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PCCLIST  May 2006

PCCLIST May 2006

Subject:

LC series decision: LC’s decision-making process and communication

From:

Paul Weiss <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Program for Cooperative Cataloging <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 24 May 2006 12:06:38 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (188 lines)

LC series decision: LC’s decision-making process and communication

As its own institution, I generally acknowledge and strongly support LC’s
need and right to make management decisions that it believes are in its
best interests, using the methods it feels are most appropriate. However,
the lack of consultation with its own staff (including those who work
extensively with PCC), with PCC, with the utilities, and with the larger
library and user communities seems to be at odds with LC’s stated mission
and goals.

The communication of the decision is also of great concern. Frankly I find
it irresponsible and insulting that LC announced its decision only 10 days
prior to implementation, knowing full well that this change has major
implications for policy, staffing, workflow, documentation, training, and
systems changes at institutions around the world. Also, I understand that
the original public email message was initially only distributed on
PCCLIST, not more broadly.

LC states that its “mission is to make its resources available and useful
to the Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a
universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations.”
Since LC does not in great part “make its resources available” directly to
the American people, it would seem that a change as significant as the one
in question would best be determined with input from those of us out in
the field. We who work in libraries across the country serve in a sense as
the middleman/woman between LC and the American people, and probably have
a better sense what our users want and need than LC does. As many others
have pointed out, if we truly care about the impact of our decisions on
users, we also need studies investigating how our users utilize the
metadata and systems we provide.

The need for collaboration, leadership, communication, and customer
service is recognized throughout LC’s strategic plan
(http://www.loc.gov/about/mission/):
Values (p. 13-14)
A. Service: “Analyze our customers’ needs and make every effort to meet
them. Continually strive for process improvement.
       Strategy: Find out what our internal and external customers need
and make every effort to meet their needs, including changing our
procedures and processes when necessary.”

D. Fairness: “Treat staff and customers with fairness, respect, and
tolerance.”

E. Participation: “Encourage involvement of all stakeholders (e.g.,
management, staff, customers, and partners) in the processes of planning,
implementing, evaluating, and improving programs and activities.
       Strategy: Promote a collaborative environment that fosters an
exchange of ideas. Managers at all levels in the organization
involve both staff and stakeholders in substantive ways and both
management and staff strive for buy-in and successful
implementation of new ideas through listening, flexibility and
keeping the interests of the Library and its mission in the
forefront.”

F. Communication: “Communicate clearly, consistently, and openly in a
timely manner.
       Strategy: Share the right information, in the right format, with
the right people at the right time.”

Strategic Plan Operating Assumptions
“The Library will succeed in building bridges to, and obtaining the
participation of: ... libraries ... in ... development of standards for
enhancing the usefulness of all libraries as accessible repositories of
information and knowledge.” (p. 22, D)

Strategic Goals, Objectives, And Measures (p. 23-49)
Goal 3. “Lead, promote, and support the growth and influence of the
national and international library and information communities.”
       “A. Planned Outcome: Effective standards, policies, guidance, and
infrastructure that advance the value and capabilities of libraries
and archives world wide.
       B. Objectives of Library Services, National Library Program:
              1. Provide leadership in defining and disseminating
standards, protocols, and best practices.
              2. Provide or secure methods for sharing knowledge
resources, preservation responsibilities, and associated
costs among members of the library and information
community.
              3. Provide processes and methods for promoting collaboration
among, and contributions by, members of the library and
information community.
              4. Advance librarianship and the value added by libraries
worldwide.
       C. Performance Measures:
              3. Number of information standards and protocols which the
National Library has a leadership role in developing and
maintaining.
              4. Number of libraries with which the National Library
shares cataloging or conducts joint acquisitions or
preservation projects.
              5. Feedback from national and international library and
information communities.
              6. Feedback from National Library customers, as a measure of
public awareness of the value of the Library to the nation.”

