Sunday, June 6, 2010

The New User Environment: The End of Technical Services?, by Bradford Lee Eden

"Technical Services: an obsolete term used to describe the largest component of most library staffs in the twentieth century. That component of the staff was entirely devoted to arcane and mysterious processes involved in selecting, acquiring, cataloging, processing, and otherwise making available to library users physical material containing information content pieces (incops). The processes were complicated, expensive, and time-consuming, and generally served to severely limit direct service to users both by producing records that were difficult to understand and interpret, even by other library staff, and by consuming from 75–80 percent of the library’s financial and personnel resources. In the twenty-first century, the advent of new forms of publication and new techniques for providing universal records and universal access to information content made the organizational structure obsolete. That change in organizational structure, more than any other single factor, is generally credited as being responsible for the dramatic improvement in the quality of library service that has occurred in the first decade of the twenty-first century."

1 comment:

Jeffrey Beall said...

• This latest article by Eden is basically a re-hash of his article "Information organization future for libraries," published in 2007. In that article he declared that the "OPAC is dead," a prophecy that has not come true, despite ongoing attempts to kill intellectual access in libraries.

• The article pays homage to Deanna Marcum and Karen Calhoun, whom he quotes numerous times and who share his desire to eliminate library technical services and rely on full-text searching.

• On page 93, he calls ONIX "enriched metadata." All the ONIX metadata I've seen basically just includes the title, the author's name in an uncontrolled form, and the imprint.

• On page 94 he says, " ... users are no longer patient nor comfortable working with our clunky OPACs." I think this makes it a fair question to ask, then why do you still have an OPAC at UCSB? Especially since you declared OPACs dead three years ago?

• A recent JISC briefing paper declared, "High-quality metadata is becoming more important for discovery of appropriate resources." Eden seems to be missing the point and suggesting that search engines are good enough for intensive research and scholarship. He even admits that he basically just used Google to research the article.

• On page 95, he says, "The appearance of WorldCat Local (WCL) will have a tremendous impact on the disappearance of proprietary vendor OPACs." This hasn't started yet, and WCL has been out for over two years. He also fails to mention that products designed to compete with WCL have emerged, and one of WCL's big weaknesses is the low quality of its article metadata.

• The best library/information science articles are those that describe innovative new approaches to solving the fields' biggest problems. Eden falls into the trap of merely trashing the status quo. His writing does nothing to help improve libraries and librarianship. Instead, he denigrates a library added-value function that he seems to care little about and which he appears not to understand