Cataloging and Classification

George Stachokas on ERM issues and trends

"Electronic resources are now the predominant component of academic library collections," says George Stachokas, editor of the new ALCTS monograph Reengineering the Library: Issues in Electronic Resources Management. "Special collections, archives, and other physical collections are still important, but libraries spend most of their money and much of their technology acquiring and managing electronic resources." It's more crucial than ever to look at electronic resources management (ERM) using a variety of perspectives. His new collection does exactly that, discussing how ERM can best fulfill the mission of today’s academic libraries. In this interview we asked him about putting the book together, some key cost containment strategies, and where he thinks technology is heading.

As you mention in your introduction, many of the assumptions that underlay electronic resources management in academic libraries were developed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. So it's pretty clear why this collection is so needed right now! How did you find your contributors, and what was your collaboration like?

Academic libraries have to continue working to improve electronic resources management in order to stay relevant in the 21st Century. Finding contributors was not as difficult as I had originally expected in that I am fortunate to have connections to a network of strong e-resource librarians who are both professionally active and philosophically like-minded. We may not agree on every specific issue, but we all want to move our profession forward and to keep libraries relevant. Drawing on these folks as my core contributors, I was then able to recruit some authors whom I did not yet know personally, but who have a presence in the LIS literature. I recruited authors to write about topics that fit my overall vision for the book, but they each brought their own ideas, knowledge, and experience to this collaborative effort as well. I enjoyed working with all of them and I hope that readers of Reengineering the Library will learn as much from my colleagues as I have.

What are some of the biggest shifts in the landscape over the past decade? Which trends have surpassed our expectations and which ones have so far failed to measure up to their promises?

Given the growing emphasis on digital humanities and the digitization of special collections as well, there really is no aspect of librarianship that is free from the online information environment. Increasingly, patrons use the library’s physical spaces for face-to-face meetings with librarians, peer collaborators, and instructors, to study, to use technology such as special-format or 3D printers, even just to socialize, but not to use physical collections apart from archives or rare books. This long-term trend began almost as soon as electronic resources emerged in the 1990s.

It has taken libraries somewhat longer than I might have expected to adjust their personnel, workflows, and organizational structures to the requirements of electronic resources management, but given the technical, political, and financial challenges, this is certainly understandable. Nonetheless, most academic libraries are finally starting to reorganize technical services to manage electronic resources rather than shifting responsibilities to solitary electronic resources librarians or small units alone. I also hope that more a diagram illustrating the concept of TERMSlibraries will transition successfully from integrated library systems (ILS) and electronic resources management systems (ERM) to library service platforms (LSPs) in the not too distant future, particularly given such efforts as the FOLIO Project and the ongoing development of other systems such as Alma, Sierra, BLUEcloud, and WorldShare Management Services. Of course, it is striking how many academic libraries do not currently have and have never had a fully functioning electronic resources management system (ERM).

The transition to Webscale Discovery services has occurred relatively quickly with most ARL Libraries using tools like Summon, Primo or EBSCO EDS, in most cases only a few years after some of these products first appeared in the information marketplace. The transition from the physical card catalog to online catalogs seems to have taken much longer in comparison.

Reading through the various chapters, what are some common challenges that academic libraries are facing right now?

Money is a critical challenge for libraries in many ways. The rising costs of electronic resources, particularly the cost of electronic journals, is well known. Beyond that, libraries also require more funding to recruit personnel with more advanced skill sets, particularly information technology. Most library facilities at research institutions are undergoing the repurposing of library spaces and need financial resources to transform stacks space to a wide variety of formal and informal workspaces that contemporary students have come to expect. Someone has to pay for the latest smartboard, flexible furniture, and all of the extra electrical outlets. More funding is also required for improved analytics, both in terms of new tools and personnel.  Higher education is required to assess itself more than in the past and so are academic libraries that serve these institutions. Assessment is in practice, very closely linked to money in that it is required to justify existing spending and to support any requests for additional funding. Many academics are loath to admit that libraries are required to demonstrate some type of return on investment. I would hope, however, that librarians accept this burden so that we can take the lead in establishing at least some of these measures ourselves and help to guide the conversation that promotes successful libraries and helps our users.    

