Abbott-Hoduski, Bernadine E. "Democracy in America is Best Served by a Multi-format Federal Depository Library Program." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 3 (1996): 241-252.
If democracy is dependent upon the government providing equitable, free, and easy access to its information resources, then the Federal Depository Library Program must be considered an integral component of the government's dissemination machine. Since 1895, the FDLP has had depository libraries act as its conduit for providing access to information from all three branches of the government to the public, and as educators of the populace. The basic principles of the FDLP are as follows: 1.) libraries have volunteered to become depositories and to provide the public with free access to government information, 2.) they can select the information they want in a particular format, 3.) federal agencies decide which format to offer their publications in, with input from libraries, staff, and primary clientele, 4.) regional depositories are committed to the provision of long-term access and archiving of selected materials, 5.) Congress oversees and funds the program.
Problems that libraries must face:
1.) Representative Charlie Rose and Senator Wendell Ford made electronic information part of the FDLP through the GPO Access Act, making it free to depository libraries, but now that Congress is has stipulated that all government information will be in electronic format, what will libraries do? Will they sit calmly by and accept the extra costs involved with dissemination in electronic format only, and give up acid-free paper copies and microfiche? Will they continue to fight for multiple formats? Through the years, access to multiple formats has dwindled away for certain publications such as congressional bills which since the 1980s have been in microfiche only, as has the "Foreign Relations of the United States", along with many others. Still other publications such as the "Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications" have been issued on CD-ROM, but libraries must choose either the paper or the CD-ROM product and cannot have both. This is problematic because the electronic version has eliminated subject, author, and title indexes, and the paper version has been greatly reduced in size, thus demanding that both be used in conjunction with the other. Although the depository program asked that microform and electronic formats be included in the system to access fugitive documents, they never saw them as replacements for print publications.
2.) Congressional efforts to control costs have meant limiting the public's access to paper publications, driving up the price of paper copies, and created more demands to reduce paper publications: a vicious circle. As printing was reduced and staff reduced from 8000 in 1976 to 4000 in 1995, Congress continued to battle for cuts to publications in paper. If Congress is successful in eliminating all paper products, the costs will shift to depository libraries, which may then begin to charge users with printing costs to recoup some of the money. And these libraries are essentially local and state libraries which have taken on the task of disseminating federal government information, so is it fair that local and state governments pay for the shortfalls? A report released in 1988 estimated that libraries spend ten dollars to provide access to government information for every dollar spent by the federal government on depository appropriations. Congress has also used the FDLP as a means to force federal agencies to publish in electronic format. They have done this by cutting the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses funds by half, requiring that the cuts could be made up by forcing federal agencies to pay for the production of their paper and microfiche publications themselves to distribute to the depository system. Congress did not care if the printing process bypassed the GPO, and stated that the dissemination of electronic information would be funded by the GPO if disseminated to the libraries in the program. They said that electronic information would be cost effective, promote resource sharing, and save space in libraries. However, agencies have their own financial woes to struggle under, and are not budgeting for publications to be sent to the depository program. What this means is that libraries can forget about paper copies, since agencies do everything they can to circumvent the FDLP.
3.) Electronic Information as the sole format: problems with only electronic distribution: 1.) The long-honoured principal of providing a client with information in the format they want it in. For example, if important health or education information for the public is being disseminated, then colourful illustrated paper publications are in order; hikers will need maps; while statisticians may want electronic formats. Format should depend upon the user group involved like it always has. If government is advocating that they know more about what the public wants, one must ask the basis for this assumption. More likely, Congress does not care about whether the information can be used or not, it simply wants to save money. 2.) What happens when the electricity goes out? Computers crash and the Internet doesn't work. This creates real problems for certain kinds of government information. For example, agricultural statistics are available for only a day, a week, or a month. Is there a preservation component built into the system? The GPO Access Act directs GPO to provide storage for electronic information, but if they don't get the information, they cannot archive it. 3.) There is also the consideration that since electronic data has not been in existence for a long time, there is no knowledge concerning its lifespan. And there have been cases when documents have been written over to save money at GPO.
4.) Data quality and authenticity of government information on CD-ROMs and online.
5.) The most important reason against a hundred percent electronic universe for government information is that it prevents many users from having access to important government information. From lack of technological finesse, lack of money to buy the necessary equipment, to lack of training, there are many reasons why individuals will be prevented from having access. Furthermore, many depository libraries do not have the needed equipment, the infrastructure, nor enough trained staff to facilitate the transition to electronic government information.
Adler, Prudence S. "Federal Information Dissemination Policies and Practices: One Perspective on Managing the Transition." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 4 (1996): 435-441.
Information providers, including libraries, are going through rapid change due to budget pressures and an onslaught of new information technologies, technologies which are changing the way the public gets their information needs met. For example, in 1995, the U.S. Bureau of Census got 60 000 'hits per day' on their website; GPO Access provides no-fee access to the "Federal Register", congressional bills, and the "Congressional Record"; and the Library of Congress began THOMAS, a service that allows access to congressional information, a site that gets roughly 78 000 hits per day.
Factors contributing to changes in the way government disseminates information: 1.) the existence of information technologies, and their growing use in federal agencies, as well as by users who like the convenience that home access brings them. 2.) The need to downsize and reduce government spending has moved government towards electronic information to save money. The only problem seems to be that the costs will be transferred to the public and to institutions such as libraries. 3.) Al Gore has called for major changes in the structure of government, and in particular, downsizing, and decentralization of procurement and printing, coupled with electronic information. 4.) Clinton Administration Initiatives: revision of OMB Circular A-130 and the 1993 Information Infrastructure Task Force Report have increased the access to government information through the use of the Internet, and by shifting the responsibility for agency information onto the agencies themselves, thus decentralizing government information. 5.) Congressional Initiatives: as the 104th Congress came to a close, legislation was introduced that called for federal information dissemination programs to be restructured. As well, the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 was passed in both houses. 6.) Library Community Initiatives: libraries around the country have begun a series of meetings, pilot projects, and experiments in providing access to government information. Information flowing out of the Dupont Circle Group (April 26, 1993), and the Chicago Conference on the Future of Federal Governmental Information (October 29-31, 1993) identified some important points to consider: 1.) If FDLP is going to survive, there needs to be an effective framework from which information can be accessed. 2.) Cooperation is needed between government and libraries. 3.) New dissemination programs require interim measures. 4.) The desire to keep no-fee access for the public.
Many collaborate projects are weighing dissemination strategies, and include: 1.) The U.S. Agricultural Information Network is interested in preserving and providing access to pre-1950 core agricultural historical literature. 2.) The Agricultural Network Information Center is a source of electronic agricultural information, and designed to provide access to academics, subject specialists, government researchers, agribusiness, and the public, to name a few. It uses a system of international agricultural databases, and has a mediated reference service and a directory of nonbibliographic databases. 3.) The Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) is a consortium of twelve major research and teaching universities, which is exploring three areas: Digitizing printed government information; network access to Geographic Information Systems data; and how to provide network access to government information on CD-ROMs and tape files.
Aldrich, Duncan M. "Depository Libraries, the Internet, and the 21st Century." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 4 (1996): 381-391.
In 1995, both the United States Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of the Census issued notices stating that many of their information products would no longer be released in print or microfiche formats, and instead, they would be available on the Internet in order to provide greater access. These announcements reflect the new ideology that the federal government has in regards to the dissemination of information which will allow it to cut costs. "Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called for an electronic democracy that would provide for immediate access to all federal legislation via the Internet"(p. 382). Prior to using the Internet for dissemination, the government sent all its information to the GPO which distributed it to the federal depository library program for public access. Chapter 19 of Title 44 of the United States Code stipulates that all federal government agencies use the services of GPO as printer for their microfiche and print publications, and requires that GPO act as a distributor of that information to depository libraries, which in turn provide the information to the public. The policy statement also requires that roughly every state have a regional depository library to store the documents forever. What will happen to the system as more and more government information is solely in electronic format?
Aldrich calls the new model "the Internet e-mail order model" (p. 382), whose main characteristic is "direct distribution of federal information resources from producing agency to end user"(p. 383). Federal agencies post their information onto homepages, bypassing the GPO altogether, and seemingly, they can do so legally due to a grey area in 44 USC 1901, saying that it never included electronic information. Therefore, the FLP is cut from the middle of the equation, so where is it left? Four basic functions of federal depository libraries must be examined: 1.) If information is all electronic, will there even be a need for the program? Yes, since the public will still need geographically dispersed depositories to access archival materials, as well as new materials issued in CD-ROM format, microform, and perhaps even paper. The other reason is that not everyone has access to computer technology at home or in their offices; most people do not and will not anytime soon. Internet access is another problem. 2.) If documents are electronic, will regional depositories be needed for archiving? There will still need to be places to store the traditional forms of government information and new materials such as CD-ROM products. Of course, there is no expectation that all the electronic information will be downloaded, printed, and stored, as well as redundant if all fifty regional libraries were to be archival sites. It is more likely that the National Archives will set up programs to do so, and have the capabilities to provide access to the public through existing depositories. Currently, it is not known if agencies are archiving the information they put onto their websites. 3.) Will depositories need to exist to promote access at no charge? That is very up in the air, especially since federal agencies have been mandated to recover the costs of distributing information, and as a result, many federal websites and bulletin boards are not free. Examples include the Department of Commerce's Stat-USA or FedWorld sites. And although many other agencies offer free access to their homepages, one has to wonder how long that will likely continue as the novelty wears off. Still others, charge individual users, but provide one or two passwords free to depository libraries. If this continues, depository libraries will be integral components for the dissemination of government information, but if not, any library can access the information, making depositories unnecessary. 4.) Will users need assistance from reference librarians and value-added services? The question that could be asked is will users know which site to visit for particular information? (see note #1) Users are not always knowledgeable about where to look for information and can waste a lot of time searching websites. Patrons have always had problems looking for information in government print sources, so why will that change? At the very least depository librarians can offer expertise in searching and retrieving, as well as data management issues and bibliographic tools. Someone will have to train users to navigate the Internet, databases, and even GILS, which can get most individuals close to where they want to go, but assistance is required for novices at present. (My question is, if depository libraries fade away into the sunset, will government continue its no-fee access to information?
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. And that is where knowing the structure and organization of government comes into play. How many people are familiar with it?
Aluri, Rao. "Improving Reference Service: The Case for Using a Continuous Quality Improvement Method." RQ 33, No. 2 (Winter 1993): 220-236.
Note: This is undoubtedly one of the most important articles you will read. It has great depths of insight, and you should strongly embrace and reinforce the ideas herein if you want to be a hero for librarianship.
Improving reference service should naturally flow out of reference evaluation, however, many libraries have used a variety of evaluative techniques to benchmark their facility, without ever taking the next step. Aluri believes that successful improvement of reference service must integrate a systems perspective, have a view to the long term, and include a win-win ideology. He also believes that a number of variables affect any simple reference transaction, including:
Before any improvements can be made to the quality of reference service, it must be realized that "[w]hat was missing from these discussions was a systems view of the reference process, and the recognition that library managers, who have management responsibility for the reference system, are equally, if not more, accountable for the quality of the reference process" (p. 221).
As much as it can be acknowledged that many evaluations of reference service are/were carried out by outsiders to the system (including consultants, doctoral students, and faculty researchers), and these offered but a snapshot or episodic picture of the quality of reference service on a particular day, it must also be pointed out that for reference service to be improved, the process must be initiated by those who are directly involved and can be achieved only through continuous effort and support of the participants. There is also a problem with the mentality of blame: all over the world, it is always the workers who are blamed for problems and shortcomings in service, instead a using a systems perspective to review shortcomings. Isn't it true that when accuracy rates for reference transactions hover near 50%, only the front-line librarians are found to be at fault? One must review the system to find the components that result in poor quality service. Why not start at the top with library administration?
"Library administrators hold primary responsibility for the system. It is management's policies and procedures, its departmental organizations, its rewards and punishment systems, and its three-pronged performance evaluation in academic libraries (library service, community service, and research) under which reference librarians labor" (p. 224). Is it fair then, to lay all the blame on reference librarians and punish them, especially when administration often takes the best of them off the desk to do committee work and special projects, refuse to provide the funds for training, continuing education, while they push for publication? Especially when lengthy interview procedures and examination of resumes help managers to hire the cream of the crop in the first place?
