23:1 (2008:03) Guest Editorial: Digital and/or Analog: Tech Services Organization

February 27, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Posted in Guest Editorials | Leave a comment


JoAnne Deeken, Team Leader, Technical Services and Digital Access, University of Tennessee

There is no one correct way of organizing technical services. But the general tendency of the past was to separate them into serials and non-serials areas. In my library, over time, that distinction has been blurred to differentiate not by bibliographic format, but by payment format: everything that is paid for one time (with the exception of back issues of periodicals) and what is paid for multiple times.

For whatever reason, the move from analog to digital materials hit serials first. And it is the serials folk who first had the pleasure of working with licenses, IP ranges versus sign on, limited or unlimited simultaneous users, loss of access issues, etc. And hasn’t it been fun learning? But in the last year or so, more non-serial materials have been moving towards electronic. We have an entire set of people who need to re-learn all the lessons that serials people are already familiar with.

Have we reached the point it is time for us to start dividing our workloads into “analog and digital” instead of “serials and non-serials?” I’ve been reluctant to do this. My reason for not wanting to organize this way is that I see it as creating a department of “saved” and “left behind” personnel. I wouldn’t want to be working exclusively in a format seen as disappearing!

The only difference in pay between Acq staff members here is longevity. It’s the same inside cataloging. In serials we do have a two-tier system, but that may modify in the next review process as new duties are added. The tendency at this university has been to consider emerging technologies as higher level positions. Therefore, I have real fear that the position levels of people working with analog materials could drop.

It seems that most serials have an electronic counterpart; that moving images and music are appearing in digital formats on line; and that the traditional monograph is either including additional digital information or is going completely digital. If we reorganize now, in a couple of years most of the staff would have been moved to digital. Why not wait until that happens naturally?

When it comes to cataloging, all our staff catalogers are currently creating both MARC and MODS records; they are in training today; or they will be trained in the next couple of months. That move is actually going very smoothly and no one is being left behind. I’d like to find a way to do the same for digital materials, but the learning curve seems a bit steep.

So, what are the rest of you doing? Are my worries just unfounded (or worse, based on some kind of unconscious fear)? Is digital so different that we should just go ahead and organize around that? Or is there just a learning curve that appears big because we’re at the bottom it? What do you think?


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