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Doe/Moffitt Working Group on E-texts Report

April 5, 2001

I. Charge:

The charge to the Doe/Moffitt Working Group on E-texts was to:

Examine the use and presentation of the Doe/Moffitt collection of non-networked, full-text electronic media (all formats),

Develop service strategies to better integrate e-text use within the new Doe/Moffitt Research, Reference and Collections Department, and

Propose possible locations, and the necessary space requirements and technological infrastructures to implement these new service strategies.

We were asked to make final recommendations to Doe/Moffitt Unit Heads and the AUL and Director of Doe/Moffitt, Patricia Iannuzzi.

Patty asked the Working Group to address reference and "reference-like" titles as our first priority, and to propose general recommendations regarding non-reference titles, which are primarily full-text or multimedia works, with the knowledge that these titles will receive more focussed attention in the future.

II. Current Housing and Use of Doe/Moffitt Electronic Media:

Doe/Moffitt's full-text electronic media are currently housed in the Media Resources Center (MRC), Circulation Services, Government and Social Science Information (GSSI), Humanities and Area Studies (HAS, the former Subject Catalog Hall), Information Center, NRLF, and the South/Southeast Asia Library Service (S/SEALS).

Doe/Moffitt CD-ROMs fall into five categories:

  1. "True" reference CD-ROMs, e.g., encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies, directories, statistics, almanacs, and indexes
  2. 2. Full-text journals, monographs, collections (complete works)
  3. Hybrids: text/concordance, text/interactive media, index/text
  4. Media (non-text) only
  5. Comes-withs, i.e., book & CD-ROM, journal & CD-ROM, other & CD-ROM
Using the online catalog, the Working Group compiled a list of the full-text electronic media titles shelved in these locations in order to make a first pass at distinguishing "true" reference titles (encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, directories, statistics, indexes) from non-reference titles (mixed media, media only and comes-withs, such as one-author concordances and full-text monographs.) The results of this analysis are contained in the Attachment, " On-line Catalog Search for Reference and Non-reference CD-ROM Titles in Doe/Moffitt."

MRC

Shelving for most of the CD-ROM collection has historically been determined more by expediency and hardware limitations than by public service considerations. This applies in particular to the over one hundred and seventy monographic titles housed in the Media Resources Center, the unit that houses most of Doe/Moffitt's non-reference CD-ROMs. These materials were originally taken on by MRC primarily because the Center was, at one time, the only location with the appropriate hardware and with established circulation procedures to accommodate electronic media. Unfortunately, housing CD-ROM materials in MRC has significantly limited access to and use of these materials. The level of staffing and staff expertise in MRC has resulted in an uneven level of service related to these resources. Because of the above mentioned problems and insufficient publicity of these collections, the CD-ROMs in MRC have received very little use. Of the 170+ titles currently in MRC, only five or so are used with any regularity. Only five titles in the MRC CD-ROM collection are "true" reference titles.

GSSI

GSSI makes its CD-ROMs accessible in the following ways:

Of the more than three hundred CD-ROM titles housed in GSSI, only about ten percent are "true" reference titles.

HAS/Information Center

HAS/Information Center makes most of its eighty+ CD-ROM titles available on stand-alone and "swap" stations located in the former Subject Catalog Hall and the Information Center (stand-alone stations are served by multiple-disc players that are loaded with a selected array of CD titles; "swap" stations are set up to handle uninstalled, infrequently used titles). Uninstalled titles are requested at the Information Center reference desk and discs are loaded for patrons using a similar model to the one used in GSSI. Of the eighty+ CD-ROM titles housed in HAS/Information Center, seventy are "true" reference titles.

NRLF

NRLF has almost one thousand CD-ROMs, all of them serials from Periodicals. According to Scott Miller, most if not all of them are duplicates of serial titles that have migrated to the Web.

Circulation Services

Circulation Services has a growing collection of media, most of it in the form of book & CD-ROM and journal & CD-ROM, which are shelved behind the Circulation Desk. The print and media are cataloged as a single entity.

S/SEALS

S/SEALS houses a small number of reference CD-ROMs at the S/SEALS circulation desk, none of which circulate. Others are housed in the MRC and made available in the same way as other MRC CD-ROM titles.

III. E-text Collection Service Models

The working group solicited information and advice regarding CD-ROM collections and services by posting a query on the Reference Heads reflector. Only three replies were received. Yale University responded with a description of Yale's unsatisfactory attempt at creating an e-text center. At first, Yale chose a location that did not work for an e-text center. They then moved the collections to a more visible, busy location, where unfortunately, the CD-ROMs were seldom used and the onsite staff lacked the expertise to show patrons how to use them. The second reply had no experiences to share, but instead, asked that we let them know what we decide to do. Indiana University described a highly decentralized and highly unsatisfactory approach to CD-ROM collections.