Of course, none of these realities absolves reference librarians of their inherent responsibility of giving the best service possible, however, unless a healthy environment is provided, what can one expect? What needs to be done is for both managers and librarians to collect data on a long-term basis, and begin to identify the root causes behind the problems, so as to eliminate them through a complete systems review of the reference process.
What can be done to improve reference service?
The improvement of reference service is a long-term process that requires the use of quality improvement tools (including control and Pareto charts, brainstorming sessions, and 'cause and effect' diagrams), cooperation across the board, teamwork, and a systems view of the process.
Andrews, Judy, and Lucy Duhon. "GILS, Government Information Locator Service: Blending Old and New to Access U.S. Governmental Information." The Serials Librarian 31, No. 1/2 (1997): 327-333.
1. The United States depository library system is made up of 1400 libraries. Their mandate is and has always been to provide the public with access to federal government information, and to keep it stored. In 1994, there were 101.8 million government documents distributed by the GPO, ranging from short pamphlets to those hundreds of pages in length. As the federal government is now using the Internet and electronic publishing to disseminate its information, there is a great need to organize it. One of the strategies has been the development of the Government Information Locator Service (GILS), which has come out of the work done in large part by Charles McClure, of Syracuse University. Using studies that looked at how the public accesses and uses government information, conducted by McClure, Ryan, and Moen, and their report called "Identifying and Describing Federal Information Inventory/Locator Systems: Design for Network-based Locators", (see note #1) they designed a network-based locator for government information, and initiated the legislation to put it into operation. The initial idea for GILS was a result of a model for the United States Geological Survey developed by Eliot Christian.
2. An excerpt from the important document written by Clinton and Gore in 1993:
"Every year the federal government spends billions of dollars collecting and processing information...while much of this information is very valuable, many potential users either do not know it exists, or do not know how to access it. We are committed to using new computer and network technology to make this information more accessible to the taxpayers who paid for it....federal information is [to be] made available at a fair price to as many users as possible while encouraging growth of the information" (p. 329). (see note #2)
3. In 1993, P.L. 103-40, a public law, established that the GPO would be the means by which federal government electronic information would be accessed by the public by funneling it through the depository library program, capping a battle which had been fought since the Reagan administration. It also mandated that electronic format would be the means of storing federal government publications.
4. At the same time, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), published Circular A-130, "Management of Federal Information Resources", which encouraged federal government agencies to provide the public with access to their publications, regardless of format. There are 108 major federal government agencies in the United States, which have the expertise to organize, disseminate, and set fees for the information they produce, and that is why a policy of decentralization is necessary; individual agencies will be the ones able to provide the most accurate information available about their departments. In addition, it called for the use of finding aids, such as catalogs and directories to enhance access, stipulating that fees would not exceed the cost of dissemination.
5. In September, 1993, the National Information Infrastructure Task Force released a document entitled "Agenda for Action", with the provision for public access to government information being one of its objectives. It also suggested that there be a 'virtual card catalog' set up to indicate whether or not certain information was available.
6. All of these steps laid the groundwork for the implementation of GILS.
7. OMB Bulletin 95-01, a furtherance of Circular A-130, described the functions of GILS as: 1.) an identifier of federal government publications, 2.) to provide descriptions of available information, 3.) assist users in accessing the information they want, 4.) help to improve the management practices of federal government agencies in relation to electronic information, 5.) the basis of GILS' structure will be decentralized agency-based locator records, which use easily available technological products that will enable the information to be stored and retrieved through a multitude of sites and ways, 6.) Internet access should be free, but particularly for depository libraries.
8. There are still many issues to consider concerning GILS, including whether it should be tied to the Z39.50 standard. Although the model calls for decentralization, doesn't there need to be some sort of standard applied? And what about the problem of archiving? Who should control GILS ? The White House and Congress have come to no agreement.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. McClure, Charles R., Joe Ryan, and William E. Moen. "Identifying and Describing Federal Information Inventory/Locator Systems: Design for Network-based Locators", 2 vols. (Bethesda, MD: National Audio Visual Center, 1992).
2. Clinton, William J., and Albert Gore, Jr. "Technology for America's Strength: A New Direction to Build Economic Strength." (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, February 1993).
Andrews, William J. "Nurturing the Global Information Commons: Public Access, Public Infrastructure." Government Information in Canada/Information gouvernementale au Canada 2, No. 3.1 (1996). Available: www.usask.ca/library/gic/v2n3/andrews.html
Andrews points out that although 'Electronic Highway' and 'Information Highway' are used interchangeably by many people, they are two very distinct terms. 'Electronic Highway' is actually the software and hardware infrastructure that enables communications to take place and is built with the help of engineers and information technologists, while 'Information Highway' is the actual communication that takes place. These distinctions are quite important when considering public infrastructure and access: public access to 'Electronic Highway' encompasses such things as whether to use cable or telephone lines for connectivity, wires, and fibre optic cables, while public infrastructure of the 'Electronic Highway' refers to who pays for it and who owns the wires that make up the structure. While this whole area of controversy is very important to consider and focus on, the thrust of Andrews' paper is with three key issues affecting the Information Highway, namely:
Pricing of Government Information: public service or corporate asset?
"Computerization greatly facilitates the commodification of information. Once information is in electronic form it is relatively easy (i.e. cheap) to package it and to distribute it. Also, it is easier to make it useful (i.e. valuable) to a much wider array of potential users (i.e. customers) than the users for whom information was originally created" (p. 2). With the reduction of government budgets in all Western governments, and the pressures to recover some of the revenues used to collect and disseminate government information, there is a trend towards the commodification of information because information is a valuable resource. The problem with that mentality is 1.) there is typically an overestimation of the actual profits that can be commanded from the sale of government information, and a correlating underestimate of what it actually costs government departments to do business in the information world. The overestimation comes from including revenues they obtain from selling information between departments, which is often overlooked. 2.) since the governmental agencies are in fact monopolistic suppliers of information, they will increasingly take advantage of this position as time goes by, and eventually will have to come under a regulatory board so that prices do not hinder the democratic process of universal rights to access of information. 3.) computerized government information is sold using the system of high-price, low-volume, meaning that information does not have to be marketed beyond a very visible circle of 'must-purchase' clients. In reality, this approach does not allow non-commercial users to purchase information, and leaves little room for an expansion of sales. The example used by the author is the $600.00 the British Columbia government charges for a file of digital maps, covering no more area than its $10.00 paper maps. This literally excludes groups such as educators, students, individuals, and environmental groups from having access to the information, leaving it solely for logging and mining companies, or other governmental agencies. 4.) "This raises the fourth problem with the sale of computerized government information, which is the fundamental public policy question of whether the distribution of government information should be treated as a source of revenue or as a public service" (p. 3). The Information Advisory Council's Final Report sees a business approach being the best one for the information highway, although not necessarily for the government to act as a model for this approach, which can be seen in the free access they have provided for many federal statutes and regulations available full-text on the Internet.
Government's Use of the Information Highway: there have been several positive steps in this direction, including the fact that the federal and provincial governments have Internet sites, which contain great amounts of serious information besides tourist-oriented materials.
Use of the Internet in Relations to Government: the public is beginning to use the Internet in ways that relate to government matters. Some examples are: grassroots environmental Internet sites; British Columbians using the Internet to allow the world knowledge of their views of the Gustafson Lake occupation; and major newspapers posting sites on issues such as the Quebec referendum. It is all about building a community of users.
Bailey, Bill. "The "55 Percent Rule" Revisited." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 13 (Nov. 1987): 280-283.
The Journal of Academic Librarianship put out a symposium on the accuracy of reference service in its May 1987 issue, which provided the findings of work done by Hernon and McClure and their 55% rule. Reactions from a reference librarian are chronicled here.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Birbeck, Vaughan P., and Kenneth A. Whittaker. "Room for Improvement: An Unobtrusive Testing of British Public Library Reference Service." Public Library Journal 2, No. 4 (July/August 1987): 55-60.
This study covered "twenty-four English public service points" (p. 55), and used unobtrusive methods to determine the quality of reference service offered over the telephone. It was the first time unobtrusive testing was used to evaluate British libraries in a full scale survey. Reasons for the study were three-fold: 1.) With the financial restraints and cutbacks evident in libraries, it is increasingly necessary for evaluation of services. 2.) Since answering questions is at the heart of librarianship, this aspect must be evaluated. 3.) Traditionally, reference work has been evaluated on the basis of quantitative methods, but how many questions reference librarians answer cannot reflect the quality of the answers given to patrons. As s result, qualitative methods of evaluation must be used. This was chosen over obtrusive evaluation because "Their results are, in fact, likely to be typical of the quality of the answers being given by a library's staff to its enquirers" (p. 56).
The findings were comparable to previous studies carried out in the U. S. and were: 1.) 47% for wholly correct 2.) 9% for partially correct 3.) 17% for wholly incorrect 4.) 27% were referred 5.) "only a fifth of them resulted in an incorrect answer being given" (p. 56) (see note #1) 6.) The mean time for answering the questions was 5.5 minutes. 7.) statistical analysis concluded that the longer a librarian spent answering a question, the higher the accuracy.
The unobtrusive test was supplemented by doing an obtrusive test to see if any differences were found. The results were: 1.) More care was taken by the librarians when answering the questions, and some even wrote them down. 2.) the mean time was 6.3 minutes. 3.) the librarians had a higher accuracy rate when compared to the unobtrusive results. 4.) If librarians know they are being tested, it is virtually impossible for them to perform normally.
Brandon, Peter, and Jens Laursen. "A Discussion Paper on Improving Public Access to Information about Government Services and Sources of Information." Ottawa: Information Management practices, Treasury Board, 1992.
The underlying message of this discussion paper is that Canadians need more access to government information and an increased awareness of the services and programs available to them. "There is evidence that these clients' ability to obtain information about services available and sources of information is limited by the combines effects: of uncoordinated provision of access services; of fragmentation among the sources for such information; of diffused responsibility for providing such information; of the form of presentation of the information, often not adapted to the audience; of inconsistencies among departments in inventorying and providing access to such information" (p. 2). Of course there is Reference Canada and the Guide to Federal Programs and Services, but these are not well-known by the average Canadian because of little promotion by the government. Brandon and Laursen propose that there are ways the government can greatly improve access to government information, particularly through an inventory/locator service (government-wide information and services locator system, or GISL), more promotion of existing tools, and by providing multi-modal access services (available through telephone, electronic formats, and face-to-face mediated service). Face-to-face mediation can be achieved by promoting the services offered by depository libraries in this country. All improvements will require specialized training for the personnel who offer mediation between the public and government information so as to develop a sophisticated and comprehensive system. One of the underlying criticisms the government has to greatly improving access and awareness to information sources lies in the fear that it would substantially increase requests, and overload an already overextended system. However, through utilizing depository libraries, developing neighborhood kiosks, enhancing government outlets, extending hours, and providing better telephone referrals, that should take care of problems associated with the 'fear of success' syndrome.
"An effective GISL system could be established as the single collection point and single source of such information on a government-wide basis. This would reduce the effort, save resources, improve the accuracy of the information available on topics, and reduce the number of data calls on departments. An effective GISL system would require a government-wide thesaurus or controlled vocabulary" (p. 4). Such a system would be beneficial for the following reasons: 1.) the public would be provided with a fairly sophisticated locator and referral system, 2.) offer the capability for 'one-stop-shopping' for government information, and 3.) bring about a reduction of information calls to individual government agencies and departments.
To build and implement such a service, the government would have to work and coordinate with the private-sector and develop a series of guidelines, standards, and a framework, as well as providing access to government information. In addition, success can only be expected if government departments contribute information and begin to show some progress in inventorying their information resources.
Background points to keep in mind:
Brandon, Peter. "The Internet Myth: A Model for More Activist Government in a Knowledge Society." Government Information in Canada/ Information gouvernementale au Canada No. 14. Available: http://www.usask.ca/library/gic/14/brandon.html
Brandon has set out to show that the Internet will not automatically transform our society into one which is proficient in information technologies. He calls it the 'Internet myth', arguing that its very existence cannot be equated with the development of citizens who are technologically savvy in a knowledge society. He uses the mythology behind the Gutenberg Printing Press and what he calls the 'Hippocrates myth' to dispel this ideology.
