full-level cataloging. Additionally to the minimal-level acquisition records it has offered for some years, Aux Amateurs de Livres produced 1,200 full-level records in 2004 and plans to expand this program. Books are cataloged using AACR2, 1998 revision. Headings are verified against the LC/NACO authority file. LC call numbers and LC subject headings are provided. A full-level record costs 5.50 Euros when the book is purchased on an approval plan, and 12 Euros if purchased outside an approval plan.Mr. Bartz of Casalini explained that his firm currently offers three levels of records: vendor records, which are not fully AACR2; enhanced records, which are vendor records with the addition of an LC call number and an LC subject heading; and, beginning in October, 2005, the LC core-level records described above. Casalini must establish a secure income that will support this effort. Currently, in addition to LC, 10 major American libraries are purchasing full-level records directly from Casalini. Casalini believes it has the capacity to increase its cataloging load to some seven to eight thousand records a year, up from the current four thousand.Mr. Puvill explained that his firm received some initial training from Library of Congress in 1993 in order to produce brief records. He also expects that his firm will expand operations in the direction of providing full-level cataloging; their cataloging service is currently the fastest-growing of all their departments.The presentations were followed by open discussion. In general, the participants seemed open to this new model; some expressed the view that our current model of expert catalogers situated in academic libraries is in any case broken, and that some kind of fix is definitely in order. The question was raised: What do libraries really want in terms of cataloging? It was clear that this question would need much more time for discussion. One question asked was whether libraries feel that they must continue to have Library of Congress subject headings, or whether they are more interested in enriched content in the record which would provide more access via keyword searches. There was a consensus that librarians must engage in frank dialogue about who will pay for cataloging and how much. On Sunday, January 22, Dr. Panzera repeated his presentation for members of the WESS Catalogers' Discussion Group. He was joined by his colleague Angela Kinney, who directly oversees the Casalini Pilot Project. Some further discussion ensued: some catalogers are concerned for the future of their profession: Does this mean that the kind of work we currently do will gradually move out of academic libraries and into the corporate world? At the same time, it was felt that this development may constitute a relief in terms of our workloads, freeing us up to finally catalog the "hidden collections" so many of our institutions house. Some fear was expressed over the use of the core-level standard in this new model: since the PCC core-level standard only requires a single subject heading (additional subject headings are optional), its wider use may result in the degradation of subject access in libraries' catalogs.


Editor: Paul Vermouth

Association of College & Research Libraries
©American Library Association

Return to WESS Newsletter
WESSWEB