University of Michigan Library
a view from the University of Michigan
by Lynn F. Marko, Head, Monograph Cataloging
University of Michigan
Good morning, I was invited to speak about the cataloging of electronic resources at the University of Michigan. Instead, I thought it might be more interesting to examine cataloging efforts in light of the digital resources research and development efforts on our campus. These efforts are looked upon as a growing body of research efforts to facilitate the development of a true digital library. In fact, these developments may signal what appears to be a technology shift, which may result in the fundamental restructuring of the way things have been done in the past. Therefore, I have entitled this talk, "Technological Shift and the Impact on Cataloging." Much of the analytical framework of this talk is based on the work of James M. Utterback, who is Professor of Management and Engineering at the Sloan School of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His book, _Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation_, looks at a number of business case studies, assessing the impact of innovation on established enterprises. Technology development appears to be an evolutionary cycle that falls into characteristic patterns, the dynamics of which can be studied. With his permission, I use one of the illustrations from his book in which the various cycle and patterns of each cycle are outlined. However, I suggest that you take a look at the entire work. It was published by Harvard Business School Press in 1994.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Professor Utterback at a dinner at the Sloan School this summer, and we discussed technological change and one of his case studies. In coastal Massachusetts, there are remnants of the enormous wealth that was present there in the 19th century, as evidenced by the abundance of old china available for the antique collector. My sister, who loves antique china, lives in Duxbury, Massachusetts, and I have the Western extension of her antique china collection. Until recently, I never really understood why there was such wealth in her area. Utterback's book outlines the case study of the icemen of New England, which may be regionally well known but in the "wilds of the Midwest" was beyond my experience. Ice was one of the original sources of New England wealth, and as early as 1806, ice was shipped to the West Indies. In a money losing but effective publicity move in 1833, 200 tons of ice were shipped to Calcutta, India, taking 180 days. By 1856, ice harvesting was a major industry, supporting the supply of what had become an indispensable commodity. Ice was cut and chopped on New England ponds. Specialized tools and storage techniques were developed to preserve the ice as long as possible. A shipping, distribution, and marketing system was developed which was the envy of all and the source of a great many fortunes. As a by-product of this seafaring industry, commodities, including British china, were brought back on the empty ships. In the 1880s, the ice industry reached its pinnacle, about the same time that refrigeration technology was developed in southern United States. The icemen dismissed refrigeration, or mechanically produced ice, as too expensive. Their response was to improve harvesting techniques rather than to adapt or encompass the new technology. The new technology was simply dismissed. The result was that within a generation, the entire industry disappeared. Its disappearance was relatively sudden, which can be seen by the fact that tools were left on the icy ponds, and when the ice melted, the tools fell to the bottom. Today in New England, when pond bottoms are drained or reclaimed for other purposes, antique hunters claim the abandoned tools.
Professor Utterback feels that there is ongoing development within this particular "tree," if you will, going from natural ice harvesting to machine ice making to refrigeration and now to aseptic packaging. However, we do not have to go back 100 or 150 years to look at the examples of dismissal of technology change on the part of an established concern with a proven technological base. There are good inertial reasons for this dismissal, considering the investment in the way things were or are. I put before you a quote from the September 30, 1994, Detroit Free Press made by the Chairman of Chrysler Motor Company and his reaction to the electric vehicle and the electric vehicle technology to show you that this phenomenon continues.
Professor Utterback's work, although based on the for profit sector, led me to look at what I do based on forces for continuous improvement and forces for change which I see in my environment. Professor Utterback feels that over time it is possible to review an enterprise and see patterns of stability alternating with patterns of discontinuity. One possible response in dealing with technological turbulence is a bold response on the part of its leaders. In fact, Professor Utterback and his associates believe that it is possible that technological innovation/organizational learning in core competencies will make it possible for established firms to break with discontinuities caused by technological change.