Many believe that it was Gutenberg's press which transformed the illiterate world to a society with high levels of literacy. Not true says Brandon. "Indeed, the numbers indicate that literacy actually exploded not alongside the printing presses (literacy rates merely "bubbled upward" as output and affordability of printed texts grew impressively), but in the wake of some remarkable changes in both the idea and the social reality that people are equal within a human community. These changes, sparked by the spirit embodied in Jefferson's famous words, "all men are created equal", initiated significant social actions, the most remarkable of which was state-sponsored elementary public education" (p. 2). It was the combination of equality for everyone and a free public school system which made illiteracy rates dramatically decline.
The other myth saw scientific advances in medicine as being credited for the substantial improvements in the state of public health in the 19th and 20th centuries. Brandon argues that it was actually new government laws such as the Public Health Act and the Nuisances Removal and Disease Act that made such a big difference because these made it possible for the government to disinfect houses, isolate sick and infected individuals, implement street cleaning, and generated a campaign of propaganda for higher levels of physical education in schools, increased domestic and personal hygiene, and cleaner working place conditions. In addition, the government developed statistical committees for the collection of disease and demographic statistics, and the dissemination of public health information, seen in such publications as the Handbook for U.S. Public Health (1915). "Determined government action in this case helped shape public attitudes. In turn, these attitudes, combined with further government action and statistical and medical advances, led to accelerated increases in the levels of public health (at least in the Western World)" (p. 3).
Both examples show that enlightened attitudes and government action were in large part responsible for dramatic changes in society. Brandon contends that it will not be the Internet which will transform society into a knowledge society, but government action and enlightened social attitudes, with help from the Internet. It will take determined government action to ensure that there is universal access to public knowledge: public knowledge is a national asset the government has a responsibility to provide access to for its citizens because it has social value that can enhance the quality of life. Without the access to public information, individuals cannot become consequential and productive members of society, and "discharge their citizenship obligations and prosecute their interests in a knowledge society" (p. 8). The author also makes the point that Crown Copyright was created to ensure that the Crown administer and guarantee information for the benefit and use of the people governed, not for the benefit of the Crown, with government responsible for providing free access so as to expand society's knowledge base. Therefore, the activist government would ensure that public information is accessible. But how?
The author sees the second pillar for a more activist government to be the creation of a Canadian universal public knowledge delivery model, inspired by the Canadian Health Act. Brandon believes that the right to public information is complementary to the mental and physical well-being of Canadian citizens. The Act ensures access to health, just as a Canadian Public information and Knowledge Act would ensure that Canadians have a right to public information, an inherent right. He calls this proposed system 'Knowledge Care' and its "rationale is that the informational and knowledge health of Canadians is fundamental to governance in and functioning of an effective democracy underpinning a successful information society… Knowledge Care is an implement of the Information Age, where the ability to acquire, use and apply information and knowledge is the single most important source of comparative advantage, competitiveness, productivity, and, ultimately, wealth" (p. 11).
A charter for Knowledge Care should include, among other things:
Operationalization should be on a non-profit basis, overseen by some public authority, with the Information Commissioner acting as ombudsperson, with the Privacy Commissioner protecting Canadians' privacy rights.
The government must remember that "[n]o technology - not even the Internet - will bring about desirable social outcomes on its own. The Internet will not, by itself, beget an informed population and participatory democracy any more than Gutenberg's printing press can be credited with creating mass literacy, or than advances in medical science and apparatus can be held solely responsible for the current state of public health. What ultimately brings about an "informed participation society" are (1) enlightened social attitudes and (2) corresponding government action" (p. 15).
Brandon, Peter. "Enhancing Public Access to Government Information." (July 31, 1998).
The government is committed to offering Canadians common delivery points and one-stop shopping for federal government services. Is it possible?
Currently, impediments include: reluctance to offer better service, for fear that it will overwhelm already limited resources; a lack of inventorying in certain government departments; trouble locating information sources; incompatible information formats; no provision for coordinated access; and no minimum standards set by the federal government.
Access currently comes principally through government white pages in the telephone book; InfoSource; Reference Canada; Guide to Federal Programs and Services; and the government telephone book. Dissemination outlets include: the Depository Services Program; Statistics Canada; post offices; government information networks, such as the National Business Information network and the Canadian Heritage Information Network; constituency and MPs offices; departmental reading rooms; and regional and district offices of federal departments. Provincially agencies such as Access Ontario, Communications Quebec, Newfoundland Information Services, and BC Online are centers for government information dissemination. Municipal offerings include Access Montreal.
Short term options for improving access to federal government information: 1.) more user-friendly telephone directory government pages, 2.) improving the quality and public access to Reference Canada, 3.) enhancement of InfoSource's electronic system by combining its database with information from Reference Canada and the resources of the Guide to Federal Programs and Services. This new InfoSource system could provide services ranging from telephone access, face-to-face access (through libraries, government outlets, and federal departments), and electronic access, offered directly or through gatewayed networks, and public kiosks.
Longer term options to improve access to federal government information may be through: 1.) the creation of a government information and services locator system, with access to FAQ, descriptions of services offered by federal agencies and departments, abstracts and citations of government information resources, and names/phone numbers of where service and information can be obtained. A locator service could also provide telephone, face-to-face, and electronic access to government information.
Brown, Janet Dagenais. "Using Quality Concepts to Improve Reference Services." College & Research Libraries (May 1994): 211-219.
Librarians must provide high quality reference service if they are to expect repeat business from their users. The reference department at the Wichita State University Library was interested in improving the service they provide, so they decided to conduct a complete evaluation. Good reference service should include accurate and timely answers provided in an efficient manner, using a responsive system of delivery. Guidelines have been set down by the American Library Association and are combined with the individual philosophies of the librarians themselves. However, there are no set methodologies for the delivery of reference service; difficulties in measuring the perceptions of users; and "they do not really offer practical direction" (p. 212).
Customer satisfaction or quality services are as important as the accuracy of the answers given. Much work has been done in this field, with prominent studies carried out for the business world by W. Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran, and Philip B. Crosby. All three believed that a commitment to quality must come from the top down, with empowered and involved employees working in an organization that is customer-driven and interested in improving the quality of its service.
Libraries and their staff must concentrate their efforts on the delivery of their services, with customers always in mind because "[w]hat the consumer experiences during this contact with the service provider has been called the "Moment of Truth," a phrase coined by Swedish airline magnate Jan Carlzon…Reference librarians will encounter many of these moments of truth during each shift at the Reference Desk. How well these moments are managed will determine how satisfied our customers are with our service" (p. 213).
If these 'moments of truth' are not properly handled, library users can feel frustrated and leave with negative feelings for the librarian and the library itself. They certainly will not be eager to come back again too quickly. To find out how well the reference librarians were doing with 'moments of truth' at the Wichita State University Library, the library initiated a series of four projects, hoping to find out who their users were and if their needs were being met.
What they learned from this experience, was that improving the quality of reference service must be a continuous process, and carried out by all members of the staff.
Buchwald, C. 1995. "Canada in Context: An Overview of Information Policies in Four Industrialized Countries." Information Policy Research Program, Faculty of Information Studies. Working Paper Series No. 2. Toronto, ON.
Bunge, Charles A. "Evaluating Reference Services and Reference Personnel: Questions and Answers from the Literature." The Reference Librarian, no. 43, 1994, pp. 195-207.
The evaluation of reference services is an important aspect of library work, and "should be guided by the reference service's overall philosophy, mission, goals, and objectives" (p. 197) Ultimately, which evaluation method a library uses is dependent upon what they are trying to find out about service or resources. As Robbin-Carter and Zweizig point out, libraries should not be asking "How good are we?" but rather one that attempts to answer the question, "Are we there yet?" (p. 197-198) (see note #1 and #2) They have established a model which Bunge has found useful for the evaluation of reference service. It is a process of question answering:
What next? For our study, what we want to know about is the dissemination of government information, how it is being transmitted to the public, and how much librarians working in reference know about the structure of the government in general. Where do we want to be? With improved reference service for patrons asking government documents questions, and for librarians to feel more comfortable answering them because of additional training. How will we know if we are getting there? Libraries must use some evaluation method, to set a benchmark. Or as the author says, "In fact, an important purpose of the "first round" in an ongoing evaluation process can be to establish benchmarks that can be used in establishing objectives or targets for the future" (p. 199) That is what the proxy study ultimately did. Any number of methods can be used depending upon the size of the study, how much work a library wants to put into it, and how much resources they have to carry it out. Methods such as peer review are getting lots of attention in the literature as a way libraries can evaluate themselves. How close are we? This can be answered using statistical analysis of the data after it is collected, making sure not to over-generalize the findings. (see note #3) What does it all mean? So what? There must be an identification of factors that are affecting the level of accomplishment in any particular reference department. Poorly answered questions could be symptomatic of many different factors such as lack of reference materials, inexperienced librarians, or lack of interviewing skills. In our case, it is perhaps indicative of morale problems, cutback of appropriate staff, having the least qualified reference librarians on the floor, or lack of training regimes for searching electronic resources such as the Internet. What next? This is the process of moving from evaluation to improvement. (see note #4) The implication of more training for librarians so that they can keep up with t he new technologies and how to get around the problems associated with shrinking budgets and layoffs.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Campbell, Jerry D. "Shaking the Conceptual Foundations of Reference: A Perspective." Reference Services Review (Winter 1992): 29-35.
"I'm sorry I looked into the whole thing, I mean reference service in libraries and a new economic model for reference. I was aware that if I addressed the topic of reference, some might see this as the misguided effort of an administrator from the lunatic fringe to meddle in something he didn't know anything about, and I was prepared for that. I also knew that I would encounter a sacred cow or two among the reference pastures. I was somewhat less prepared, though not undone, to encounter a whole herd. I was, however, totally unprepared to find the ostensibly straightforward notion of reference service to be virtually in conceptual disarray" (p. 29).
What does this mean? It means that it is almost impossible for anyone, other than a practicing reference librarian, to understand what it means to be a reference librarian, understand what it is they do on any given day, and how much they do, or should be doing. With no clear mission statements available for reference librarians, and much controversy over studies that claim reference librarians have major problems with providing accurate answers to patron requests, it is little wonder that conceptual disarray reigns. One can assume they do a variety of tasks which include the staffing of reference desks, the answering of questions, BI, the development of subject bibliographies, professional development, academic research, and collection development, with the central role presumed to be the answering of reference questions, but is it? And what kinds of questions do they answer?
A review of the literature offers some insight by explaining that reference librarians get asked two very different types of questions: directional and substantial, and that there is no cohesion amongst reference librarians as to what the major features of their work are, or their central role. For example, some librarians believe that bibliographic instruction stands as the central and the most redeeming role they play in the provision of reference service, while others see the desk as their whole universe. There is even discernible dissension amongst librarians over the role that paraprofessionals should play in libraries, and certainly no agreement on what constitutes a good economic model for reference. With no clear picture available, and apparent conflict between old and new practices, Campbell felt the best way to proceed was to begin with a redefinition of reference.
What is reference? It can be broken down into two fronts: one technological, the other, conceptual.
Technology and Reference:
Campbell proposes that reference librarians change their title to 'Access Engineers,' and be willing to perform three essential tasks: 1.) Knowledge Cartography: being aware of all new sources of information and establish access links between them and users, 2.) Consumer Analysis: the ability to analyze and understand the information needs of users, 3.) Access Engineering: facilitate the transfer of information from its source, directly to the user.
Canada. Federal Task Force on Digitization. "Digitization in the Federal Government." April 1997. Available at http: www.nrc.ca/dtf-gtn/english/discpap.htm
Canadian Heritage and Industry Canada jointly established the Federal Task Force on Digitization so as to: 1.) to highlight the importance of providing digital information, 2.) to make provisions to allow federal departments and agencies to create information in a digital form, 3.) to develop the strategies needed to offer access to Canadian digital information.
