ORGANIZATION OF KNOWLEDGE 703-02 Assignment # Final paper "Outsourcing Library Technical Services: A Cataloging Help or Hindrance?"

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Assignment # Final paper
"Outsourcing Library Technical Services: A Cataloging Help or

Mary Jo Chrabasz
In this time of economic downturn, more and more libraries are turning to

outsourcing in an attempt to stretch their ever tightening budgets as far as they can

go. A number of vendors offer a variety of customized services to libraries, promising

technical services work for a fraction of the cost of providing the services in house.

Outsourcing, the act of having work that is normally done in the library performed by

an outside vendor, is done in various forms by a variety of vendors. Baker & Taylor,

in addition to offering a large number of current books and other materials at a

discounted price, provides library materials that are shipped "shelf ready," with call

numbers, barcodes, and full catalog records. Midwest Tape sends DVDs and CDs with

the library's logo included on the case artwork, and offers catalog records that have

been edited by OCLC to the library's specifications. Backstage Library Works offers a

wide variety of services to help libraries, from providing authority records to

coordinating large reclassification projects. Other vendors that offer outsourcing

include BWi and Yankee Book Peddler. Many libraries no longer perform any

cataloging work in house, preferring to outsource the cataloging. The question is, is

the cataloging provided by these vendors of the same quality as that done in house?
This paper will focus primarily on the services offered by Baker & Taylor,

through their Customized Library Services (CLS) program, to the Naperville Public

Library. Naperville orders a large portion of its print materials from Baker & Taylor

(B&T), with cataloging and processing done by B&T's CLS program, as well as ordering

audiovisual materials (mostly audio CDs and DVDs) from Midwest Tape, and from a

variety of other vendors for the remaining material. Naperville has been outsourcing

a large portion of its cataloging and processing to these two vendors for several years,

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while still maintaining a full technical services staff. While B&T sends materials that

are essentially shelf ready, cataloging and processing staff do review the materials

before they are put into circulation. The staff also continues to perform copy

cataloging, original cataloging, and processing for materials that come from vendors

other than B&T and Midwest Tape. Other outsourcing used by Naperville includes

authority work performed by Backstage Library Works, an ongoing project to add and

update the authority records in the local catalog.
Outsourcing is a growing phenomena in libraries today, but the idea of

outsourcing cataloging and other technical services is nothing new, there are

examples of outsourcing going back more than a century. One of the earliest

examples would be the Library of Congress offering pre-printed catalog cards to

libraries beginning in 1901. Rather than a cataloger sitting down with a copy of the

current cataloging rules to create a main entry card and abbreviated added entry

cards, the Library of Congress would send several identical cards. The local library

staff would only need to type the access term at the top of each identical card

(labeling one with the author, one with the title, and the rest with subject terms).

This saved the effort of catalogers in all types of librarians across the country. The

creation of Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) was actually begun as a way of

automating the process of creating these cards.
The Library of Congress continues to assist libraries in cataloging to this day,

both with the Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) program, and with loading its full

catalog records into OCLC's WorldCat database. WorldCat records labeled "DLC" (for

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Library of Congress) are often preferred by libraries over ones created by other

Complete outsourcing of technical services work is a more recent phenomena.

Some of the earlier examples of outsourcing include the 1993 complete outsourcing of

the cataloging department of Wright State University. (Ayers, 17) Another prominent

example is the controversial outsourcing of Hawaii's entire technical services side to

B&T in 1997, which eventually led to not only the early ending of the contract but

lawsuits between the two parties.
Another type of outsourcing is purchasing record sets. This is a simpler form of

copy cataloging where the searching and retrieval portion is eliminated, and the

records are simply loaded into the local database. Many vendors partner with OCLC

to offer record sets with the books they sell, supplying records from WorldCat for

those materials. The use of record sets can be useful but there are many factors to

The biggest problem with record sets is accuracy and consistency. As Banerjee

states in his article about record sets (Banerjee, 58), problems can arise when records

are received that were not created to AACR2 standards, or given standardized subject

headings. He cites the case of Oregon State University (OSU), which received a large

microform record set that was missing 500 records and had all the subject headings in

655 fields instead of the 650 fields they belonged in. In some cataloging software

(such as Innovative's Millennium) this might not be a problem, but OSU's ILS indexed

655 and 650 fields separately so the mistake made the records nearly unusable.
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Another issue, that can be seen frequently in the WorldCat database, is

inconsistency with the way multi-part items are dealt with. When records are

contributed by catalogers at different institutions there can be large inconsistencies,

which often creates more work for other catalogers. One cataloger may create one

record for a multi-part item, while a second cataloger may take a similar item and

create multiple records, one for each part.
Other problems that arise can be a result of the various forms of MARC in

existence, or in one specific example, different ways of notating special characters