Your own chapter examines cost containment strategies. Can you offer some advice to institutions who are ready to do some reevaluation of their electronic resources and services?

Open access is of great interest to many libraries, but the movement has still not overtaken the majority of highly ranked academic journals in most disciplines. There are a number of interesting projects and efforts going on right now, including mass cancellations, but most large academic libraries still subscribe to big book cover for Reengineering the Library: Issues in Electronic Resources Management (An ALCTS Monograph)deal journal packages due to the relatively low unit cost per title and the convenience of having subscriptions for users. The overall information marketplace is a type of mixed economy in which a number of paid and freely available electronic resources coexist. I would advise libraries to establish good working relationships with their most important vendors, leverage memberships in consortia without conceding their own strategic vision to any other institution or group, negotiating good deals directly with vendors when it makes sense, and continue to track and make freely available electronic resources of high academic quality to their users.

Looking into your crystal ball, what would you say is the biggest change on the horizon? How can libraries prepare for it?

I confess that I do not have a working crystal ball, but I will try to speculate by extrapolating current discernible trends and by borrowing some ideas from other disciplines. Beyond the realm of electronic resources management, but perhaps linked to it in some ways, is the need for libraries to continue developing and improving research data management. Libraries will also need to take advantage of linked data and the Semantic Web. As our society and the greater academic community continue to be transformed by the transition from more traditional analogue information systems to digital information systems, both in terms of technology and the wider human experience, libraries will have to keep up. All too often, our profession has a broadly based antiquarian bias, but most librarians now have to work quickly in real time to deliver the best possible solutions to busy users. Please understand that studying the past is incredibly important. I personally value the work of history and all its related disciplines. How could scientists create credible predictions for future climate change without the use of extensive historical data and models? Nonetheless, one has to have a good reason to look backward. While it is not always easy to do, we as contemporary librarians need to spend more time looking ahead. 

Learn more at the ALA Store.

Metadata – have we got the ethics right?

Guest post by David Haynes, author of Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval: Understanding Metadata and its Use, Second Edition

Use of metadata by the security services

“Metadata tells you everything about somebody’s life.  If you have enough metadata you don’t really need content” (Schneier 2015, p.23)

If anyone wondered about the importance of metadata, this quote by Stuart Baker of the US National Security Agency should leave no one in any doubt.  The Snowden revelations about the routine gathering of metadata about international telephone calls to or from the United States continues to have repercussions today (Greenwald 2013).  Indeed Privacy International (2017) has identified the following types of metadata that is gathered or could be gathered by security agencies:

  • Location
  • Device used
  • Date/time
  • Sender
  • Recipient
  • Length of call

“Metadata in aggregate is content” as Jacob Appelbaum observed when the Wikileaks controversy first blew up  (Democracy Now 2013).  In other words when metadata from different sources is aggregated it can be used to reconstruct the information content of individual communications.

Photo by Matthew Henry on UnsplashInvasion of privacy or personal benefit?

These concerns extend well beyond the use of metadata by Governments and the security services.  The social media giants prosper by exploiting personal data and targeting digital advertising.  Personal profiles of targeted individuals are based on metadata about online use and are the basis of online behavioural advertising.  Cookies and other tracking technologies can monitor the online activity of an individual to predict future behaviour.  Metadata about online sessions reveals a great deal about an individual and his or her life.  This may extend to gathering information about friends, family, colleagues and other contacts.

The upside of this is that metadata is a powerful tool to facilitate use of online services, by remembering users’ preferences and delivering content that is more likely to be of interest or relevance to them.  This has to be balanced against the risks associated with online disclosure of personal data.