The Information Highway Advisory Council (IHAC) was created in May of 1994, and had as its mandate, "the examination of a wide variety of issues relating to the Information Highway" (p. 10). In September, 1995, its final report was published, with inclusion of three hundred recommendations for consideration. The government responded with Building the Information Society: Moving Canada into the 21st Century, and development of a plan to have a strong Canadian cultural presence on the Internet, and the creation of an environment that would stimulate research and development, the encouragement of new services, and open standards of dissemination. The basis comes from a belief that "the process of creating, converting, marketing, distributing, and exporting digital Canadian content creates not only increased access, knowledge, and awareness but also fosters many opportunities for innovation, wealth, and job creation within the Canadian and multimedia industries" (p. 1). As a result, Industry Canada and Canadian Heritage created the Federal Digitization Task Force (DTF) to examine the issues and mechanisms required for Canada to have a presence on the Information Superhighway. To do this, the task force had to determine the extent to which digitization of information is utilized in federal departments, establish an environment that enabled consumers, producers, and distributors, and propose a strategy that enabled free, tax-supported access with those that generated revenues from value-added information products.
To date, there is no government-wide strategy in place for the digitization of government information, but instead, a series of pilot projects operating on a departmental basis. No coordination across the board, no central inventory of the digitization work, and no mechanism in place to exchange information between departments. Before a roadmap for digital information is developed, the creation of an inventory structure must be developed. One idea is to use an environmental scan of departments to collect information on the objectives, scope, and nature of planned and current priorities and projects.
"One of the primary objectives of the federal government in the area of the Information Society is to ensure affordable, equitable, and universal access to Canadian content and to ensure the preservation of this content over the long-term" (p. 3). Of course, federal departments are interested in generating revenues from the information they have added value to, so there must be guidelines in place to ensure that Canadians get access to the government information they need, while charging the private sector for the commercialization of information products. There is a fine line, but it must be established to allow the public access to Canadian content, content that they have paid for with tax dollars, while developing the economic environment surrounding information in a commercial sense. Policy guidelines must include decisions on standards, navigational tools, user-friendly interfaces, and deal with the problems associated with intellectual property and copyright legislation. One of the major problems faced by governmental departments and agencies, is the severe budgetary restraints that have been levied against them, and the pressure placed on them by Cabinet to find new ways and procedures to face the transfer to digital data in a manner that is very cost-effective. The DTF has identified tax-supported digitization; recovery of revenues through the commodification of value-added information; and the development of partnerships between federal departments and agencies with private-sector corporations, to save money.
Five areas of possible investigation by the Task Force:
Canada. Information Highway Advisory Council. "Preparing Canada for a Digital World. Final Report." Ottawa: IHAC, September 1997. Available: http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/IHAC
"As the 21st century dawns, Canada and the world are making a profound transition that reaches into every aspect of human life. A new knowledge society is replacing the industrial society that prevailed in the developed world during most of the 19th and 20th centuries" (p.1). How Canada makes the transition will be detrimental to its national identity, its social and cultural goals, and its economic stability in the 21st century. As three years of work has ended, this remains their central conviction and conclusion. Parameters and strategies are needed to promote and develop this vision for Canada in the Information Age. The country has done much to build the Information Highway in the last five years, and has accomplished much that needed to be done, taking a leadership role in the process of developing a knowledge society and economy, a role that its leading trading partners have disputed and challenged: "If they succeed, Canadians will not achieve in the 21st century the goals that they have traditionally cherished. Nor will Canada realize the full promise of the knowledge society" (p. 2).
This final report envisions a place in the knowledge society, built by Canadians, using Canadian values and goals to provide a structure where the people of this country can work and live. There is a promise of a knowledge society that will make the physical distances between Canadians disappear, cause global parameters to shrink in size, and make "[t]he creation, manipulation, and sharing of information and knowledge become an overriding human imperative" (p. 2). The vision includes significant changes in removing obstacles related to business success; the development of economic and social factors; learning and education; voluntary action and social conscience; adequate health care; and a participation in Canadian cultural dialogue. The hope and goal is that information will be increasingly accessible, so that the decision-making process of individuals Canadians is securely established with knowledge. These new imperatives flow out of objectives created three years ago, namely: the creation of Canadian jobs through investment and innovation, having Canadian cultural identity and sovereignty reinforced, and providing universal access to digital information at reasonable cost.
This knowledge society's infrastructure will be based on computer and communication networks, with information flowing freely, and that is why Canada must continue with its policies that insist upon using the best that technology can offer, working with the private sector to develop a strong infrastructure to move Canada towards an economy using information to prosper. Currently, Canada is trailing behind other countries, which are spending more per capita on the creation of informational technologies. All will be for not, if Canadian businesses are unable to fully utilize the information infrastructure to build electronic commercial and informational services. To make this a reality, the Canadian government must create the technical and legal foundation needed.
This report encourages the federal government to work with private sector companies, before the end of 1997, in ensuring that there is a wider range of cultural content available to reflect the country's linguistic duality and distinctive cultural heritage. If Canada is to grow as a distinct society, it must make its heritage known and visible on the Information Highway, and in addition, "[t]he creation, distribution, and production of Canadian content is an important source of jobs and economic growth and a foundation for the national cultural dialogue holding us together as a country. The economic possibilities flowing out of the Information Highway represent a cultural opportunity for a stronger articulation of Canadian visions and a reinforcement of our national, regional, and local communities. This opportunity must not be lost" (p.3).
Before the end of 1997, we encourage the federal government to map out a national access strategy to ensure that Canadians have affordable and equitable access to basic services in the broadcast and telecommunications environment; to provide access to networks such as the Internet, promote Information Highway services; and to develop mechanisms for universal access in the future. How can Canadians participate in this new society, if there is not equitable access to it for all groups? Access is therefore, crucial.
Leadership is imperative: both from the public and the government. The writers of this report welcome leadership initiatives from provincial and federal governments, from individuals and private-sector strategists, all working together for a common good. Some of the issues that are important for future progress include:
"Governments, industry, voluntary associations, community groups, and individual Canadians all have roles as drivers on the Information Highway in making the knowledge society of the 21st century a place that reflects Canadian goals, aspirations, and values. We must make the future, or it will make us. Carpe Diem!" (p. 5).
Cheverie, Joan F., and Judith F. Trump. "Changing Lanes on the Government Information Highway." The Journal of Academic Librarianship (September 1996):378-381.
In this increasing environment of electronic dissemination of government information, libraries must be prepared to become involved with developing and implementing information policy if they expect to meet the information needs of their patrons. In this shift from what was traditionally a print format, to an emphasis on electronic transmission, libraries will have to consider access, archiving, and policy issues for government information.
This article discusses these ramifications in regards to two information products that will be affected by the changes, and the implications for libraries and users.
I. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), is a division of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Since the early 1940s, it has published "Daily Reports", an information product that consists of wire service reports, magazine and newspaper articles in full-text, and speeches from around the world, including Western and Eastern Europe, China, Latin America, and Central Eurasia. The product is used by government analysts, businesses, and academia, to keep track of commercial developments overseas. Federal depository libraries could select the microfiche version of the "Daily Reports", but many had to purchase an index from a commercial vendor to make the information accessible to users. Other libraries chose to pay a substantial amount of money for the print version since waiting months for the microfiche did not provide good service to their patrons.
In late 1995, some of the information from FBIS and JPRS (Joint Publications Research Service, another CIA product) began to be available on the World Wide Web, through "World News Connection", whose subscription service is fee-based. Total access has been prevented by copyright negotiations with the publishers. In addition, although WNC has plans to digitize two years of content on a rolling basis, there are still discussions of what to do about archiving and preserving older material. Will it be done through CD-ROM technology, or separate databases? These are concerns well taken since all print and microfiche versions of the information were ceased in September 1996. Some of the problems with online access:
1. There have been days when no reports were available due to connectivity problems.
2. Searching techniques must be learned to facilitate use and to make sure all information needed will be obtained.
3. Users with no Internet access will have to rely on libraries to provide them with access.
4. If use is heavy in libraries, patrons will be expected to sign up for limited times, which can have an effect on search strategies and downloading.
5. Of course, libraries must have the resources available to purchase hardware/software, Internet access, and the trained staff to provide instruction if WNC is to be an efficient tool in electronic format.
II. Stat-USA/Internet is a fee-based electronic service of the Department of Commerce, and includes the most often selected CD-ROM product offered by the Federal Depository Library Program: the "National Trade Data Bank (NTDB) databases, as well as the "Economic Bulletin Board", GLOBUS, economic information from the "Bureau of Economic Analysis", and articles from the "Survey of Current Business." There are some benefits to using the Internet product because it is available full-text, coordinates a great amount of information for the user, and has search mechanisms which are a lot more user-friendly when compared to the CD-ROM ones. However, "[O]nly the information from the most current version of each product is maintained on the Web site, and documents are dropped from one issue to another will be lost unless libraries make other archival arrangements" (p. 379). (see note #1)
These two examples can be used to illustrate the larger issues which have an impact on access, and they are: the implications of changing national information policies, and how they can and do affect decisions and policies made at the local level.
1. National Information Policy Issues: As Charles McClure has pointed out, the information policies developed and implemented at the national level are important to understand because libraries, local decisions, and the public's access to information. As well, libraries can affect change in information policy at the local and national levels. As the authors point out, "In short, there is a synergistic relationship between libraries and federal information policy" )p. 379). Pervading the whole universe of government information and its accessibility are the pressures to downsize government and economize the federal bureaucracies, to facilitate efficiency. (see note #2)Dissemination of government information electronically may be a cost-saving alternative, but that are inherent implications that also make the process problematic. For instance, Will "Stat-USA/Internet" eventually discontinue its other formats? If that happens, what will patrons who are not connected to the Internet do? Can they rely on libraries to provide access, when not all libraries have the capabilities at the present time? (see note #3) In addition, will users still be expected to be tied to institutions such as libraries, when one of the advantages and world-changing aspects of the Internet is to breakdown geographical boundaries and facilitate a steady stream of global information? And what about copyright limitations? If copyright permission is obtained, there could be a drastic increase in user fees, and if not, the information that is obtainable through online sources will most likely be streamlined or unavailable altogether. Libraries will have to find their niche in this economic and political drama that is unfolding in many countries, because "[w]ith respect to government information, libraries have also been the "safety net" for ensured citizen access to the public information - the very foundation of a democratic society" (p. 380).
1. Although governments may save money by electronically disseminating information, it is unlikely libraries will because providing access in a networked environment is not cheap.
2. What happens to the serendipity factor of scanning the government documents stacks, if everything goes electronic? (see note #4)
3. And what will happen to information that is not considered current anymore?
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. This is a big problem I had not thought of before. Certainly a major disadvantage of digitized information is the archiving aspect of it. Who will preserve the information once it goes online? What role will the Federal Depository Programs have in the quest for archiving? If governments no longer keep information for very long, or allow access to only the latest available, what will that do to longitudinal studies? How will databases be protected from obsolescence when technology changes? Will information necessarily be transferable? Not on your life. And could the digitization of government information limit the availability of important avenues of knowledge in a round-about way?
2. There are also the trends of making government more like business, and the corporatization of information.
3. Where will the money come from to provide it? Will libraries have to lay-off staff or buy less books and journals to facilitate the purchase of hardware and browser software? As a proxy, I remember a library in Nepean having no Internet access, and it was the main library for the city. Or will there be yet another barrier erected in this world between the haves and have-nots? Of course, with knowledge and information the gap between has historically been filled by libraries.
Childers, Thomas. "The Quality of Reference: Still Moot after 20 Years." Journal of Academic Librarianship (May 1987): 73-74.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Childress, Boyd, Reference Librarian, Auburn University. "Letters to the Editor: Reference Librarians Speak Out." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 13 (Sept. 1987): 226.
He had some thoughts on the work done by Hernon and McClure:
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Christian, Eliot J. "Helping the Public Find Information: The U.S. Government Information Locator Service (GILS)." Journal of Government Information 21, No. 4, (1994): 305-314.
Important Points Made by the Author:
1. In "Technology for America's Strength, A New Direction to Build Economic Strength", 1993 by William J. Clinton and Albert Gore, Jr. state that their administration will be committed to facilitating access to government information through the use of computer networks. They believe that although there is a great amount of money spent to collect and process government information, and it is valuable, the public is unaware of it, or do not know how to access it.
2. In 1993, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) revised Circular A-130, which handles the management of information resources for the government. It now states that government agencies should supply the public with government information via new electronic technologies in a timely manner, because they provide more flexibility for access to information; improves the management of government programs; develops public awareness of electronic networks, such as the Internet; and that it facilitates the use of emerging standards for the dissemination of government information (Z39.50).