IV. Recommendations for integrating Doe/Moffitt CD-ROM collection into new Doe/Moffitt Reference Service:

  1. Reference Works:
In consultation with Doe/Moffitt selectors, a core collection (up to 75 titles initially) of significant reference works on CD-ROM will be identified. These titles will be mounted on a server, integrated into the existing Public Workstation environment, and made available to users within the former Subject Catalog Hall. (Library Systems was consulted regarding the technical feasibility of this plan). A Web-based portal or other menuing system should be developed to allow easy, uniform entry into these resources. Service/reference assistance for the titles mounted would be provided by the RRC reference desk staff.

The set up would not require the purchase of any new PCs, but there would be costs associated with buying a server, cache software, disc drives and memory. If technically possible, the PCs could also be linked to the networked printing service of the Library. (For details about technical requirements, see Section VI Budget.)

As mentioned above, the first step in this process would be a careful review of existing collections by selectors, with an eye for identifying high-use or important reference titles as candidates to be mounted on the CD-ROM network. Selectors should also be encouraged to consider any non-reference titles that have received little or no use as possible candidates for storage or withdrawal.

B. Non-Reference Works

We recommend that GSSI's non-reference CD-ROMs remain in the current GSSI space (i.e., shelved in GSSI and mounted on stand-alone PCs as needed) with the remaining non-reference CD-ROMs shelved in the RRC. Room 202, with the addition of a compact cabinet designed to store CD-ROMs, would be enough room to accommodate shelving for the current number of non-reference CD-ROMs from all the units. In the long-term, we expect the CD-ROM collection to shrink as content producers switch to Web technology. If growth becomes a concern before that happens, a compact cabinet designed to store CD-ROMs could be purchased.

The central problem encountered with providing access to CD-ROM products is the non-standardized nature of the software associated with them—i.e., their search engines, drivers, and other ancillary software. Maintenance of this software on each machine in RRC would be impractical. Similarly, checking out CD-ROMs and having the software installed by the end-user is not a practical option.

As an alternative, the Working Group recommends the following service model.

E-text Services Coordinator

The Working Group proposes the designation of an E-text Services Coordinator to oversee technical and public service aspects of the E-text network and collection, and to coordinate development and management of these collections with appropriate selectors.

The Working Group suggests the E-text Services Coordinator be a half-time position, classified as an LA III. The Coordinator duties could be folded into an existing staff position.

Specific responsibilities of the Coordinator are defined below.

Library users wishing to use a non-reference CD-ROM would be directed to the RRC reference desk where they would make an appointment to meet with the E-text Coordinator. In advance of this meeting, the Coordinator would mount the requested CD-ROM and supporting software on an appropriate machine in the former Subject Catalog Hall. The reference desk staff would provide general user assistance and troubleshooting. (This proposed model of service is based on current practice in GSSI and HAS. In those units, the operations manager/administrative assistant is responsible for loading the CD-ROMs; the patron usually is contacted later the same day or within one or two business days).

The Coordinator would be responsible for developing a Web-based portal for the RRC CD-ROMs or other menuing systems.

The E-text Services Coordinator would handle the behind-the-scenes administrative work of installing and testing new CD-ROMs, and the on-going maintenance and general management of the entire reference CD-ROM collection. The Coordinator would also be responsible for working with the Systems Office regarding necessary hardware or network upgrades and other technical matters. The E-text Services Coordinator would work closely with Doe/Moffitt selectors to define and manage existing collections. Among his or her first duties would be to work with them on the development of a program statement for the newly centralized CD-ROM collections. Together, they would also create access, use, and loan policies and procedures governing the E-text collections. These documents would be distributed to public service staff librarywide.

At present, selectors get very little feedback regarding the utility or quality of the CD-ROM materials they acquire for the collection. The E-text Services Coordinator would be in a unique position to provide this information, including content or technical problems with individual titles, use of collections, evolving service needs, etc. This information could be used to make decisions about retention of titles, need for additional or similar materials, migration to available Web resources, etc.

The Coordinator could, we believe, play an important role in helping selectors better publicize the CD-ROM materials in the collection by helping develop Web-based resources and other listings of holdings.

V. Outstanding Issues:

If the above plan is put into action, decisions will have to be made and a plan developed to re-catalog materials, transfer and update records, and physically prepare the CD-ROMs for their new locations. This planning will involve the Media Resources Center, GSSI, Humanities and Area Studies/Information Center, and central Technical Services. The E-text Services Coordinator should be a central role in this process.

The mixed media and comes-with materials shelved behind the Circulation Desk, (mostly non-reference books, journal issues, and popular software) will have to be addressed at some future date. These collections are growing steadily, but it is not clear whether selectors are always aware of this, or if they are actively involved in reviewing materials that are in this group in light of access issues, retention, etc. We recommend that selectors review the Circulation Desk's mixed media collections to decide on how best to treat these materials.

VI. Budget:

Below is a budget for implementing our proposed recommendations.

   A. Computer equipment

   B. Furniture                                                                         =======================================                                                                                     Total budget                                         $8,101.00
 
 

Respectfully submitted by: Jeanne Fong and Myrtis Cochran, Co-Chairs, Tim Dennis, and Gary Handman

Consultants and liaisons: Peter Soriano (Circulation), Esther Fulsaas (Technical Services), and Paul Payne (Systems).


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