(Banerjee, 60). Careful checking of records at the time of loading is important to

catch problems early so they can be quickly resolved.
Outsourcing at the Naperville Public Library began in 2001 (Bokka, 1), as the

library prepared to open its third building, the 95th Street branch. Circulation was

growing increasingly larger, along with the materials budget, but resources for

technical services staff were not increasing. Initially, contracts were set up with BWi,

Midwest Tape, and Baker & Taylor. Currently, the majority of outsourcing at

Naperville is done with B&T for print and some non-print materials, while Midwest

Tape handles the majority of DVD and CD orders. The library still orders from BWi but

has cut back on the outsourcing due to problems. Additionally, Naperville has

contracted with Backstage Library Works for authority control work.
Baker & Taylor (B&T) is one of the biggest vendors in the library world. They

supply countless materials to libraries all over the country. B&T also offers a range of

services to libraries, including their Customized Library Service (CLS), which

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Naperville utilizes. Through CLS, Naperville receives materials already processed and

ready for circulation, as well as full catalog records.
Before beginning shipments of CLS materials, the library and B&T work together

to create a detailed profile. This document, currently 24 pages in length, is added to

or edited as needed. It is the blueprint for everything B&T does, and copies are kept

by both B&T and the library. The specifications are fairly detailed, beginning with

important information such as a login for OCLC (so that B&T can update holdings on

behalf of the library), information for a Z39.50 login to Naperville's catalog, and the

font details for spine labels. The details of what exactly the CLS responsibilities are

in regards to cataloging are spelled out in detail: stating the types of records

preferred from OCLC's database, that there is to be no original cataloging, the

encoding level required for MARC records, and the types of materials that will be

The remainder of the specifications document is a long list of various local

practices and preferences. Some are general, such as the preference that Dewey

Decimal call numbers do not extend more than seven digits past the decimal. Others

are fairly specific to the library, such as the item listing the preferred series entry to

be retained. There are many local practices listed for the juvenile materials,

including the use of 920/921 for all biographies, specific Dewey numbers for certain

topics (such as 398.2 for fairy tales), or the use of the history number for all books

about a country rather than the travel number. There is also a long list of juvenile

series that are labeled with a cutter for the series title rather than the individual

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authors. Other items included are special local subject headings, such as "BOARD

BOOKS" for all board books, or "LOCAL AUTHOR" for Naperville-based authors.
Once the specifications are written up and both the library and vendor are

satisfied with them, the next step is ordering. Before beginning large amounts of

ordering, a few small test orders are always a good idea. This allows both parties to

find and correct problems quickly, before too much time and money is spent on fixing

large quantity orders with problems. Naperville has three catalogers who, in addition

to copy cataloging and original cataloging duties, check over the catalog record for

each item that arrives. Most are simply looked over quickly and sent on to processing

for a final check but some mistakes are found. There are also occasional books that

need changes, such as a mistake in the call number, a decision by the cataloger to

change the call number, or occasionally a book which was ordered for one part of the

collection but once the book is in hand, it is moved to another part of the collection

(such as easy to reader or young adult graphic novel to adult graphic novel).
B&T utilizes OCLC's WorldCat database to perform copy cataloging for the

materials they supply. They use the specifications to edit the records from WorldCat

to local specifications, adding or removing subject headings for example, and they

add 907 and 949 fields. The 907 field is used by Naperville's cataloging software,

Innovative's Millennium, to match the new bibliographic record with the brief order

record that has been sitting in the catalog since the items were ordered. The 949

fields create and attach the individual item records to the bibliographic record.

These fields contain the barcode, item call number, item type, location, and more.
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Backstage Library Works (BLW) is another vendor that offers a wide variety of

outsourcing services. Naperville contracts with BLW for authority control, but they

also offer original and copy cataloging services, help with RFID tagging and

reclassification projects, digitization of archival materials, and more. From their

start as a division of Dynix (a popular ILS), working on retrospective conversion of

catalog records to MARC format in the early days of online catalogs, to their recent

expansion into digitization with the acquisition of OCLC's Preservation Service Center

(Pratt, 1), BLW works "behind the scenes" to assist libraries with technical services