3. Agencies have also been asked to be more proactive on the part of the public when they make an information request.
4. Management of electronic records is also a growing concern for government agencies. The National Archives and Records Administration will be helping these agencies by issuing new and revised guidelines for preserving information in electronic form.
5. As a way of helping the public get access to government information, the administration is developing the Government Information Locator Service (GILS), one part of the National Information Infrastructure (NII). Of course, GILS will have to be evaluated as to its potential for meeting user needs, completeness, scope, accuracy, accessibility, user-friendliness, and timeliness. Its major advantage is that users can search numerous different aspects of government information, due to GILS' decentralized design, however, this advantage can also be a liability for those who do not have network access, knowledge of search strategies, secondary education, English literacy, or computer literacy. Of course, the role of federal depository libraries is obvious. They, along with other libraries and private sector companies, will provide those users with GILS information.
6. "A locator is here defined as an information resource that identifies other information resources, describes the information available in those resources, and provides assistance in methods of obtaining the information: (p. 308). The design of GILS is attributed to the work of Charles McClure, and one of its key concepts "is that it uses network technology to support many different views across separate locators" (p. 308), and can also be accessible to intermediaries, who can provide the information through a whole range of media formats, from the telephone, to print, to very sophisticated electronic ones. As well, each agency is expected to handle their own agency-based locators, and in turn, make sure that the information is continually accessible to its pool of users. Private sector providers may also channel their information through the GILS Core (set of U.S. federal government locator records), as can GPO and NTIS, even though they will not be considered part of the GILS Core, in that they may not be free, or in the format maintained by the Core. The design also allows for supplementation by state, local, international, and foreign government agencies.
7. To facilitate the open transmission of information across the globe, GILS will adhere to both national and international standards for information and data processing, such as ANSI Z39.50 and ISO, and will use client-server architecture to allow for multiple and independent information servers concurrently.
8. Special provisions, such as hierarchical browsing will allow users to navigate among GILS locators. (Won't that bypass the poor indexing of government documents?)
9. Locator records will be available in many forms, including USMARC, HTML, and SUTRS (Simple Unstructured Text Record Syntax).
Christensen, John O., Larry D. Benson, H. Julene Butler, Blaine H. Hall, and Don H. Howard. "An Evaluation of Reference Desk Service." College & Research Libraries 50 (July 1989): 468-483.
Brigham Young University Library conducted a five-part management study to find out the quality of service provided by students and departmental assistants; how adequate the training program was; and how effective their service was for referring patrons to subject specialists. Paraprofessionals and students were working the reference desk since 1986, because it had been determined that most questions asked at the desk could be answered by them, with a referral system to subject specialists for more difficult questions. They used five different methods to ascertain the quality of reference service:
Since the focus of the study was to find out the quality of reference service provided by the student assistants, the researchers used information from all five methods to evaluate it. Here are some of their findings:
Cornwell, Gary T. "The Dissemination of Federal Government Information: Prospects for the Immediate Future." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 3 (1996): 299-306.
The evolving electronic environment has serious ramifications for the dissemination of government information and has seriously undermined the FDLP, as most federal government information is forecasted to be electronic by the close of fiscal year 1998. This will greatly affect the historical role that the depository program has always enjoyed, and will change it drastically, impacting the public and their libraries; how agencies disseminate their information electronically; and how the FDLP will restructure itself to exist within the new parameters.
1. Libraries and the Public: Congress has clear intentions to reduce the amount of money given to the federal depository program, with an aim to making it more efficient. They believe that CD-ROM products and the Internet will be integral to their plan, not necessarily realizing the extra burdens that it will place on libraries and their staff. Essentially, the public's access to government information will be impacted. This is clearly seen if one takes the example of classes of students trying to find census reports. If paper copies exist, most would likely photocopy what they need and pass it to their classmate to use, but if a library can only offer the Internet and by law must provide access to the public, what are their options? Will they have to download and print off required data? This may be okay for certain documents that are used on a continual basis, but can staff print, bind, catalogue, barcode, and find a place for everything? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of electronic dissemination? The value is that the information is being archived. Download, put on disc, and offer workstation access to it? This option is also problematic because some topics such as gun control can accrue ten or more hearings that will have to be found item by item, and place considerable strain on the staff and the availability of workstations. To restrict the amount of time patrons can use workstations is indirect opposition to the fundamental philosophy of access to government information. Download, put on hard disk and allow it to be copied? This option takes care of workstations being tied up, but it means that users must have access to a library's hard disk - something that is not advisable. Patrons must then provide their own computers to look at the files, which again means the intent of the FDLP is not being met. Or simply show patrons how to access the appropriate information on the Internet for retrieving? This option allows for no archival system, and is labor intensive for staff, and causes considerable strain on equipment. Of course, if patrons are shown how to navigate the Internet to search out information, they do become network literate. (see note #1)
2. Agency Dissemination of Electronic Information: many federal government agencies do not believe the FDLP to be the best way to offer their information to the public in a timely and efficient manner. They can post information on their own individual websites, making it accessible to depository libraries as well as the public, and can bypass the depository program altogether. Therefore, "if agencies are going to continue (or in some cases choose for the first time) to disseminate their information through the GPO, the role and philosophy of the GPO must evolve from its traditional role as information printer/disseminator to that of a proactive and interactive player in the life cycle of government information. Libraries provide a critical link between information and the user and the GPO must provide a similar link between agencies and libraries" (p. 302). Since they have questioned the effectiveness of the GPO to handle their paper and microfiche products, what will that mean for electronic information? This is especially relevant when one considers that the transition to electronic dissemination means that libraries lose their fundamental role as archivists: another reason that agencies used them in the first place. That is the gap that the GPO must fill, but they believe that the GPO is not really interested in making changes, in a time when change is imperative for everyone. The GPO must be able to offer the access software to disseminate agency information; archiving; indexing and cataloguing; and mechanisms to alert librarians of new resources. Even GPO Access was initiated by those outside the GPO, which prefers the status quo. However, the library community did respond with their report "Alternatives for Restructuring the Depository Library Program", as well as through work done by the Dupont Circle Group and the Chicago Conference on the Future of Government Information. (I will try to get some of these reports)
3. FDLP Survival in an Electronic Environment: if the depository system is to continue in an electronic environment wherein libraries will be expected to offer access, but receive nothing in return, what will make it a viable organization? 1.) no-fee access to all agency sites, 2.) have agency limitations removed, 3.) libraries must be able to provide access in any way they can, 4.) clear service expectations must be put in place so that reference librarians understand the level of the assistance expected from them, 5.) the GPO should guarantee archival access to depository libraries, as well as a forum for training, 6.) libraries can no longer be the sole agents for change; the GPO must become involved in the changing life cycle of government information dissemination.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. That is assuming that the librarians have acquired the skills to navigate the Internet, but many have not had the training.
Crowley, Terence. "Half-Right Reference: Is It True?" RQ 25 (Fall 1985): 59-68.
The author reviews major studies of unobtrusive reference tests, which really began with studies done by himself and Thomas Childers in the 1960s. Before that time, it was always assumed that there were no problems with the accuracy in reference work.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Daniel, Evelyn H. " The Effects of Identity, Attitude, and Priority." Journal of Academic Librarianship (May 1987): 76-78.
Some observations made by the author:
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Dewdney, Patricia, and Catherine Sheldrick Ross. "Flying a Light Aircraft: Reference Service Evaluation from a User's Viewpoint." RQ 34, No. 2 (Winter 1994): 217-30.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Douglas, Ian. "Reducing Failures in Reference Services." RQ, Vol. 28 (Fall 1988), pp. 94-101.
Many criticisms have been made against using unobtrusive testing for reference evaluation. Ian Douglas discusses some of them, and gives some insight into how corrective action is more likely to reduce failures at the reference desk.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Dugan, Robert E., and Ellen M. Dodsworth. "Costing Out a Depository Library: What Free Government Information?" Government Information Quarterly 11, No. 3 (1994): 261-284.
The authors describe the development of a model that costs out what the Joseph Mark Lauinger Library at Georgetown University spends to support the distribution of federal government information. Since 1969 it has been a depository library, with a separate area designated for government documents, and has always contributed consider time, money, and staff hours to provide its user groups with the services needed to access government information. However, recently, in light of the government's transition to a largely electronic dissemination model, expenditures in staff, equipment, and support resources have increased greatly. Library administrators wanted to find out how much it was costing to provide these services. Three major categories of expenditure were identified: overhead costs, support or indirect costs, and direct costs associated with being a federal depository for government information.
1. First, they looked at library assets, in which they include the 4380 net square feet of space used for the government documents department, equipment (five microcomputers for public use, four staff computers, two microfiche readers/printers, five microfilm readers/printers, among other things), and the major asset is their collection of print and non-print resources, including directories, and indexes to government information sources.
2. Direct Costs, or expenditures which exist only because there is a government document department in the library. These costs include wages for librarians and support staff; information resources, such as microfiche backfiles, paper indices, and ready reference items; equipment, such as the maintaining of expensive microforms machinery; paper for printing; travel and training; telephone charges; and other supplies.
3. Support or Indirect Costs, or costs that would exist even if the depository system did not, but are supportive of it. These costs derive mainly from technical services support and are primarily labor-based, and involve maintenance of equipment, payrolls, additional cataloguing, and the administration of service agreements and collection development. In addition, support from the reference department in staff hours and BI training.
4. Overhead Costs include the utilization of square footage, insurance, and facilities maintenance.
5. Their conclusion was that the library spent four dollars for every one dollar provided by the GPO. Libraries such as this one, accept that there are costs associated with being a federal depository, but they do not appreciate the government trying to shift extra costs in their direction, or the perception held by Congress, the GPO, and federal agencies that what they get is free, and they have little knowledge of the expenses which libraries must endure to be a part of the program, expenses which are increasing because of the digitization of government information, and therefore, does not understand why libraries can't possibly supply anymore money. "Using depository libraries as a means of disseminating publicly financed information to the U.S. population is a good deal for the Federal government" (p. 275). (see note #1)
6. What should be done? 1.) As it seems that libraries in the depository system seem to want 'everything', collection development policies are in order since no one facility can handle the multitude of government documents that are produced. Should depository librarians be insisting that they receive everything? The authors use the example of document librarians demanding the inclusion of all CD-ROM products released by the government, even when there was no reason to believe they had the hardware or staff capabilities to utilize them. (see note #2) 2.) libraries must use a model such as the outlined here to establish what their actual costs are in being a part of the depository program, and then set priorities and strategies to address budget shortfalls, 3.) depository libraries need to get Congress' attention by making it aware of the inherent costs and problems associated with their role as information providers, which can be done through cooperating with national organizations like the ALA.
7. Considerations: libraries must realize that there is a lot of politics behind Congress' reticence on the subject of information policy. They too are caught in the transition of the Information Age, and new territory is being covered by all involved and at a speed which is anything but comfortable. There are also legal issues concerning copyright, financial complications, and pressures from special interest groups.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. Canada's 3.16 million dollar budget for the depository program seems to concur with this. And maybe some of the politics around this is that if they can show that librarians are not disseminating government information at a high enough level, then how can they expect the program to provide them with more information and more money. Perhaps it is a smoke screen of sorts. Interesting to conjecture about. I will think more about it, but there is no doubt that a domino effect is occurring here: without more money for training and equipment, librarians will still be giving out a lot of incorrect information. But why wouldn't they want the program to appear successful. It must be their way of not passing over anymore money. What do you think?
2. How can any one organization be proficient at everything? Don't you think that it is more beneficial to be an expert at some things? Libraries need to remember that they have historically had an their mandate an ideology as preservers of information and as those institutions which have been able to fill in information gaps for their users. they cannot be all things to all people. They have to stringently ascertain what kinds of information their user groups are fundamentally interested in and try to be the best they can be in providing access to it, and then use a rigorous system of referrals to help the rest. Libraries are about connecting people with the information they need, not stock piling like car dumps.
Durrance, Joan C. "Factors That Influence Reference Success: What Makes Questioners Willing to Return?" The Reference Librarian 49/50 (1995): 243-265.