At the University of Michigan, we have underway the potential for just such a technological shift. The Digital Library Program is a partnership among the Information Technological Division, the School of Information and Library Studies, and the University Library. It has as its objective the provision of leadership and the expertise of the three organizations to realize the potential of electronic information resources at the University and the creation of a comprehensive, well coordinated, and cohesive environment for those information resources in support of its teaching, learning, research, and service mission. This program is led by Wendy Lougee and has as its mission fostering change--change in information access, change in information location, building on the strength of each of the partners to create the means for individual users to locate organized digital information resources that meet their needs. This program has been established for a little over a year with significant support from the University and its partners. A measure of its success is that it recently received from NSF/ARPA/NASA Digital Libraries Initiative a major grant entitled "The University of Michigan's Digital Library's Research Proposal" in which research and development efforts will be used to create a digital library of atmospheric sciences information for use at varying levels of participation and need from the secondary high school user to the expert researcher. I also show a transparency of the other projects that are underway, and as you can see, they are truly comprehensive. This program has reached the point of influencing the way in which we deliver information and do business. I would like to extract several of these individual programs for illustrative purposes. The first is the TULIP Project which is one of the original digital efforts. In retrospect, it was a signal of the technological shift which is underway at our Institution. TULIP stands for the University Licensing Program and is a joint program among Elsevier Science Group Publishers, Engineering Information, Inc., and a consortium of nine universities. With the objective to prototype the technical, economic, and organizational infrastructures of digital journal information delivery, it has the potential of lowering the effective unit cost of delivering scientific information to the scholars. University community access began in April 1993. At the time of project implementation, it was unclear as to whether this desktop delivery service would be viewed as a value added convenience to already existing paper services or as a radical shift in the way information would be delivered to scholars and students. Access to these image files of 43 material science journals is provided at two different levels. The citation and abstract information has been integrated into the Library's NOTIS software as a separate datafile (MDAS). Although screen display of the full text is not possible through this approach, users can search, choose, and print articles at selected printers. TULIP-view, based on software developed at the Engineering College, enables users to have access to the full text display on their X-windows workstation. This has become a platform for additional projects, one of which is in its implementation phase as we speak, i.e., the UMI-UM Core Journal Image Project. This particular collaboration will focus on approximately 400 journal titles covered by Wilson Indexes, included in MIRLYN MDAS files, and available from UMI in image format. These images will be linked with Wilson Indexes through a citation matching process, and systems and services will be developed to provide print and viewing options for the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor campus. UMI will provide the image collections back files and current issues for Wilson Index titles. UMI also will provide image server and computer storage facilities.
One of the main problems with undergraduate use of the journal collections, especially at finals, paper writing time, or other times of collection pressure, will be completely obliterated because shelf availability will no longer be an issue. If you can get to a machine and have easy access to remote printing, you can acquire a copy of what you need. It could be said that these efforts represent domains that we as traditional catalogers have never claimed. Specific access to journal literature usually has been provided by outside vendors. But as electronic efforts approach some level of critical mass, they need to be studied in terms of what cataloging means in a shift environment. Although these are research and development efforts using commercial sources, do they represent a break with the past? Are there parallels to the dismissals of technology that can be seen in the famous business case studies? For those of us who catalog, do these developments signal structural change in our sub-universe? I think it is important to look at what we do and how we do it, with the idea that as things change we need to prepare ourselves for those changes.
On the positive side, cataloging, using AACR2 for content description and MARC for structure and communication protocols, is a mature well-developed enterprise. With the advent of technology as applied to bibliographic management of printed material during the last 20 years, catalogers have been a model of continuous improvement in which productivity has increased and costs have decreased. With renewed cooperative cataloging initiatives, including those with vendor supplied cataloging, there is even more potential for improvement in terms of enhancement of coverage and reduction of costs. This has evolved into a national bibliographic delivery system, supported by a national authorities structure, supporting national document discovery and delivery sources in either the Library of Congress or the bibliographic utilities. These are achievements of which we should be proud.
There are some negative potentials that we need to examine critically and dispassionately, however. Cataloging structures were developed for print material which they still serve best. The change process for MARC, in both communication and data structure protocols, is very lengthy and not as responsive to this rapidly changing marketplace as, perhaps, it needs to be, although efforts are underway to speed up the proposal development and implementation process. While the digital information initiatives are research and development efforts and they are in the design and development phases, they are rapidly changing some landscapes. In reviewing potential responses to a changing environment, flexibility and rapid response need to be the norm. The business theorists might say that now is the best time to adapt to these future technologies. When technological shifts begin to occur, identifying the path to the future is one important requirement for success. It is important for the leadership of our profession to find the thin line to balance support for continuous improvement in existing process and product delivery, while at the same time exploring commitments to new and not yet stable innovations.
How can the cataloging community do this? Although by no means inclusive, there are several major points of which we could take note:
1. We need to recognize the value of what we do and the generalized skills that we have mastered.
-As outlined in Utterback's book, like many pre-shift environments in periods of discontinuities, the old does not go away. As an example, we are a library that still spends $9,000,000 a year, largely on print materials. Digital information is a new aspect.
-We need to recognize the value of our structures as discovery and delivery mechanisms. They are generally available, are inexpensive, and do not require high technology to access them.
-However, one important point to remember is that during times of technological shift, it is not wise to put all of our energy into status quo activities.
2. We need to recognize the value of MARC as a communication protocol with important granularity for specific, as well as combinatorial access. I often am amazed when I realize the number of people who access our local online system at the rate of approximately 350,000 queries a month.
-As yet, the system has not been brought down by the complexity or number of search inquiries.
-Another strength of MARC is the many well established search engines which make it relatively universal.
-We need to support MARC developments which increase adaptability to other systems.
3. The Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (CETH) at Rutgers and Princeton sponsored a conference in May, which I had the honor to attend.
