I have been out of the office and unable to reply when this first appeared.

I think any expectations that PCC membership can be broadened are a mirage.

The way I see the situation is this.  There are many large university system libraries and a few large state libraries (national, state and metropolitan) that have a number of things in common.  Let's call them the Walmart libraries or the Amazon libraries, because they view themselves as types of universal emporia.  Because they view themselves that way, they erroneously conclude that all other libraries are some kinds of subsets of theirs.  In fact, their financial and intellectual resources, user profiles, staff profiles, to name a few, are different, and this puts them in a different league, that is, a set of its own that partially intersects some other sets but does not include them entirely.  The Amazon libraries are thus in a position to set up little committees of the mutually-selected and like-minded, propagandize, and create "standards" which serve their own narrow institutional needs and makeup, but not necessarily those of non-Amazon libraries, or, least of all, other cultural institutions.

Large university libraries, in particular, have a guaranteed user-base in the form of an ever-revolving corps of students looking for assigned readings and faculty keeping up with the literatures of their individual disciplines.  They have a guaranteed pool of low-cost but well-educated student labor who can be paid in "soft money" and no benefits.  They have the benefit of a large in-house IT department and students.  Both students and faculty are expected, if not forcibly required, to publish, to serve on committees and attend professional meetings.  They are of a size that they can afford to subscribe to utility-fee data bases and proprietary software.  Things like electric bills and plant maintenance are subsumed in larger institutional budgets.

Very little, if any, of this applies to the other types of libraries, which is why they don't, or more likely can't, participate in committees and attend meetings.  They are expected to perform more direct services, often geared to the needs and means of the residents or taxpayers of a particular jurisdiction or the employees and officers of a particular administrative body.  There is little time, even for creating RDA authority records.  Staff does not get time-off, funding or resume-padding credits for serving on committees, attending meetings and the like.  Even large national and state archives are having their budgets pared and having to focus on direct service.  Only a downward transfer of assets and an upward expansion of mission could redress these differences, and we know can't and won't happen. 

In addition, the non-Amazon libraries are definitely not a subset of the Amazon ones.  Not merely the resources, staffing and budgeting are different.  If my own local public library is any indication, public libraries are skewed more to a K-12 level and to what might be called shallow browsing.  They stock more of things like self-help books, children's books, Hollywood videos, paperback romances and other genre fiction, and they discard anything that is not checked out very often, even definitive works.  Often, they are content with one work by a given author, not completeness.  Private, in-house libraries have a totally different makeup and demands placed on them, as do libraries that are adjuncts to museums.  Places like ours that collect primarily unpublished or printed/not formally published items are still different.

So the needs and necessary practices don't match.  Obsessive FRBR concern with differentiating every minor variation, allowing people to savor the differences between different translations of the Iliad or between the Furtwangler Beethoven and the Stokowski Beethoven, are of little concern to a public library that would be lucky to have only one.  The same approach, and the whole FRBR scheme, makes little sense applied to unpublished archival materials and even less applied to museum objects.

Thirdly, it is well to bear in mind that all knowledge is local, even if evidence of some of it can be gathered in central places like the Amazon libraries.  If I go to my township historical society, I can find all sorts of evidence of important local buildings, streetscapes, prior residents and so on, plus a staff that has a working familiarity with them through living there.  If I go to the best Amazon library, I will find the few published local histories and some published maps and atlases, and little or nothing else.  So the holdings of a local repository are not a subset of the Amazon libraries, they may overlap slightly or not at all.  Described in terms of depth to breadth, Amazon libraries can be characterized as "less and less about more and more," focused special libraries and archives as "more and more about less and less," and strapped public libraries as "less and less about less and less."  Archives and other specialized repositories will have millions of names of people and organizations that will never have a role in producing the types of resources that find their way into the Amazon libraries.  Being the biggest frog in the pond does not make one omniscient or omni-competent.  So committees drawn from the Amazon libraries cannot be expected to deal with things beyond their ken, and thus their output and practices more often don't speak to the needs of more specialized libraries.  Even if people from these smaller libraries were to have the luxury of time-off and travel support, they would find that a lot of what goes on in committee work would not be germane to their actual holdings and needs.  It is not a matter of a "welcoming" atmosphere, but of practical relevance.