Most of the studies done on reference service have concerned themselves with how accurate the librarians are when answering questions at the desk. This can be problematic. "The unstated assumption behind accuracy as the measure of reference success is that librarians are in the question answering business, since accuracy focuses only on one outcome of a reference interview: a correctly answered question. Measures of reference success need to encompass the other dimensions of reference success" (p. 244). What about bibliographic instruction and advice on search strategies? Many patrons walk away knowing something they did not when they entered the library.
A few things that make patrons more willing to return:
All of these behaviors are attainable through training, and should be instituted by adhering to a reference department's policies and guidelines.
My note: I contend that the most important thing reference librarians can do is get patrons to return. Even more important than providing them with accurate and well-thought out answers. This makes a lot of sense when one remembers that often, patrons have no idea if the answers they have received are correct or not. Thus, I see it as the same thing as selling houses: it doesn't matter whether every single thing goes smoothly when you sell a house or a building to a new customer. The only thing that matters is that you will get repeat business from the new customer and they will recommend you to their friends and family. Libraries need repeat users, there is no question about that, so if staff consider and implement at least some of the seven points listed above, they will bring some of the patrons back at least a second time round. I still believe that you should strive for excellence and try to supply a patron with some appropriate information, but if, for some reason that is impossible, the least one can do is smile, act friendly and concerned, AND FOLLOW THE SEVEN POINTS. At least a facade of high quality service is suggested, and that is what we are after, isn't it?
Durrance, Joan C. "Raising Expectations: Our Users' and Our Own." The Journal of Academic Librarianship (November 1992): 283-284.
Changing the environment can help improve reference service.
Durrance, Joan C. "Reference Success: Does the 55% Rule Tell the Whole Story?" Library Journal, Vol. 114 (April 1989): 31-36.
Some important points made in the article are:
Dyson, Lillie Seward. "Improving Reference Services: A Maryland Training Program Brings Positive Results." Public Libraries (Sept./Oct. 1992): 284-289.
Beginning in 1983, the Maryland Department of Education, Division of Library Development and Services (DLDS), conducted a survey of their public reference librarians' ability to answer reference queries of moderate difficulty correctly, with subsequent follow-up studies being held in 1986 and 1990 to ascertain if levels of ability in public service had remained the same, declined, or improved. Although the 1983 study had found that reference librarians only answered 55% of reference questions correctly, the numbers did improve over the years due to comprehensive training sessions and peer coaching follow-up. Both were geared to improving basic communication behaviors, which reference librarians can control themselves. Fundamental behaviors that radically increase the likelihood that reference librarians will be able to completely and accurately answer information requests include: verifying and clarifying a patron's request; asking follow-up questions to ensure that an inquiry has been answered satisfactorily; using open-ended questions; retrieving an answer in the first source; and giving their complete attention to the problem at hand.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Elzy, Cheryl, Alan Nourie, F. W. Lancaster, and Kurt M. Joseph. "Evaluating Reference Service in a Large Academic Library." College & Research Libraries 52 (Sept. 1991): 454-465.
An unobtrusive study was undertaken at Milner Library at Illinois State University between April 17 and April 24, 1989 to see how well reference librarians deal with factual questions. The researchers also wanted to find out how helpful library staff were, what conditions made librarians perform well and those under which they perform poorly. Finally, they wanted to ascertain how service may be improved at the Milner Library. (Since proxies were instructed to seek out particular librarians (known by desk nameplate), librarians could be evaluated individually as well.)
Elzy, Cheryl, and Alan Nourie. "Letters." College & Research Libraries 53 (Jan. 1992): 81-82.
This letter was written in response to comments made by Charles J. Ten Brink in a letter to College & Research Libraries journal, wherein he criticized the study done by Elzy and associates at the Milner Library. He called the study a dispassionate analysis of reference performance that was conducted in violation of the relationship between the department head and the reference librarians at the library. He thought the use of student proxies was unethical, as was the suggestion by the authors of the study that this kind of evaluation could be used in salary and tenure reviews that librarians go through each year at the Milner Library.
In response, Elzy and Nourie, two of the researchers from the study had the following comments:
Engeldinger, Eugene A. "Improving Reference: Preliminary Thoughts on a Return to the Classroom." The Reference Librarian 43 (1994): 183-193.
"The tension between the educator segment of our discipline and the practitioners is a real one, though probably most strongly vocalized by the latter. Inclusion of the practitioner in the classroom would help relieve the tension that exists between the worlds of the educator and the practitioner. It might be that this breach in understanding can be bridged if the educators put more stress on the practical. However, it seems to me that as a profession and as satisfied fully-functioning practitioners, it would be preferable for the practitioners to become more active as educators. They would look anew at their profession, through the eyes of those who must understand it well enough to teach it, and they would develop a more positive perspective on the professional literature…Last, and most importantly, the practitioners will be able to put their profession in proper perspective and reclaim the joy and excitement they experienced in the early years of their careers" (p. 192-193).
Eschenfelder, Kristin R., John C. Beachboard, Charles R. McClure, and Steven K. Wyman. "Assessing U.S. Federal Government Websites." Government Information Quarterly 14, No. 2 (1997): 173-189.
Some important points:
Ewing, Keith, and Robert Hauptman. "Is Traditional Reference Service Obsolete?" The Journal of Academic Librarianship (January 1995): 3-6.
"The demise of reference service will not occur merely because new technologies are introduced; the seeds for its demise existed long before computers entered libraries" (p. 3). Studies have shown that a large number of reference inquiries are directional/simplistic in nature, do not need the expertise of a professional librarian to handle them, and should be managed by a group of paraprofessionals at an information desk. However, a small number require a reference librarian. Such a two-tiered approach can go a long way to improve the quality of reference service.
What has technology done for librarians?
Some believe that with the proper training, anyone can perform a reference interview, which is not a process "that requires honed skills, knowledge of behavioral and motivational paradigms, acute senses, and a semi-scripted dialogue to discern the "real question behind the question" [but rather] is a largely historical construct to support the need for a trained professional" (p. 4). And it does not take a professional to direct a reference interview far away from where the patron wanted to go, or scare a potential patron away from the desk because the person behind it seems deeply involved in a conversation with another staff member. On top of all of these problems is the astoundingly poor results that librarians receive when they are unobtrusively tested for accuracy. In addition, long lineups at the reference desk - with some patrons getting extensive help and others very little - seem to show that traditional models of reference do not appropriately assist patrons in their search for information, and that librarians need to rethink reference.
Some questions which librarians need to think about while they are looking for solutions: 1.) are there new roles for reference librarians to play?, 2.) who are the users of reference services in today's networked environment?, 3.) what types of training programs should reference librarians receive to stay current with computer and database technologies?, and 4.) what kinds of things are successful reference departments doing to make the transition to a networked environment?
There are basically five scenarios for future reference departments:
It is up to librarians to decide their future and rethink reference before they are only a holographic memory found in a virtual library.
Farrell, Maggie Parhamovich, Ric Davis, Raeann Dossett, and Gil Baldwin. "Electronic Initiatives of the Federal Depository Library Program." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 4 (1996): 393-401.
Currently, the FDLP collects, catalogs, and distributes approximately 21 million documents throughout its 1400 depository library program per year. Although the select libraries receive free information, they are expected to purchase the necessary equipment and provide staff and space for the collection. From a traditional model of centralized printing and distribution environment, the government is moving towards one of decentralization dissemination for electronic publishing. It is up to the FDLP to move in the same direction if it wants to continue its role as providers of government information, and it has made some changes to incorporate this new ideology.
1. In 1994, the LPS issued a report called "Electronic Capabilities of Federal Depository Libraries", which was based on a survey of depository libraries' abilities and the amount of technological equipment at their disposal. What the survey was particularly interested in was whether or not they were prepared to handle government information in electronic form, and they found that 79.8% did have Internet connections, but only 37.1% of them provided it to their patrons. To serve the public adequately, these numbers will have to increase drastically.
2. In 1990, GPO implemented the GPO Bulletin Board for the dissemination of electronic judicial, executive, and legislative agency files, and has since renamed it the Federal Bulletin Board.
3. The creation of the GPO Access service which provides a directory for federal locator services; online access to publications such as the "Federal Register" and the "Congressional Record"; and a storage facility for electronic government information. GPO Access was initially provided free of charge to depository libraries, while companies and private individuals were charged subscription fees, but by December 1, 1995, all fees were discontinued, allowing those who were network literate to access the information without having to visit a depository library. Of course, depository libraries remained important for those who did not have access to computer equipment, or the ability to navigate the government sites on the Internet.
4. On the behalf of depositories, GPO continues to fight for access to more federal agency databases, as a way to build an electronic FDLP. This is not easy since agency documents are now primarily electronic and therefore, are not being coordinated or printed through the GPO as they have historically been.
5. In 1995, the SOD WWW site was developed and is found within GPO's WWW website. It was an important advancement because it allows for a single point of entry to all Superintendent of Documents' electronic resources, connection to GPO Access, the depository library directory, links to the gateway, and a searchable database for the "Monthly Catalog."
6. Currently, GPO has had to move much more rapidly than it expected towards an electronic dissemination model as a result of congressional directives, budget cutbacks, and the explosion in information technology. To help in the transition, Library Programs Service developed the Electronic Transition Staff (ETS), a team that is trying to implement technological solutions to the inherent problems of such a major move. LPS hopes that government information will be accessible through the depositories in three ways: 1.) CD-ROMs, diskettes, and some printed copies of electronic information, 2.) through Internet access to federal sites, 3.) and off-site through the 'gateway libraries' at no charge. To make all this possible, depository libraries will be expected to have workstations, equipped with graphical user interfaces; Internet connections; CD-ROM capabilities; and mechanisms in place so that users can retrieve, download, and print the information they require.
7. Pathway Services is a system under construction that will develop finding aids will be needed to help access government information in electronic form, and that is why LPS is developing 'pathway services', which will use advanced search, retrieval, and indexing tools to link users to the information they need. A subject bibliography will also be provided using subject terms to facilitate access.
8. GILS is a locator service that will assist the public in accessing federal government information, and consists of GILS records, agency core records, and Pathway GILS records.
Ferguson, Chris D., and Charles A. Bunge. "The Shape of Services to Come: Values-Based Reference Service for the Largely Digital Library." College & Research Libraries (May 1997): 252-265.
"Every day, the need becomes more apparent to deliver high-quality reference and instructional support through the network to all users of the library at all times and from all locations, commensurate with the expansion of the information and resources available for unmediated access from remote locations. Little attention has been given to the nature and quality of library service that will be required in a largely digital age""(p. 253).
The Future is Now, and what can librarians do to make reference service better for the patrons?
"The value placed on high-quality service is reflected in increased attention to evaluation and the effective use of a variety of staff specialties and levels of expertise. And the value placed on personal service, that hallmark of reference, is honored by offering users the opportunity to consult with reference librarians in environments that are conducive to fruitful interaction" (p. 258).
Librarians must retain their traditional services and develop new ones to facilitate the digital age as libraries are in a state of flux due to computerized technology, the Internet, and electronic databases becoming more prevalent. Underlying the changes that are taking place is the realization that librarians cannot be replaced with an expert system any time soon because they will be needed to help patrons articulate their information needs, use the highly complex electronic technologies found in libraries, and to evaluate the information that is retrieved. Reference librarianship is changing as staff try to incorporate new models of service to meet the challenges of a digitized information environment, along with financial restraints, and the reality that not everyone is able to handle technological advancement equally.
Force, Ron. "Planning Online Reference Services for the 90s." The Reference Librarian 43 (1994): 107-115.
The diversity of online reference services has made future planning for them a complex process since there are so many options to choose from. However, planning for the integration of such resources is necessary if libraries want to offer timely, current, and quality service for their patrons. What are some of options?
What are some of other things that affect planning for online reference services?
Planning Challenges for the Future:
With the explosion in information and information technologies, increasingly, librarians have much more to consider than they did in the days of print sources and card catalogues. The provision of high quality reference services will be dependent upon the choices librarians make concerning online and electronic reference services and their expertise in using the products.
Ford, Barbara J. "From Discussion to Action: Changing Reference Service Patterns." The Journal of Academic Librarianship (November 1992): 284-285.