-One of the focuses of the Conference was to develop a greater understanding of the design principles of SGML and its relationship to MARC. It is an important relationship because SGML is emerging as a standard for text markup and is the basis for the Text Encoding Initiative to both define and describe encoded text.
-One-way conversion is possible for TEI header information from SGML to MARC. We have an SGML expert, John Price- Wilkin, retrieved from the University of Virginia, if you will, and I asked John to take a random MARC record and establish it in SGML format. I have the two examples to show you. The importance of this is that we need to develop electronic systems in which structured description is embedded within the container.
-The Humanities Text Initiative at the University of Michigan, which John Price- Wilkin heads, will have a collaborative relationship with cataloging. We will do the cataloging and header preparation for the materials that are developed in cooperation with the various academic departments and the University of Michigan Press. This is an important future development for catalogers and is going to require some adaptation and adjustment as all cooperative programs do.
-As other metadata formats become standard usage in particular communities, we must be prepared to do the same. There has been some work with the Government Information Locator Service (GLIS) and its adaptability to MARC. The hope is that eventually these adaptations can be handled by machine with minimum staff intervention.
4. Another key point is that we need to recognize the emergence of other electronic formats other than stable container-based ones. For catalogers, this will be a difficult change in orientation.
-The University of Michigan also has what is called the Gateway Project; the Information Gateway Project is the creation of structures for organizing and making local information resources available using Mosaic as the user interface to the linking capabilities of the World-Wide Web. The project's objectives include the following:
a) to provide a conceptual structure for information resources and services available to the campus community,
b) to provide a uniform mechanism for identifying available information sources,
c) to provide a logical point of entry into the campus information environment,
d) to provide client access to information systems and services available to the University community.
I have put out the initial homepage screens. This project was greatly enhanced by having the Head of our Original Cataloging, Judith Ahronheim, serve on the committee. She knew and catalogers know something about the information, including its organization, hierarchical organization of information, structure, classification schemes, subject analysis, etc., necessary to provide generalized access to information resources. One insight that she had is that, at least right now, catalogers may need to describe latitude and longitude rather than dimensional characteristics to assist in the resource discovery process. In this environment, the user is better served through more general rather than more specific description although cataloging principles state the opposite. Everyone who served on that committee indicated that the cataloging contribution was major and that it offered insight and valuable experience in developing structure and organization of information. These were not AACR2 skills or Library of Congress classification skills but essentially basic principles, and it would be useful for us as a community to articulate a series of basic principles to proceed into the future.
5. An additional point is that we need to recognize that description and access may become an issue of layers and that some of those layers will be more comfortably managed by us than others. In a hypertext environment, it is very difficult to describe links with the tools that we have at hand. We must recognize that the solutions are no longer totally in our hands and that specialization and expertise are required. A team approach, much as we have on our campus, may better tackle these problems.
6. As these new approaches to information description emerge, we need to recognize that information description may become distributed for some classes of material. Based on our experience, our history, and the value of what we bring to this environment, we need to think again about basic organizational and design principles.
A final point, which seems to be almost minor by comparison with all the major changes noted earlier, is that in order for catalogers to even begin to operate in this environment they have to be provided with the technology platform which includes high end desktop equipment and connection to ethernet. In fact, we look at technology implementation and its impact on cataloging from the technological perspective that we have always used, which is access to a utility. That is the most important technology relationship that we have had. That will change, that needs to change. There are capital and other investments needed to enable these changes to take place. We are in the process of doing this at our institution.
In summary, we are entering into a period of technological shift, and it will have a significant impact on what we do. The development of the digital library, particularly the distributed digital library, offers many exciting challenges and opportunities to enhance and expand what libraries have always done which is provide information and access to that information to their clientele. We have to understand that, as has happened to many of our colleagues in earlier and present times, we are entering into a period which could be characterized as somewhat chaotic, certainly unpredictable and, perhaps, unstable. We need to look at that in terms of the challenges it presents, the opportunities it presents, and the possibilities it presents. I am hopeful that after this meeting all of us will be better positioned to do so.
Utterback, James M. _Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation_, Boston, Massachusetts, Harvard Business School Press, 1994.
Willis, Katherine et al., "TULIP--The University Licensing Program: Experiences at the University of Michigan," ICSTI Annual Meeting, Cambridge, England, July 1994.
Atkinson, Ross, "Networks, Hypertext, and Academic Information Services: Some Longer-Range Implications," College and Research Libraries, May 1993.
Price-Wilkin, John, "From Meta-Information to Information," unpublished manuscript
Price-Wilkin, John, "Using the World Wide Web to Deliver Complex Electronic Docwnents: Implications for Libraries," Public Access Computer Systems Review 5, No. 3, 1994, pp. 5-21.
This talk would not have been possible without extensive conversations with the following staff from the University of Michigan Library: Judith Ahronheirn, Bill Gosling, Wendy Lougee, Barbara MacAdam, Beth Warner, and John Price-Wilkin. My thanks to them.
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