Transformation: next generation technical services at the University of California Libraries

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    Transformation: next generationtechnical services at the

    University of California LibrariesNorm Medeiros

    Associate Librarian of the College, Haverford College, Haverford,Pennsylvania, USA


    Purpose This paper seeks to feature an interview with Brad Eden, Associate University Librarianfor Technical Services and Scholarly Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara.Eden discusses the University of California Libraries Next Generation Technical Services initiative.

    Design/methodology/approach The paper notes changes necessary to transform technicalservices for the new digital realm.

    Findings The task force chaired by Eden recommends several changes to traditional processes,three of which are central to achieving transformative change.

    Originality/value The paper offers readers insights into the means by which a large consortiumunder severe financial constraints is attempting to achieve cost-savings and value-added servicesthrough system-wised collaboration.

    Keywords University libraries, Technical services, Outsourcing, Collections management

    Paper type Research paper

    Google is going to become the library of the world (Brad Eden)[1].

    Readers of this column, as well as individuals who follow the evolving landscape ofthat library art traditionally known as cataloging, remember the splash the Universityof California (UC) Libraries made with their 2005 report, Rethinking how we providebibliographic services for the University of California (University of CaliforniaLibraries, Bibliographic Services Task Force, 2005; Medeiros, 2006). The UC reportnoted several areas where library systems were deficient, especially compared to thecapabilities and ease-of-use delivered by Amazon and Google, and how without drasticchange libraries would risk losing relevance, particularly with respect toundergraduates. Building on this work, the UC Libraries have recently implementedthe next generation technical services (NGTS) initiative, an ambitious project thatseeks to transform technical services through greater system-wide collaboration[2].The editor of OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives, BradEden, is the Associate University Librarian for Technical Services and ScholarlyCommunication at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and chair of one of theNGTS task groups, Enterprise-Level Collections Management Services. This groupscharge is expansive, and it comes at a time when UCs financial and human resourcesare constrained[3].

    Recently I spoke to Brad about the NGTS project, the work of his task group, andthe general direction of technical services in academic libraries.

    The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at



    Accepted October 2010

    OCLC Systems & Services:International digital libraryperspectivesVol. 27 No. 1, 2011pp. 6-9q Emerald Group Publishing Limited1065-075XDOI 10.1108/10650751111106500

  • NM: The University of California Libraries are investigating the feasibilityof system-wide collaboration in technical services areas. What was themotivation for this initiative?BE: The state of California is doing poorly in economic matters right now. Weanticipate the coming year will be the same, if not worse. There are a lot ofopportunities to do things weve talked about in the past, but because of theorganizational culture we werent able to move forward. Now, because of the economicclimate and our scarce human resources becoming even scarcer, we need to figure outpriorities.

    NM: How do initiatives such as this emerge within the UC system?BE: They come from the university librarians, who meet each month. The ULsestablish these initiatives by creating an executive team, which is the overallmanagement body. The executive team then constitutes a steering team, which is thegroup that deals with the practical everyday issues that keep the project movingforward. These two teams read the reports of the various task groups and send theirrecommendation to the university librarians.

    NM: Are you aware of other universities or consortia that are doing worksimilar to UCs next gen project?BE: The statewide University of Maryland libraries have been looking into this. So hasColumbia and Cornell with their 2CUL project. The OhioLINK libraries are also tryingto consolidate services. These are the only one I know about, but I think such studiesare going on all over the place.

    NM: One of the challenges, however, to consolidating functional areas intechnical services is in the number of materials that need to move amonglibraries, which works against getting the items into the hands of users asquickly as possibleBE: In the UC system we have a productive courier service, since we have two regionalprint repositories, one at UC Berkeley and one at UCLA. So weve been looking at sharedprint for a few years now. Next Gen Tech Services is about determining where we wantto strategically position ourselves in the future. We dont want to be focusing on theprint. We have all these special collections and digital resources that are getting noattention, but we see them as important for the future, but yet were not changing thetraditional model. Next Gen is looking at how we can make print processing as efficientas possible so we can move into these areas that we arent giving any attention to.

    NM: You have been appointed Chair of the Enterprise-Level CollectionsManagement Services task group, one of three task groups that comprisePhase Two of the Next Generation Technical Services initiative. Describethe charge of your group and your expected outcomes?BE: You can see from the charge we have a big plate. I think its exciting. Four taskgroups as part of the Phase One work produced reports that the University Librariansreviewed. These reports informed the Phase Two part of Next Gen, resulting in threecurrent task groups. My group is looking at making technical services processes moreholistic and aligning them with the digital. Weve had twice weekly conference callssince early June. Right now Im writing a draft final report, due in a few days. Theuniversity librarians want to move forward quickly on the recommendations.



