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BEOnline: Business and Economic Resources Online

Project Statement

Although the Library of Congress has assumed a leadership role in initiating a program to digitize a large body of library materials and making them available through the Internet (National Digital Library), it is now beginning to grapple with the challenges of dealing with Internet materials as resources to its own constituents and users. These challenges include identification, selection, and provision of both bibliographic and direct access to electronic works that are remotely available on the Internet. The pilot project described below -- Business and Economics Online (BEOnline) -- is intended to serve as both a model and a catalyst for developing approaches to meet these challenges and thereby enable Library users to enjoy improved access to Internet resources as a by-product of traditional use of the Library's catalog.

Many libraries are taking steps to amend their selection policy statements in order to identify categories of remote electronic materials, both monographic and serial that should be made available to their staff and patrons. Through BEOnline, a focussed and conservative first effort, LC will seek to establish the cost-benefits of providing such service, and undertake a fuller program if the pilot proves successful.

This pilot is also put forward as a measure to enable the Library to regain its leadership role in this area and thereby provide a direct response to a significant concern set out in the recent "audit" performed by Booz-Allen and Hamilton. In their report, the Executive Summary states:

A strong perception exists among the U.S. library community that the Library of Congress is not well positioned to address the unique library challenges and opportunities created by dynamic advances in digital information, communication, and storage technologies. The national library community sees future library capabilities, functions, and work processes being transformed by these technologies. They described a much more volatile information and publishing environment already being influenced by online storage, distribution, and access to information. Traditional library functions such as cataloging, storage, and preservation may require radically new approaches to effectively adjust to new information environments.

BEOnline represents the kind of initiative needed to reverse such perceptions.

Benefits of the project will also accrue to both Library researchers and library staff. Researchers will be able to search the LC catalog for items held in the traditional sense by the Library as well as for items that the Library will point to via an online link to a remote site. Materials will have been evaluated and selected, and those of highest research value will be cataloged and provided with LC classification and subject headings. It is also anticipated that the nature of the Internet will result in materials of much greater currency than the Library can normally provide. This will be of special benefit to researchers in the highly volatile fields of business and economics.

Library staff in both public and technical services areas will benefit from the project's training in locating and evaluating Internet materials, identifying equipment needs, determining workflow procedures, and providing experience in cataloging a wide range of Internet materials. In addition this project will allow us to explore the utility for annotating records to inform users of various formats of an item.

As an research and development venture, BEOnline also intends to address some issues identified as a result of the "Organizing the Global Digital Library" conference held at LC in December 1995, both to test assumptions and principles agreed to by attendees and to undertake investigations they felt were needed. In particular, BEOnline will provide a test-bed to better address these questions:

  • What are the criteria that will enable the Library to determine which digital resources warrant bibliographic control and access? Is the existing Collection Policy Statement re: Optical and Electronic Computer Files) adequate for Internet resources? And within this pool, which merit treatment in the traditional sense (cataloging) and which can be organized in innovative, but less expensive ways (as less formal entries on a home-page, for example)?
  • Are the traditional cataloging tools (e.g. AACR2, LCSH, LCC, Dewey) adequate for describing digital resources and integrating such descriptions with those to identify and provide access to conventional materials? What is the role of "metadata" in controlling/accessing remote electronic materials? Are electronic and related printed publications in fact multiple versions of the same material, and what solution best treats this bibliographic relationship?
  • If varying levels of description and access are appropriate, what is the best data set for each level defined?
  • Are there affordable mechanisms to deal with the problem of changing URL's that provide addresses of to Internet resources? Does the development of the PURL (Persistent Uniform Resource Locator) provide such a mechanism? What are the other costs of maintaining up-to-date information about materials which themselves are inherently changeable?
  • What are the ways to reduce cataloging costs in this area? For example, will OCLC's InterCat database, still in its infancy, or less traditional sources such as OCLC's NetFirst provide a means for copy cataloging? What is the most effective workflow for cataloging remote access digital materials? And, which works best for listing those that are not cataloged?

A team of LC staffers will be formed to combine representatives from selection, reference, cataloging, and other stakeholders to develop selection and cataloging policies and to implement them on a specific basis. The first phase of BEOnline will focus on articulation of a detailed action plan by which the issues above may be addressed. The second phase will focus on implementation of the action plan. The final phase of this pilot will be devoted to analysis of the results and development of conclusions and recommendations for the future.

Currently, the BEOnline Team is composed of the following members of Library Services:

  • Regina Reynolds (Serial Record)
  • Carolyn Larson (Business Reference Services)
  • David Williamson (Social Sciences Cataloging Division)
  • Allene Hayes (Project Leader, Special Materials Cataloging Division)
  • John Byrum (Project Manager and Bibliographic Enrichment Advisory Team representative, Regional and Cooperative Cataloging Division).

Other staff will be appointed to the team at the conclusion of phase I.

July 1996; revised April 97.

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  November 9, 2010
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