Metadata describes an information object whether that be raw data or more descriptive information about an individual.  This is important because the treatment of metadata has become a political issue.  Personal data, especially data that reveals opinions, attitudes and beliefs is potentially very sensitive.  Use of this personal data by service providers or by third parties can expose users to risks such as nuisance from unwanted ads, harassment from internet trolls or fraud through identity theft, if the data is not held or transmitted security.  Many digital advertisers would say that because the data is aggregated it is not possible to identify individuals – i.e. the data is anonymised.  However this is no protection against privacy breaches as has been demonstrated by Narayanan and Shmatikov (2009) and others.

Fact-free content

Daniel Rosenberg (2013) makes a nice distinction between data, facts and evidence.  Data if true may be a fact, but if false ceases to be a fact.  Samuel Arbesman (2012) in his book ‘The Half Life of Facts’ introduced the idea that in a given period half the certainties that we had are shown to be false or are superceded by new understandings and that they cease to be ‘facts’.  Data, whether it is true or not, continues to be data, but is only factual if true.  Perhaps there is some way of recording the reliability of information or data so that it can be exploited appropriately.  Many of the arguments and counter-arguments on climate change for instance centre on the quality and veracity of the evidence used by each side of the debate.  This idea is not new, as medical researchers have for some time evaluated the quality of research used to make clinical decisions.  This information about the quality and reliability of data is metadata.

Metadata is political

Metadata has become a political issue because of its use by security agencies and because of wider privacy issues in the commercial world.  Anyone who had asked the question ‘What does metadata matter?’ prior to 2013 will realise just how important a bearing it has on current political issues.  The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures’ (United States 1791).  A lot hangs on the interpretation of privacy as Solove (2011) has so eloquently discussed in his book ‘Nothing to Hide’.  ‘Fake news’ is not new, but the phenomenon has reared its head in recent elections and is unlikely to go away any time soon.  Good governance also depends on a good understanding of metadata and accountability for past actions.

book cover for Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval: Understanding Metadata and its Use, Second EditionMetadata for information management and retrieval

In the new edition of Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval, published in January 2018 I consider the origins of metadata and look at the ways in which it is used for managing information resources.  The ethical dimensions of metadata are explored and issues such as governance, privacy, security and human rights are considered.  The book also discusses the digital divide and the potential that metadata has for making information accessible to wider audiences.

Metadata has an important role in politics and ethics.  How then do we manage it to best effect?

Haynes, D (2018) Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval: Understanding Metadata and its Use, Second Edition ISBN 9781856048248. Facet Publishing. London, 2018, 267pp.

You can follow David on Twitter @JDavidHaynes


Arbesman, S., 2012. The half-life of facts : why everything we know has an expiration date,

Democracy Now, 2013. Court: Gov’t Can Secretly Obtain Email, Twitter Info from Ex-WikiLeaks Volunteer Jacob Appelbaum. Available at: [Accessed March 21, 2017].

Greenwald, G., 2013. NSA Collecting Phone Records of Millions of Verizon Customers Daily. The Guardian. Available at: [Accessed July 7, 2014].

Narayanan, A. & Shmatikov, V., 2009. De-anonymizing Social Networks. In 2009 30th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. IEEE, pp. 173–187.

Privacy International, 2017. Privacy 101. Metadata. Available at: [Accessed March 23, 2017].

Rosenberg, D., 2013. Data before the Fact. In L. Gitelman, ed. “Raw Data” is an Oxymoron. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 15–40.

Schneier, B., 2015. Data and Goliath: the hidden battles to collect your data and control your world, New York, NY: W.W.Norton.

Solove, D.J., 2011. Nothing to Hide: the false tradeoff between privacy and security, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

United States, 1791. U.S. Constitution Amendment IV, United States.

This post originally appeared in a somewhat different form on the Facet Publishing blog

Books hot off the press, Meet the Authors at the ALA Store in Orlando

Located just inside the Shuttle Bus Entrance at the Orange County Convention Center, the ALA Store offers products that meet the widest range of your promotional and continuing education/professional development needs—as well as fun gift items. Make sure to carve out some time in your schedule during the conference to stop by and examine the many new and bestselling items available!