  • NM: The way libraries do business has fundamentally changed as a resultof the economic crisis. Yet the crisis offers us an opportunity to maketransformative changesBE: Yes. This is a unique opportunity for us. We shouldnt be spending 80 percent ofour time on materials we can outsource. Well never go back to the staffing levels wehad before, even when the economy turns around. The concept of investing in librarypersonnel will never happen again.

    NM: The Next Generation Technical Services scope statement lists eightvalues that will be assessed in order to determine whether a trulytransformative model of collaborative technical services can be achieved.The first value is speed processing throughout all technical servicesfunctions. This has been a theme of technical services for generations.How can UC achieve it?BE: The first step is to outsource English language print materials. Theres no reasonwhy any tech services department needs to be touching these materials. Outsourcing tovendors can do this much more cheaply than paying catalogers to futz around withbibliographic records that are already OK. Its the whole concept of good enough. Arecord does not need to be full, it does not need to be perfect, it does not need to havelots of extra stuff. Weve done the analysis to show that users couldnt care less aboutthis added stuff.

    NM: How is UC planning to evaluate what is a good enough bibliographicrecord?BE: We have a number of backlogs wed like to eliminate immediately. The only way todo this is to establish a good enough record. There cant be any discussion, we canthave collections folks coming to us about it. It must be top down. The ULs have to statethat this recommendation is going to be implemented, and that theres no room forchange. Then the AULs need to enforce it. Otherwise well continue down the sameroad.

    NM: Do you think outsourcing all English language print materials wouldprovide enough staff time to tackle the hidden collections?BE: Before the NGTS was formed, I chaired a task group on system-wide shelf ready.We did an analytical study on the upfront investment necessary to implementsystem-wide shelf ready for all ten institutions, and how much cost savings it wouldyield going forward. This will be one of major recommendations to the universitylibrarians. There are recommendations that depend on each other in order to betransformative. The three that we have to implement in order to begin to catalog ourspecial collections are system-wide shelf ready; elimination of the non-Roman backlogthrough a centers of excellence approach, where libraries with certain languageexpertise could centralize this cataloging; and the good enough record standard.

    NM: What else is your task group considering?BE: Another recommendation in this tier of recommendations is to move to the OCLCWeb-scale Management Services as a system. We need to get rid of our local systems.We need to move up to the network level and work at the network level. Its the future.OCLC should have done this 40 years ago. Were also thinking about moving serialsmanagement to the system level for print. A lot of technical services staff are dedicated



  • to serials check-in and bindery. Are these strategic things we should be doing in thistransformative environment? Another area we are looking at is a system-wide federalgovernment documents center. Weve talked about this a lot over the years, so I think itwill move forward quickly. Were also looking at whether we need to have acquisitionson every campus, collection management on every campus, and so forth. All of theseare in an effort to get us prepared to work at the network level.

    NM: Another value, one that I strongly endorse but have difficultyenvisioning in practice, is allow for continuous improvements to basicmetadata including from the world beyond the UC Libraries: our users,expert communities, vendors, and other libraries. How might this beachieved?BE: There are some things coming down the pike, especially from Jane Greenbergswork at North Carolina about automated metadata. In the future we need to rely moreon automatic metadata generation, but we need to find ways to do that at the locallevel. I think its a false assumption, though, that well go back and fix up abibliographic record once a good enough record is in place. When we implementsystem-wide shelf ready, well determine an acceptable error rate, perhaps 5 percent,then we just move on because we have other things to do. Google is going to becomethe library of the world. Its that simple; they have billions of dollars. We makeourselves viable in this new environment by bringing to light all of our uniqueresources not available in Google.

    NM: Is there anything else you want to tell me about this work that we havenot covered?BE: The economic crisis has facilitated and accelerated this work. I think it will beinteresting to watch what happens out here.


    1. Telephone interview with Brad Eden conducted on 1 September 2010.

    2. Information about UCs Next Generation Technical Services project is available at:

    3. Charge to develop enterprise-level collections management services (2010), available at: (accessed 7 September 2010).


    Medeiros, N. (2006), Good enough is good enough: cataloging lessons from the University ofCalifornia Libraries, OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives,Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 155-8.

    University of California Libraries, Bibliographic Services Task Force (2005), Rethinking how weprovide bibliographic services for the University of California, available at: (accessed 7 September 2010).



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