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Bicentennial Conference  on 
        Bibliographic Control for the New Millenium: Confronting the Challenges of Networked 
        Resources and the Web
sponsored by the Library of Congress Cataloging Directorate
Topical Discussion Group 9:
How Can Catalogers and Metadata Providers Ensure That Resource Descriptions Meet Reference Needs?
Discussion Facilitator:
Amy Wells
Digital Projects Coordinator
Michigan State University Libraries
East Lansing, MI 48824


The Conference topical discussion groups are for the purpose of identifying recommendations made by the speakers and commentators in their presentations and for developing recommended actions and an overall action plan for discussion and approval by the Conference in its concluding plenary session. Each topical discussion group consists of a facilitator who, with a designated number of participants, is assigned a specific topic related to the presentations that will serve as the focal point for identifying recommendations and deriving recommended actions and an overall action plan. Each group will also have an LC staff member to take notes and capture highlights throughout the discussion.


In a conference on bibliographic control you may have been surprised to find a session on the reference perspective included among the presentations. However, we on the Conference Organizing Team felt that this perspective was important, and asked Linda Arret and Carolyn Larson at the Library of Congress to address the descriptive resource needs of reference providers from the viewpoint of how catalogers and metadata providers could assist in providing descriptions that will facilitate strong reference service to users and searchers of Web-based resources. Arret and Larson formulated an online survey, which they distributed in August to approximately 450 heads of reference or library directors in the U.S. Respondents were given until mid-September to submit their replies. Prior to its appearance online, the survey was announced on a number of reference listservs, and was discussed in an open meeting held at last summer's conference of the American Library Association. The following key issues were addressed in the survey: optimum "levels" of library and metadata descriptions; descriptive elements felt to be essential in the cataloging record; additional descriptive elements felt to facilitate content retrieval, and problems that might be addressed through improved interaction between metadata and present-day technologies, including the incorporation of such traditional concepts as authority files and thesauri. Results of the survey are presently being tabulated and will be presented in Arret and Larson's paper, which will be posted to the Conference Web page in the very near future.


In this assignment, we are asking you to draw on the results of the survey, and develop a prioritized list of 4-6 recommended descriptive needs for catalogers and metadata providers to use in creating resource descriptions that would help meet the reference needs identified in the survey. We consider these needs to cover in the broad sense elements of description as well as access, including keywords, controlled vocabulary, and classification codes. Your list may reflect particular results and/or the general or overall comments of survey respondents. We think this list would be especially useful to academic, research, and national libraries, who are seeking ways to offer improved resource discovery through their catalogs and resource descriptions. It would also be useful to these libraries as they plan their own or collaborative efforts to extend and deliver reference service to their users in the Web environment.


Your topical discussion group is organized into two parts to cover the two Conference days in which you meet.

  1. The first meeting is in the afternoon of Day 2 of the Conference. The objective of this meeting is to have you brainstorm your topic by sharing your thoughts and ideas in an informal discussion. Your facilitator will serve to direct the discussion and to keep it focused and moving. An LC staff member will be present to record major points of discussion.

    Follow the lead of your facilitator in determining the format of the discussion. Then start by identifying any suggestions or recommendations offered by the speakers, commentators, listserv commenters, and participants on your topic. Next, move on to review the results of the survey and to discuss your reactions to the questions and findings. Then draw on this discussion to formulate a list of potential descriptive resource needs that catalogers/metadata providers could use in creating their resource descriptions. By close of the meeting, you should have an extended list of recommendations for review on the following Day 3 of the Conference.

  2. The second meeting begins in the morning of Day 3 with the facilitator and LC recorder present. Time spent at this meeting is focused on reviewing the list that was drafted in the first meeting and extracting from it a list of 4-6 recommendations arranged in priority order.

Once you have finalized the prioritized list of criteria, the LC recorder will input it to a computer and a Powerpoint presentation will be created for your facilitator to present to conferees.

Presentation and Action Plan:

Your facilitator will present the prioritized list for discussion and approval in the closing session of the conference. Conferees will use this list along with the prioritized recommendations presented by the facilitators of the other topical discussion groups to develop an overall action plan that the Library of Congress can carry forward from the Conference.

Library of Congress
October 22, 2000
Library of Congress Help Desk