ALA Store hours:

  • Friday, June 24            12:00 pm – 5:30 pm
  • Saturday, June 25       8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Sunday, June 26          8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Monday, June 27        9:00 am – 2:00 pm

ALA Graphics will feature a selection of popular posters, bookmarks, and promotional materials, including new 2016 Teen Read Week and Banned Book Week items. And stop by early to get your pick of conference t-shirts—they sell out fast! We’ll also be introducing several brand new items and exclusive gifts:

  • Libraries Transform Expert Badges
  • CSK Book Award T-shirts
  • CSK Book Award Pashmina (limited quantity and only available at the Conference Store)

ALA Editions and ALA divisions are excited to offer several new titles hot off the press, such as “RDA Essentials,” by Thomas Brenndorfer; “Engaging Babies in the Library: Putting Theory into Practice,” by Debra J. Knoll; and “The Librarian's Nitty Gritty Guide to Content Marketing,” by Laura Solomon. Come by the ALA Store for these special Meet the Author events:

Saturday, June 25      

Sunday, June 26      

Remember that you can now find titles from ALA Neal-Schuman and Facet Publishing in the ALA Store. You can also get free shipping on all book orders placed in the ALA Store (posters, bookmarks, and other gift-type items are not eligible for this offer).

Stop by the ALA Store to learn more about our eLearning opportunities. You can also arrange for a live demo of RDA Toolkit—just contact us by June 20 to request an appointment.

Prices at the ALA Store automatically reflect the ALA Member discount, so there’s no need to dig out your Member number. And remember that every dollar you spend at the ALA Store helps support library advocacy, awareness, and other key programs and initiatives!

Continuing the Conversation: Introducing RDA

We just wrapped up Chris Oliver’s workshop Introducing RDA. Chris’ slides are embedded below. Whether you participated or not, feel free to take a look.

If you’d like to learn more about RDA, a wide variety of products and publications are available at the ALA Store.


Chris Oliver on RDA and the Future of Cataloging

I had a chance to interview Chris Oliver, author of ALA Editions Introducing RDA. Chris has been involved with RDA from its early stages, so I asked her about what this new cataloging standard could mean for catalogers and librarians in general.

Chris Rhodes: You’ve been a cataloger at McGill University for twenty years.  What about your work has changed in your time there?

Chris Oliver: It’s hard to imagine that I’m still in the same department, in the same library. So much has changed that it doesn’t feel at all like the same place! The first thing I had to learn when I began cataloguing at McGill was to write neatly and legibly. Cataloguing librarians were expected to write out bibliographic information on data forms and then we gave the forms to input operators who entered our data into our Canadian bibliographic database called UTLAS (a Canadian version of OCLC). We then proofread the printouts and annotated the printouts by hand with corrections. At that time, I was the Rare Books Cataloguing Librarian, and title pages of rare books have always been fun, lots of Latin and Greek, different ways that words were spelled during different eras. It was a challenge to make sure that my title page transcriptions made it successfully through this process. The day when we finally began to catalogue online was the happiest day of my career! Even though I have been here for twenty years, it has never gotten boring. It has been one big change after another. And it’s been a wonderful experience because of the great people with whom I work, including quite a number who were already at McGill when I began and who are still my colleagues today.

CR: Why a new cataloguing standard? 

CO: AACR2 has been a successful and widely used standard, and it’s taken us a long way. It was first published in 1978, more than thirty years ago. Jennifer Bowen, when she was the ALA representative on the Joint Steering Committee, used a photograph of a 1978 car in one of her presentations when explaining the need for a new cataloguing standard. Would you still want to be driving a 1978 car? In 1978, the card catalogue was the norm. We now operate in a digital, networked environment. We need a cataloguing standard that is designed for the environment in which our users engage in resource discovery.

CR: What does RDA offer, what were the limitations of AACR2 that we were bumping against?