Just as staff burn-out, funding shortfalls, and changing technologies had been the focus of librarian literature in the 1980s, the 1990s has seen an attempt to find solutions for these problems. One way has been to introduce a new model for reference service, such as the two-tiered system written about by Massey-Burzio. "As the information environment continues to change, academic reference librarians will have to take risks, to experiment with innovative systems of service provision" (p. 284).
The two-tiered reference model seems to make sense because it offers both a place for quick answers to be given, as well as one that can help with in-depth research inquiries. At the information desk, paraprofessionals can screen clients, attempt to answer their questions, and refer them to professional librarians when they cannot. The research consultation service office offers a quiet place for a patron to sit down with a librarian and focus on their information problem. This system allows patrons to really see the skills and expertise of reference librarians, while it increases librarian job satisfaction and knowledge. This service is especially beneficial to advanced researchers who need more than a quick interaction at a reference desk and it gives them a chance to request an appointment with a particular librarian, familiar with their needs.
It seems likely that new patterns of reference service can help to improve its quality, but more studies should be done concentrating on user response to the new model. If librarians can generate information from user response, they will be able to plan for the future and become more effective at meeting the information needs of their users.
Ford, Stephanie. "Public Access to Electronic Federal Depository Information in Regional Depository Libraries." Government Information Quarterly 14, No. 1 (1997): 51-63.
In the GPO's 1993 "Annual Report", it reported that it had distributed 167 000 copies of 292 titles in 1993. Each year, the federal government disseminates more than 7500 electronic databases, as well as providing information through its Internet sites, locator services, and gateways, putting a huge burden on regional depository libraries to provide access to this electronic information. For depository libraries to distribute this electronic information, they must have the proper equipment, funding, training for staff, and technological expertise. This study looks at how regional depositories are managing. In 1994, a comprehensive study done by the LPS showed that depository libraries have their computer hardware/software, Internet connections, and were well positioned to accommodate electronic information for the patrons.
1. In March 1995, surveys were sent to 53 regional libraries, only 41 responded, with 15 or 37% being both academic libraries and members of the ARL. 29% were non-ARL academic libraries, ten or 24% state agency libraries, three or 7% public libraries, and one or 2% a special library. Twenty-seven have a separate area in which to house their government collection.
2. Staff ranged from none to nine, with a total of 106 full-time professional librarians. Three regional depositories had no full-time professional librarians for their collections. One full-time professional librarian is the most frequent finding. Of the thirty-nine libraries which responded to how many hours are spent a week servicing the collection by professional librarians, ranged from twenty (one occurrence) to 253 (also one occurrence).13 libraries reported 20 to 60 hours, 12 reported 61 to 100, and 14, 105-253 hours per week.
3. Since public access to electronic government information is dependent upon many factors, this study looked at some of them, including 1.) OPACs: 93% had them, but only 71% included the depository records in the database. 2.) Depository Machine-Readable Information: 100% of the regionals include machine readable items in their collections, with 88% providing access to floppy disks, 100% CD-ROMs, 7% videos, and 73% public access to the Internet. 3.) Equipment: 100% had workstations for the public, and 73% provided workstations with Internet access. 4.) GPO Access: 78% provide the public with access to GPO Access. 5.) Gateway Libraries: these libraries offer twenty-four hour remote access to the public, and include user support. Ten of the regionals provide it, five being academic ARL, two non-academic ARL, one public, and two state agency libraries. 6.) Staff Training: 93% train staff in techniques for electronic dissemination to the public, and include workshops, and classes. Four have no training, 14 have one method, 13 two methods, and nine three methods. 7.) Promotional Activities: 71% engage in some sort of outreach or promotional programs, with 56% using some sort of brochure. 39% hold workshops, and three use other methods. 8.) Bibliographic Instruction: 98% use some type of BI for patron assistance in electronic information, 95% do one-on-one for electronic, 42% use classrooms for the instruction, and five or 12% have occasional BI sessions, appointments, or group training. 9.) Peer Connection: twenty-seven use e-mail to keep in touch with peers, and 37 subscribe to listservs. 10.) Attitude Toward Machine-Readable Depository Information: this was judged by asking librarians if they thought having electronic government information in depositories would improve patron access? Most lodged concerns as answers to this question, however, 83% believe access will be improved.
No differences could be found between ARL and non-ARL regional libraries, nor little differences between state, public, or special libraries. Most are trying to get better prepared for their foray into the electronic universe, and many are offering little resistance. Staffing seems to be the biggest problem, with the majority have only one full-time professional librarian, and without qualified, competent staff, you are dead in the water right from the start.
Gers, Ralph, and Lillie J. Seward. ""I Heard You Say…" Peer Coaching for More Effective Reference Service." The Reference Librarian 22 (1988): 25-260.
In 1983, the authors performed a statewide survey of Maryland public libraries. They found that reference librarians accurately answer questions 55% of the time, and that factors traditionally believed to contribute to accuracy, such as size of staff, collection, and length of time, were found not to be important. Most importantly, their study showed "[f]actors that contribute to improved reference performance are communication behaviors that are within the control of the individual librarian"(p. 246).
Training is required, but so much of the knowledge gained in those kinds of information sessions are quickly lost, particularly if no follow-up is done through coaching. Coaching can help trainees overcome some of the discomfort they will experience when trying to learn new skills, something which requires a great deal of effort and commitment. Coaching is needed to help people maintain newly acquired skills, and should be set up during the training program. In addition, the program should be made up of peers, as they provide an interim support until new skills can be internalized.
As a result of research done by Bruce Joyce, out of Columbia University, "we know that peer coaching is an essential activity in which you must engage if transfer is to take place. In order to facilitate transfer, workshop participants are asked to find a partner with whom they would feel comfortable and trust" (p. 249). Participants are asked to sign a coaching agreement and to work their way through the Model Reference Behaviors Checklist, which includes such things as approachability, interest, and follow-up. When model behaviors are exhibited 90% of the time by librarians, patrons can expect accuracy rates at least 80% of the time.
Gers, Ralph, and Lillie J. Seward. "Improving Reference Performance: Results of a Statewide Study." Library Journal 110, No. 18 (November 1, 1985): 32-35.
In 1983, a landmark study was done of all branches in Maryland's public library system. It was carried out by the Public Library Branch of the Division of Library Development and Services, Maryland State Department of Education. It was conducted to find out how accurate the information received in reference departments is, and to find out the types of activities and level of resources needed to improve the level of performance. Forty questions were asked in sixty outlets of the twenty-two public library systems in the state, and included both direct and negotiation questions. The ten level scale for measuring correctness is on page 32.
Findings from study were: 1.) Correct answer with source - 38.2% 2.) Correct answer without source - 16.7% 3.) source where answer could be found - 10.1% 4.) Partial answer and source - 1.9% 5.) Partial answer without source - 1.5% 6.) Internal directions which led to correct answer - 8.4% 7.) Internal directions which did not lead to correct answer - 5.2% 8.) No answer, external directions - 7.3% 9.) Incorrect answer - 5.7% 10.) No answer/no directions - 5.0%.
Looking for variables which could affect correctness of answers given, the researchers grouped them into three categories: 1.) Resources: they found that the quality and quantity of resources have only a very slight effect on reference service performance. 2.) Demand: (whether question was asked on phone or was a walk-in, busyness) has only a slight effect on service. 3.) Behaviors have a strong influence on librarian performance, and includes level of negotiation, level of interest, level of comfort, and follow-up. (see #2 in following section)
Interesting findings: 1.) A busy librarian is likely to answer a question with accuracy 43% of the time, while a librarian who is not busy 42% of the time. (see note #1) 2.) "The variables that appear to make a difference in performance are behaviors that are within the control of the individual librarian providing the service" (p. 33). 3.) Accuracy of answers is directly related to whether the librarian uses questions to find out what the patron is specifically looking for, with 'no probing' almost never resulting in a correct answer and 'most probing' resulting in a correct answer 62% of the time. Follow-up: if a librarian does not ask the patron if the information received answered the question, they will provide a correct answer only 52% of the time, whereas, a librarian who does ask, provides a correct answer 76% of the time. "This may be the single most important behavior because it has the potential for allowing one to remedy lapses in other desirable behaviors" (p. 34).
To summarize, librarians provide correct answers to moderately difficult questions 55% of the time.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Gwen Harris Information Services. "Current Awareness and the Depository Services Program." Government Information in Canada/ Information gouvernementale au Canada 3, No. 4 (1997). Available: http://www.usask.ca/library/gic/v3n4/harris/harris.html
Access to information about the release of Canadian federal documents has been increased through the development of the Depository Services Program website, especially since the Weekly Checklist has been included in its links. This tool is an important one because it can help locate latest releases and provide lists of documents from the archived back issues. The search feature is another valuable addition because it allows a person to search through the catalogue, and has a subject term locator built in, with availability status of documents cited. In addition, some of the abstracts of documents include hypertext links to full-text copies. Access to Guides to Government Information is another reason that makes this site valuable to researchers and the public alike.
The downside is that individuals from the public cannot order directly from the site, nor are there telephone numbers for selective or full depositories, and no URLs for the large number of full depository libraries listed. There are also lockouts on the site, which allows access only to depository librarians. However, all of these problems can be easily overcome to make this site a valuable tool for those interested in federal government information.
Harris, Howard. "Retraining Librarians to Meet the Needs of the Virtual Library Patron." Information Technology and Libraries 15, No. 1 (March 1996): 48-51.
Technological advancements have fundamentally changed libraries. As advancements continue, library administrators are trying to prepare for the structural changes that will occur as future libraries are modeled on virtuality, with virtual patrons. In reality, full integration of a virtual library will take a very long time. For libraries and staff to provide high quality service in the future, what is needed?
"Librarians will gain the understandings necessary to meet the needs of virtual library patrons not primarily by training but by a learning process which will guide librarians in the development, implementation, operation, reassessment, modification, and ultimately, replacement or elimination of individual virtual library services" (p. 50). Libraries need to consider generative learning over training if they want to offer high quality service in the future, and implement strong leadership to pave the way. Generative learning is possible through the implementation of a 'learning organization'.
Peter Senge is a leading writer in the area of learning organizations, whose seminal works The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, and The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization explain that there are five disciplines, which must be mastered when introducing such an organization:
1. Systems Thinking C the ability to see the big picture, and to distinguish patterns instead of conceptualizing change as isolated events. Systems thinking needs the other four disciplines to enable a learning organization to come about. There must be a paradigm shift C from being unconnected to interconnected to the whole, and from blaming our problems on something external, to a realization that how we operate and our actions, can create problems.
2. Personal Mastery C begins by becoming committed to lifelong learning, and is the spiritual cornerstone of a learning organization. Personal Mastery involves being more realistic, focusing on becoming the best person possible, and striving for a sense of commitment and excitement in our careers to facilitate realization of potential.
3. Mental Models C they must be managed because they do prevent new and powerful insights and organizational practices from becoming implemented. The process begins with self-reflection, unearthing deeply held belief structures and generalizations, and understanding how they dramatically influence the way we operate in our own lives. Until there is realization and a focus on openness, real change can never be implemented.
4. Building Shared Visions C visions cannot be dictated because they begin with the personal visions of individual employees, who may not agree with the leader=s vision. What is needed is a genuine vision that elicits commitment in good times and bad, and has the power to bind an organization together.
5. Team Learning C is important because currently, modern organizations operate on the basis of teamwork, which means that organizations cannot learn if team members do not come together and learn. It is a process of developing the ability to create desired results; to have a goal in mind, and to work together to attain it.
To summarize, a learning organization does away with the mentality that it is only senior management who can and do all the thinking for the entire corporation. It challenges all employees to tap into their inner resources and potential, in hopes that they can build their own community based on principles of liberty, humanity, and a collective will to learn. Learning organizations are important because they:
Hernon, Peter, and Charles McClure. "Library Reference Service: An Unrecognized Crisis - A Symposium." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 13 (Nov. 1987): 69-71.
In 1987, Hernon and McClure stated there was evidence that serious problems exist in the provision of quality reference service throughout academic and public libraries in the United States. Although their unobtrusive studies focused only on factual and bibliographic inquiries, and admit that reference service encompasses a much large universe of work, still "[a]nswering such questions correctly … is a key indicator of the overall quality of a library's reference service" (p. 69).