BLW offers authority control services, where the library sends a set of catalog

records and BLW retrieves authority records for the authors, subjects, and series that

are referenced in those files. BLW then sends the library a set of authority records to

load into their catalog. Naperville began the process in late 2008, and has been

working with BLW to add new authority records on a quarterly basis. While cataloging

staff does perform some manual authority control (mostly keeping an eye on new

book series to make sure all titles have a series entry, or correcting typos in records),

the authority records sent by BLW help maintain consistency in the catalog.
Sometimes outsourcing is not the best idea. The quality and cost effectiveness

of outsourcing needs to be evaluated to determine whether it is a viable option. In

the case of Ohio State University's Slavic cataloging, as Ayers mentions in her article,

the quality of outsourced original cataloging records was of acceptable quality but the

price was higher than in house. After several years of outsourcing the backlog to a

vendor and continuing to catalog new acquisitions in house, the cost of outsourced

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cataloging was $36.67 per title, while in house cataloging was $17.03 per title. (Ayers,

Some of the other considerations that need to be looked at when beginning or

continuing outsourcing include monitoring the quality of records, whether or not any

editing needs to be done in-house that cannot be done by the vendor (local call

numbers, subject headings, etc), the time needed for interfacing between the vendor

and library, and the limitations of automated authority work. (Ayers, 25)
The biggest issue that needs to be considered is the quality of cataloging. While

many records available for copy cataloging in OCLC's WorldCat database are of

sufficient quality, there are often poor quality records added. Frequently a search

for an ISBN will bring up multiple records for the same title, one good one and several

brief records or records that are somewhat close to full level cataloging but are

missing significant information such as a complete physical description or subject

The big question is, are the records of enough quality to justify the outsourcing?

In my opinion, yes. The majority of records received from B&T are excellent and

need no corrections. Most of the corrections tend to be a series entry that isn't

traced (more of a local practice, since Naperville's children's librarians use series

searching extensively), or the occasional call number dispute where two or more

Dewey Decimal numbers are equally valid for a book. Conference calls are held on a

regular basis to discuss problems, and the B&T team listens to issues brought up and

works to correct them quickly.
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The existence of WorldCat makes such outsourcing possible, as B&T has access to

the records in that database for copy cataloging purposes. The majority of WorldCat

records are acceptable as is, with little editing needed to be done. The biggest

problem with WorldCat is weeding out the poor records. Often there are three or four

records that come up in an ISBN search, and they need to be reduced to the one best

one. There is some instruction on that in the CLS specs, which state records created

by the British Library (OCLC symbol UKM) are only to be used as a last resort. Some

records are easy to weed out, as they are extremely brief records that are missing

quite a bit of information. Others need to be looked at carefully to decide which is

the best record. Unfortunately, some libraries often create a new record for an item

when it is unnecessary to do so, adding clutter to the database. Fortunately, B&T

does employ trained catalogers who usually pick the correct record for each item.

Occasionally an item will come in with the wrong record selected, but these are few

and far between.
The bottom line is, if the vendor's catalogers take the time to look at the records

they are selecting, and not only edit according to the specifications document but

also check the information against the actual item, the catalog records will be of

good quality. For public libraries purchasing current and popular items, outsourcing

of cataloging can be very cost-effective. For academic or special libraries that

require quite a bit of original cataloging, especially in different languages,

outsourcing might not be as cost effective for ongoing orders, though some vendors do

offer original cataloging services to reduce backlog. For many libraries, outsourced

cataloging can be very useful.
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So, is outsourcing a good thing for libraries or a really bad idea? In most cases,

yes, outsourcing can help libraries improve their workflow and keep backlogs down.

The specifications for the vendor need to be carefully prepared, reviewed, and

revised as needed. Test orders, to catch problems and check the quality of vendor

work, are vital. The contract and work should be regularly reviewed to make sure the

library is still getting quality work and not over paying. The costs should be checked

carefully at the outset, and reviewed from time to time, to make sure that the library

really is saving money by using outsourcing. But in the long run, partial outsourcing

can be of use to libraries. Total and complete outsourcing, however, is probably not

a good idea. It is best to have in house staff to take care of those materials that the

vendors cannot do (such as the occasional book received from B&T that they could not

find a suitable record for copy cataloging, or items from vendors that do not offer the

services that B&T does), and to eyeball the items done by vendors to catch problems

as they arise. Also, as the case in Hawaii has shown, collection development should

not be completely outsourced. Local librarians should have some say in what items

are ordered, even if the vendor does pre-selection.
Yes, outsourcing can be a useful thing. Vendors can save libraries money, which

is especially helpful in this economic downturn, but there will always be a need for

technical services professionals in libraries. While cataloging may be outsourced, and

trained catalogers employed more frequently by vendors than by individual libraries,

ideally there should still be room for professional catalogers in libraries for many

years to come.
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