CO: I’m going to quote RDA because I think these two sentences sum up the essence of what RDA has to offer: comprehensiveness, extensibility and adaptability:

RDA 0.3.1

A key element in the design of RDA is its alignment with the conceptual models for bibliographic and authority data developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). The FRBR and FRAD models provide RDA with an underlying framework that has the scope needed to support comprehensive coverage of all types of content and media, the flexibility and extensibility needed to accommodate newly emerging resource characteristics, and the adaptability needed for the data produced to function within a wide range of technological environments.

AACR2 had deep-seated structural problems that prevented extensibility, and could not “support the comprehensive coverage of all types of content and media.” Up to the 1990s, the amendment process had been sufficient in dealing with changes. By the mid-1990s, there was a proliferation of new publication practices, new electronic resources, new methods for scholarly and creative communication. New resources challenged cataloguers because the existing rules could not extend to describe new characteristics and new combinations of characteristics. For example, there were fundamental inconsistencies in the “class of material” concept and in the treatment of content and carrier aspects. New amendments could no longer be grafted onto the existing structure because of these inconsistencies.

One of the key features of RDA is its flexible and extensible framework for the description of traditional and new resources. RDA data is also designed to function both in current and future technological environments. RDA is a content standard, a standard that guides the recording of robust and useful data. It is not an encoding standard, nor is it tied to a particular encoding schema. It is also not a data presentation standard. Thus, it is adaptable for use in a wide range of environments, and it’s not necessarily for library use only. It has great potential.

CR: When you’ve spoken with colleagues (at conferences etc.), what are their biggest concerns?

CO: Among my Canadian colleagues, the biggest concern is training: the availability of training resources, the cost of training, having sufficient time to train oneself and one’s staff. It’s a challenge especially at a time when budgets are tight. We will have to rely on our tradition of resource-sharing, and use our associations and networks as a means of sharing training documents and training procedures. The Library of Congress and some of the other libraries involved in the U.S. Test are setting a great precedent by sharing their excellent resources with the whole cataloguing community.

A group of us from the Technical Services Interest Group of the Canadian Library Association conducted a survey on training needs this spring. One of the interesting findings was the increasing reliance on training delivered via the web. Webinars and web training were not great favourites, but, given the Canadian reality of a relatively sparse population spread over many square miles, training sessions and training documentation delivered via the web were recognized as being of vital component of RDA training.

CR: What originally attracted you to librarianship and cataloging?

CO: I came to librarianship by accident. I was asked to look after a library as a volunteer. I loved it, but I also felt frustrated because I had so many questions. I realized that there was more to librarianship than met the eye. When we moved back to Montreal, I jumped at the opportunity to go to library school. And then I was introduced to AACR2 – I was fascinated by the rules, by the interpretation and application of those rules, and also by the passionate debates that occurred in the cataloguing community. We certainly haven’t gotten any less passionate over time. Cataloguers still care deeply about their standards.

CR: What excites you about the coming years of this work?

The possibilities. The moment of implementation is exciting because we start on a new track. But there will be a lot of emphasis on continuity. Most of us will use RDA in the current environment of MARC 21 bibliographic and authority records. At the beginning, most of the records in our databases and catalogues will still be AACR2 records. We’ll continue to display our data using current online public access catalogues and/or discovery layers. But the exciting part starts to happen as we begin to travel along the new track, and as the volume of RDA data grows.

RDA data alone will not improve navigation and display because the data must be stored so that it maintains its granularity, and it must be used appropriately by well-designed search engines and search interfaces. RDA data is designed as data that can be read and interpreted by humans, but also as data that is machine actionable. The recording of clear, unambiguous data is a required first step in order to improve resource discovery. In the early days of RDA implementation, most RDA data will still be stored, searched and retrieved in traditional catalogues. But RDA data is also designed so that it can be stored and used in the web environment. It positions us to take advantage of the networked online environment, to make library data widely visible, discoverable and usable, and to improve resource discovery.

