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Constant Disruption

Date: Wed 23 Jan 2019

The first listed reading we have this week is by Marshall Breeding. Astute observers will note that Breeding is one of the first people cited in the two additional readings we have this week. We'll read more from Breeding later in the semester, but I bring him up now because he also oversees a website titled Library Technology Guides at If you would like to keep abreast of the recent news on the electronic resource industry, Breeding's website should be at the top of your list.

Breeding's What is ERM? article is a good one to start off with this week. He provides not only a nice outline of the various components of electronic resources, but he also provides some historical context for those components. One caveat: Breeding, as well as the other two articles on our list this week, is focused on academic libraries. I'm afraid that there isn't much literature (that I have seen, at least) that provides the same kind of information from other library types. I think this is because librarians in other libraries publish less often than academic librarians, who are often required to publish to acquire tenure, and when they do publish, they generally publish on other topics. However, the same processes that our articles describe generally hold for other types of libraries. Differences in processes and in some details will arise, though, because of organizational or other contextual issues. For example, public libraries are often tightly connected to municipalities or county governments, as well as to their state libraries. Not only does that raises organizational challenges, but it also highlights the fact that municipal, county, or state laws will define how some processes must be handled and who must handle them. The same is true for public schools, and in such cases, school boards and school districts will likely be involved. Other issues may impact things a bit too. As some of you have noted, public libraries provide more ebooks and audiobooks and less ejournals than academic libraries. That will change the emphasis on some aspects of the ERM work flow.

That said, I understand that some of the terms he uses and the technologies he describes might still be foreign to some of you. I'm not going to rehash or summarize these articles here -- we'll simply discuss them on the boards, but I do want to spend some time providing some additional background information -- and highlight some of the things to look for in these three articles.

As I've previously mentioned, librarians have been migrating to some kind of electronic management since the 1970s. Breeding mentions this, too. It actually started well before this -- in fact, I published a paper a few years ago that provides a historical account of the first library automation project, which took place in the 1930s with punched cards. However, around the 1960s, the primary use of computers was to manage circulation, and then patron records. In the early 1970s, tools became available to manage and search bibliographic records. That is, computers were first used mostly to manage circulation of books, then to add patron records, which allowed patrons to check out works electronically, and finally to search for works. If a work of interest was located using these tools, then that work could be retrieved from the shelves or ordered via interlibrary loan by snail mail. Full text, by and large, came much later and is largely the result of the introduction of the web in the early 1990s, which at its heart is nothing more than a big document retrieval system, as well as with the introduction of bigger storage devices, such as CD-ROMs.

In the process of migrating from print to electronic, all sorts of things had to change, but they all rest on the major premise of all librarianship -- that we organize information in order to retrieve information. Although you may have often heard that libraries are ancient things, libraries and librarianship didn't truly modernize until the 1920s and 1930s when some in the profession began to hone in on the major complexities and challenges involved in organizing and retrieving information. The challenges with organizing and retrieving information that they identified nearly 100 years ago were indeed major and problematic, but fortuitous, because it gave rise to what we know called library science.

Yet consider that when those people laid the groundwork for a library science, librarians only managed print and the primary means of accessing print collections was through a physical building. With the introduction of the computers in the 1960s and with networking technologies in the 1990s, issues with organizing and retrieving information grew exponentially, and indeed, this exponential increase in complex issues launched an entire new field, what we now call information science.

All right -- back to the ground level. Let me highlight some of the key terms in Breeding's article. They include:

  • Finding aids
  • Knowledge bases
  • OpenURL link resolvers
  • ERM systems
  • Library service platforms
  • Integrated library systems (ILS)

Unless you already have some solid experience with these things, and even after reading Breeding's nice article, these terms may still be abstract for you all. So, this week, you have two major tasks:

  1. Find real, practical examples. Pick one or two of the above terms and see how they work in practice. Then come back here and tell us what you found.
  2. Locate how these terms appear in either the Cote & Ostergaard (2017) article or the Fu & Carmen (2015). Note other terms that may appear in those two articles and comment on the role they play in the ERM work flow and the migration process.

As you work on this, I ask that you pay attention to the emphasis on work flow. We're reading the Cote & Ostergaard article and the Fu & Carmen article not just because migrating to new systems is a big deal, but also because it's significant that there's a need to write and publish articles on migration topics. In the print era, there were some cases where librarians might migrate to a new system. For example, some research libraries in the U.S. started off by classifying their works using the Dewey Decimal Classification system, but then began to convert to the Library of Congress Classification system. This was no small task, but it was also not that common. Today, migration is big business, so to speak, in the library world because the technology changes so fast and because there are a number of competing electronic resource management products that librarians have to choose from, and do when those products provide advantages to their users, communities, and themselves.

teaching/constant-disruption.txt · Last modified: 2019/01/25 15:40 by seanburns