Actually, the survey confirmed my impressions, that most active PCC members work in what I have called Amazon libraries, that they do cataloging or discoursing on cataloging almost all of the time, never do reference or acquisitions, or have direct interactions with flesh-and-blood researchers.  That is the exact opposite of how our department is organized.  We have a staff of 5 that is expected to service holdings of over 40,000 linear ft.  Everyone is expected to be capable of doing everything from initiating donor contacts through reference and outreach, to have subject matter knowledge and to be able to speak and write on it.  Our reference archivist is an expert on gunpowder (We are on the site of the first du Pont gunpowder works.) not just by reading about it but by firing antique guns and artillery and examining actual powder-making machinery.  We all interact with researchers, sometimes at great length.   MARC cataloging is a minor activity, and aside from this list, we don't deal with other catalogers; we deal with scholars and people with practical, real-world research needs.

Finally, as someone who has never been inside a library school, but has degrees in two subjects and several decades of performing archival service, research and writing, I have tried to represent these other viewpoints in conversation, but invariably it has been a dialogue of the deaf.  This is what I meant by practical relevance.  When you deal with people who have concluded that ships and buildings are corporate bodies and whose understanding of "industry" is at a soft-focus K-12 level, real communication is impossible.  It is like an astrophysicist dealing with people who really believe that the stars are gods and heroes translated to the heavens or that it is "turtles all the way down."  I have to imagine that some of this IS unwelcome.  It's not that I feel unwelcome, but since you have gone way too far to change your beliefs and approach things unmediated by books (such as taking a long hard look at what real ships and buildings actually are - as a museum person would), I feel more like an anthropologist observing a tribal group or subculture with strange beliefs and cultural practices that bear no resemblance to what I have to do every workday.

I have more important things to do and will try to trouble you less in the future.

Yours truly,

Chris Baer

Assistant Curator

Manuscripts & Archives

Hagley Museum and Library

(The opinions are my own, because my coworkers don't deal with MARC/RDA issues.)

From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Din, Judy <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, April 7, 2017 1:05 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [PCCLIST] Fwd: [PCCLIST] The recent PCC strategic planning survey

I couldn't agree more, and I don't feel that the larger academic libraries understand what's beyond their own types of collections. It's a shame that more government entities aren't in the national authority files, but it's difficult to stay trained when working in a smaller and specialized library.


Judy Din
Head of Technical Services
U.S. Dept. of the Interior Library
Office of Facilities and Administrative Services
1849 C Street, NW, MS 1151
Washington, DC  20240
Phone: (202) 208-3402
Fax: (202) 208-6773

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: CHRISTOPHER WALKER <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 11:52 AM
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] The recent PCC strategic planning survey
To: [log in to unmask]


The point that most concerns me is the respondent who said
that input or participation from public libraries seems unwelcome.
This has been an issue for ALCTS as well as PCC.

We've acknowledged for years that it's a shame that only the
larger academic libraries, in general, feel they can afford
to fund staff to participate in the larger profession.
Maybe it's time to devote some more practical thought
to what can be done about that.

Special libraries, school libraries, and cultural institutions
beyond the library world are also not well represented in our conversations.

Christopher H. Walker
Serials Cataloging Librarian
Penn State's representative to the CONSER Operations Committee
126 Paterno Library
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802-1812
(814) 865-4212
[log in to unmask]

From: "Beacom, Matthew" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Friday, April 7, 2017 6:49:24 AM
Subject: [PCCLIST] The recent PCC strategic planning survey

Hi all,


The survey responses are in! 183 persons responded. Thank you for your participation.


You can view the responses to the PCC survey with this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-5MMH3BSG/


There are three views of the data available. The default is the summary view of each question. Bar graphs showing the responses.  For the bar graphs that have an “Other” category you will see a link that brings up individual response to that option. There are also views of ‘data trends’ and ‘individual responses.’ Those are interesting, but less readily understandable. The default view of the bar graphs is easy.


There were 13 questions.  Since, reviewing them and even reading the statements to the ‘other’ category doesn’t take long, I’ll refrain from offering my take as a summary of a summary. Please take a moment to read the survey responses and share your reaction to the list. PoCo will continue to review the survey responses and incorporate them into our preparation for the strategic planning session in November.


Thanks again, and all the best to you,