It will be very exciting to see what can be done with RDA data when it is fully utilized. There is great potential for improving the user’s experience of resource discovery, both in terms of navigation and retrieval and in terms of delivering meaningful displays of data.

CR: Do you have any advice for catalogers who are just beginning their careers?

Consider yourself at the beginning of a great career!

Welcome to!

I would like to welcome you to and our open-forum blog. It is my privilege to be the Publisher of both TechSource (subscriptions, e-learning, webinars, and workshops) and Editions (professional and reference books, both print and electronic). My team is part of a larger unit at the American Library Association called Publishing.

The dirty little secret is that I am not a librarian, but I know a great deal about what librarians do, what they think about, and what they are concerned about.  But I never know enough; I will never be close enough to the action because I do not work in a library. So my colleagues and I depend on you tell us what is going on and what you need for your professional development. And here is a chance for you to do just that.

Something that we in publishing share with librarians of all kinds is high anxiety about how quickly our work world is changing. I am old enough (the proverbial 39, thank you Mr. Benny) to remember when the art and science of putting a book together meant having a hand-written manuscript typed by two different people (in order to ensure that the material was correct), comparing the documents, creating a master with hand edits, and sending it off to the compositor—who made galleys. (And why did we call them galleys, anyway. A galley is a long metal tray that holds type ready for printing.)

The galleys would be edited, read by the author, edited and corrected again, and sent back to the author. Changes would be made again until we finally had page proofs, which were sent back to the author and then to a proof reader. Cover art had to be hand drawn; even charts, graphs, and other display elements were hand drawn—we had an art department with lighted tables, for goodness sake.  And permission letters were a horrible bore—they took forever to do and get back. Did I forget the index……done manually? Once the art was in place and the index readied the second set of page proofs were sent off to the author. Corrections always came back, no matter how often you explained that an author could not rewrite anything! Finally, everything was sent to the printer, who put the book under the camera to make film, to make plates....and on and on.

Well, the back and forth still goes on, and we still go to the printer (for how long, one wonders). But it is all so wonderfully different now; still a lot of work for both author and publisher, but our output is more than just a physical book. It can be a PDF of the book you can print yourself; but it also can be an e-bundle that allows you to read one of our books on your Kindle or iPad or whatever your favorite device happens to be.

And of course, this is part of our shared high anxiety: Will an actual book disappear? Some may remember a quaint little movie “84 Charing Cross Road” with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins from 1986—a movie that glorified and revered not only books, but old books. In it are great scenes from the proverbial musty book shop in the basement of a London building. The staff was totally devoted to and knowledgeable about books, great ones and little volumes of seemingly no consequence other than the fact that someone wanted to own them and read them. To have them. Librarians and publishers alike are anxiously asking if patrons will continue to want and to own books. And no one knows for sure.

Now I have to confess my second dirty little secret: I have owned a Kindle for over two years, and I love it. Not only do I love it, I take it everywhere. My non-publishing friends are scandalized. But you are a book publisher. No, I respond, I am a publisher and my world has changed greatly. I want librarians to own our books, courses, and newsletters, but I don’t care if they buy an actual book or something they load on their Sony Reader. Just tell us by your buying decisions that we are publishing correctly for you. What I really want to know is if our content is helping librarians be better librarians, which is what ALA Publishing in general and TechSource and Editions in particular are all about.

So, welcome again to our blog. We want to talk about anything that has to do with books, with publishing, with libraries, with technology…..come join the party.


P.S. Many of you may have heard that Barnes & Noble is for sale. Leonard Riggio, the founder, will probably lead a group of investors and take the chain private (again). It was not long ago that the entire industry was in fear and trepidation about the power and control that the super store chains would have on the book world.  Everyone fretted that one company, with over 700 stores, would so dominate the market. They indeed did change the landscape. There are very few independent stores around. In 2001, B & N’s total market capitalization was $2.2 billion while Amazon’s capitalization was $3.6 billion.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. B & N today is capitalized at $950 million while Amazon is currently at $55 billion. Who’s the monster now…….?

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