Goal 16. “Create an environment that supports delivery of superior service
to the Congress and the American people through effective communication
and management of business and supporting processes and financial
resources .... While performance of these objectives should be transparent
to the Congress and the public, the objectives are vital to serving the
Library’s customers.”
       “B. Objectives of the Library’s organizations (lead organization
indicated):
              1. Improve communications with the Congress, the American
public, and Library employees to increase awareness of the
Library’s products and services. (Office of the Librarian
(LIBN)/COS)
              2. Facilitate and encourage open communication, innovative
thinking, feedback, and increased participation in the
decision-making process to improve organizational
performance. (LIBN/DLC/COS)
       C. Performance Measures:
              7. Conduct of customer satisfaction surveys. (ISS)”

I am particularly concerned that the impact on public and school libraries
seems to not been taken into account, as they are typically not well
represented in cataloging policy-making discussions. LC’s decision may
have the biggest impact in those types of libraries, since many of them do
not have adequate resources to perform the authority work that LC has been
providing.

LC apparently decided not to follow recommendation 4.2.11 in report they
had Karen Calhoun write: “Encourage a collaborative cost-benefit analysis
of series authority control; determine who needs controlled vocabulary for
series headings and how/where to provide it at substantially less cost”.

The complete lack of consultation and the very late communication feels
highly disrespectful of the broader library community and of LC’s own
staff, shows very poor customer service, fosters distrust and concern
about other present and future collaborations, and it brings into question
LC’s commitment to its own strategic plan. Rather than building bridges,
LC seems to be dismantling them.

Mary Charles Lasater (Vanderbilt) wrote, “As a NACO trainer, I am
discouraged and feel betrayed by the recent LC decision that did not
involve others.” I feel similarly. I am hurt and dismayed.

It would have been much more collegial to work with the rest of us to see
if we all could simplify series authority work to an extent that LC would
find the new practice worthy of continuation. The 1994 CCC Series
Authority Record Task Group Final Report
(http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/~rd13/series94.pdf and
http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/~rd13/series94appx.pdf) made several
suggestions in this direction that would be worth pursuing.

I am glad that LC recognized some of the damage it had done with the late
announcement by delaying implementation for a month, although it was
frustrating that the announcement came 3 days after the announced
implementation date. In email to the PCC Policy Committee, Beacher Wiggins
(Director, Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access, LC) states: “First, I
should have given my colleagues in PCC an alert that this decision was
coming.  Second, I should have determined a longer timeline between the
announcement date and the implementation date.” I appreciate his
recognition of those issues, and I hope he communicates them more broadly.

I applaud NLM and GPO’s more deliberative, rational, and collaborative
approaches to this issue.

There has been contradictory information from LC on the rationales for the
decision. The original announcement states that one rationale is that the
decision “eliminates cost of constructing unique headings ...”. Then later
Deanna Marcum (Associate Librarian for Library Services, LC) stated that
cost was not a consideration. Also, others of LC’s stated rationales do
not stand up to scrutiny (see another of my email messages for details).
This all makes me wonder whether LC is being open and honest about them.
There is the appearance that LC made the decision then thought about how
to spin it, which it did not do a good job of doing. I would prefer that
LC just tell us that they are doing this for political or whatever other
reason, or even tell us they cannot or will not tell us the reasons. I
wouldn’t like that, but at LC would be telling us the truth.

For many years I have been defending LC to coworkers and other colleagues:
       “LC catalogers are human just like the rest of us; they make
mistakes too”
       “LC’s primary role is to Congress, not to other libraries”
       “LC has never said it was or wanted to be the US National Library”
       “LC has really opened up in the past couple of decades, and is
truly is open to feedback from us”
I also value highly my collaborative working relationships with many
dedicated, hard-working, intelligent staff at LC. It greatly saddens me
that LC is choosing to act in such a disrespectful manner. I fear this
does not bode well for future collaborative ventures.

Paul J. Weiss
Chair, PCC Standing Committee on Standards
UCSD

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