Some of their findings:
Their reactions to criticisms:
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
A fine example of this phenomenon was written by Mark Slouka when he describes Ellie Frame, a young child appearing in an IBM print ad. The message is that if she had the right computer, with television capabilities, she could look at some of the greatest art pieces the world has known, surf for historically significant landmarks like the Great Wall of China, and be back in time to watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Slouka 1995,146). Slouka's point is a powerful one because it shows how easy it is to level the important things in life, and reduce their value in a sweeping, and thoughtless motion. He is not saying that the sitcom should not be on television, but that there is no longer the proper qualitative measure put on the wonders of the world. All technology comes with a price tag attached, and information technology's can be quite high because young children are initiated and it is so heavily involved with the way schools and parents educate their children. Slouka believes that the price is too high to pay for the transformation of children into zombies, involving them in a virtual type of reality when they are connected (Slouka 1995,147). Langdon Winner calls it "the absent mind," which is willing to believe the hype advertised by private moneymaking industries which say they really care about inspiring education and bringing democratic decision-making back where it belongs, in the hands of the people (Winner 1986,115-117). All through information technology! Imbedded in Webster's argument and stated in Winner's is the propaganda that equates a sheer supply of information with an educated ability to gain knowledge and act effectively on it (Winner 1986,108). Coupled with this is the wrong impression that anyone at all can access quality information if they are connected to electronic resources.
As libraries continue to automate systems such as cataloguing, and find money for the newest databases as they lay off real people, the problems will intensify. Librarians have been trained to search out the best information available on any given subject area, and know when to use print sources. Even if there was an Internet-connected computer for every patron entering a library, very few could search the databases for the information they need. They will require a specially trained human intermediary to sift through and filter out the nonsense, they will need a librarian. People need assistance to retrieve quality information, so libraries need to be extremely careful that the day will not come when a few lone librarians are surrounded by hardware and software linked to trillions of bits and bytes of every kind. As Clifford Stoll has so eloquently put it,
I suspect computers will deviously chew away at libraries from the inside. They'll eat up book budgets and require librarians that are more comfortable with computers than with children and scholars. Libraries will become adept at supplying the public with fast, low-quality information. The result won't be a library without books, it'll be a library without value (Stoll 1995,214).
Hernon, Peter, and Charles McClure. "The Continuing Debate on Library Reference: Where Do We Go From Here? A Final Response." The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 13 (Nov. 1987): 282-284.
Hernon and McClure were given a chance to respond to the two previous articles.
Hernon, Peter, and Charles R, McClure. "Quality of Data Issues in Unobtrusive Testing of Library Reference Service: Recommendations and Strategies." Library and Information Science Research 9 No. 2 (1987): 77-93.
This article uses information from four unobtrusive tests done by the authors, as well as an experiment in which they pretested librarians, then had them participate in a workshop or a slide/script presentation, after which they were posttested unobtrusively.
Unobtrusive testing can help libraries find out: 1.) how accurately librarians answer factual/bibliographic questions 2.) frequency of referral 3.) how librarians negotiate questions 4.) how effectively they develop search strategies 5.) librarian familiarity of information sources in their own collection 6.) how friendly and approachable librarians are to patrons.
The kinds of information that is elicited from unobtrusive studies can be useful for library planning, evaluation, and decision making.
Issues that relate to the reliability, validity, utility, and information value of unobtrusive methodologies are very important: where reliability is equated with the stability and consistency of measurement; validity - either external or internal; and utility relates to how useful the data can be for library decision making.
Hernon and McClure point out that with as much criticism as unobtrusive testing has undergone, there is no reason to believe that it evokes anything other than the natural responses of librarians. (see note #3) Issues of quality of data should also be considered. "Unobtrusive testing provides a powerful research technique for identifying problems in public service areas and assessing the impact of learning interventions. The profession as a whole must address the importance of assessing the quality of a broad range of information services offered by libraries. This concern is not one of interest only to researchers. Indeed, the vast majority of academic and public library staff have only a intuitive "feel" for the accuracy of their responses to reference questions and for many other aspects of reference service. In fact, they are often unable to provide tangible and empirical evidence that demonstrates the quality (effectiveness and efficiency) of their services" (p. 92).
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Hernon, Peter, and Charles McClure. "Referral Services in U.S. Academic Depository Libraries: Findings, Implications, and Research Needs." RQ 22 (Winter 1982): 152-164.
The authors' unobtrusive study of academic libraries in 1981 showed that only 37% of the 340 questions were answered correctly by reference librarians.
Important points made by the authors:
1. Reference librarians infrequently provide referrals to the public, even though the complexities of government information warrants the service as a way leading librarians, and their patrons to important information. ."..referral can result in access to timely and easily understandable information and can demonstrate that libraries provide an essential link in the information environment, and can develop an important referral file if they want to. Libraries may not contain comprehensive collections, but their staff members can assist the public in negotiating various information providers for the prompt resolution of an information need" (p. 152).
2. Referral should be more than a directional referral to the catalogue, or another librarian, and should be expected to do so. In this way, libraries can develop a very important reference service, as well as carving out an important place as information mediators in today's society. In theory, the depository library program encourages referral, and assumes that librarians will provide their patrons with reliable contacts, or appointments. However, Hernon and McClure found that only 27.6% of the 282 librarians who failed to find an answer for their patrons provided them with referrals, with 50.3% in the form of suggestions to come into the library or go to another library; twenty-four referrals were made specifically to another library (most often a public one); and 17.9% of all referrals were directing patrons to an external agency like the post office.
3. In twenty-four percent of the times when reference librarians responded that they could not provide a patron with an answer, no referral was given either.
4. Length of reference interview had no correlation to the likelihood that a librarian would offer a referral.
5. The chance of receiving a referral had no correlation with the extent of the library's government documents collection. 74.6% of the referrals in this study were made by librarians working with collections that reflected only fifty percent of possible selections. In addition, a separate government documents service area did not improve the chance of referrals, since only 14.4% of all questions asked at separate collections, resulted in referral. The number of librarians did not have any correlation with effective referrals being given either, nor was there very much evidence that co-workers ask each other for help with questions they cannot answer themselves.
6. "Libraries that receive government publications have a responsibility and obligation to make effective use of these rich information resources...they should consider developing collections of the more heavily used source material and at the same time expanding their referral capability. Referral must be considered as a legitimate and necessary aspect of reference service" (p. 157).
7. Librarians participating in this study most often offered library service that was 'conservative', meaning that they often did little more than point out a possible useful source, with referrals viewed as unnecessary. Staff members who have a liberal or maximum ideology towards reference service will find an answer or a definite source in which the answer can be found for their patrons.
8. Librarians who work with special collections, such as government documents must remember that users need the librarians to help them, especially when one considers unique cataloguing systems used for government documents and the fact that many libraries do not have their collections inputted in the OPAC. Confusion is the primary experience for patrons who try to find what they need on their own. "Documents staff members must fully realize their role as <disseminators of information> and assume the responsibilities that professionalism demands. If they cannot disseminate specific information, for what purpose do they provide reference service?" (p. 159).
9. Librarians who work with government documents must understand the structure and organization of the government, and be willing to offer personalized and aggressive service, which includes the provision of referrals.
10. Hernon and McClure's study showed that referrals are used very seldom, including for those times when librarians have no answer to give the patron.
11. Five categories of referrals: 1.) to a specific individual, 2.) to an information source, 3.) to an agency or organization, 4.) to another department in the library (maps, for example), 5.) information on a technique or method, such as the searching of an online database.
12. Frequent complaints from proxies are that the referrals they receive ware inadequate, incomplete, and confusing. Librarians must remember that specific directions, addresses, and phone numbers make up an important part of the referral process. (see note #1)
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. Or as Dewdney and Ross have pointed out, better than information they could have as easily received from someone they met on the street.
Hernon, Peter. "The Electronic Federal Depository Library Program." Government Information Quarterly 13, No. 4 (1996): 341-343.
As the Government Printing Office (GPO) is progressing towards a federal depository program, which eliminates paper and distributes and disseminates information exclusively in electronic format, what are the ramifications for libraries?
1. Opponents of an electronic system stress that the depository system will go the way of the dinosaur, because in theory, any library with access to the Internet, could be considered a s0-called depository. The crux of the dilemma is how Congress will see the future of the federal depository program. Will they support it? (see note #1) The more important aspect is the development of training programs for librarians so that they will have the skills to surf the Web, and use the various federal web finders to access government information.
2. Hernon says that three points have been forgotten in the discussion: 1.) since federal depositories have extensive microfiche, print, and other forms of government documents in their collections, what will become of those holdings? Will libraries' role become one of preservation?, 2.) how will librarians differentiate between authentic, citable, and original government information in electronic form, and what appears to be? Will the website information be archived by the National Archives and Records Administration?, 3.) since the discussion has shifted away from documents librarians and the ALA, and moved to the senior administrators of the 1400 depository libraries, how will that affect the process?
Hernon says it is time to take the focus off the GPO and provide support for the 1400 senior library managers who will determine the future of the depository system as we now know it.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. The same can be said for Canada. I wonder how this dimension plays into the government's take on federal depositories, and the politics of the situation.
Hernon, Peter. "The Literature on Government Information Policies, Practices, and Services in the Coming Years: Topics Meriting Inclusion." Government Information Quarterly 14, No. 3 (1997): 221-228.
Discussion Forum: Some Important Points
1. The United States government is downsizing its programs, services, and staff.
2. And a transference of responsibilities and services from the federal level to state and local government which may not be prepared to meet the challenge.
3. Information technologies are increasing, and paper-based government information decreasing.
4. As government tries to overcome fiscal pressures, while becoming more efficient and more accountable, they are using channels such as the WWW to disseminate their information electronically.
Hinojosa, Susana. "Re-Thinking Reference: A True Change?" The Reference Librarian 54 (1996): 95-102.
Change is something that libraries and their staff have been continually plagued with since the late 1980s, as shrinking budgets, pressure on personnel from increased workloads, and the ever-changing environment of information and computer technology were felt in libraries. In addition, these new computer technologies have broken down the traditional and once distinct barriers which existed between public and technical services and collection development, causing them to become blurred. In this climate of transformation, isn't it a good time for academic libraries to reconsider some of the more traditional priorities, procedures, and functions that they have held dear for so long? The time has come to re-think user needs; reevaluate staff expertise and skills; analyze budget allocation in reference departments for the present and future requirements of faculty and students; and eliminate barriers to access by introducing new classification systems, subject headings, and reducing racial, language, and cultural differences.
The reference librarian stands in a central position and acts as interpreter and mediator, and they realize that there is a need for more change if service is to improve. "Ironically, at a time when reference expertise in the new technology, plus knowledge of all the traditional reference sources, is necessary, is when reference service appears to be moving more and more out of the realm of work for libraries and librarians. The assumption appears to be that more and more advanced technology requires fewer trained reference librarians and that the 'traditional' reference question can be answered by trained library staff. Yet the new and more complicated library demands that a mediator role be maintained for users" (p. 97).
Many changes have been proposed in order to improve the quality of reference services, including instituting tiered reference, consolidation of service points, offering appointments for reference consultations, reorganizing reference departments, and viewing librarians as information brokers.
The primary focus in library literature is on how many mistakes librarians make, even though a large number of reference questions are not right/wrong dichotomies, but rather, have answers that are dependent on the users' needs, how a question is perceived, and the professional judgment of the librarian. More emphasis must be put on user needs, especially since many libraries do not know who their users are, and since technology is pushing once traditional libraries closer to highly technological virtual models. Instead of allowing technological systems to take the place of reference work, it would be more valuable to incorporate new technologies with the old, and thus, provide a higher level of service and increased access to information resources. The use of information technology and deeper insight into the needs of users, can go a long way in developing innovative reference service that works.
Hults, Patricia. "Reference Evaluation: An Overview." The Reference Librarian 38 (1992): 141-50.
Patricia Hults makes the point that evaluation of reference departments is now centered on quality, or how good the answers are, rather than on the criteria of quantity (i.e. simply counting the numbers of questions asked). Patron surveys were found to be very popular with libraries because of the excellent results they provided of service, but studies performed by Samuel Rothstein and others found that since patrons are happy with any service at all, they are not good barometers of quality. What methods could libraries use to hone in on quality? The measure of quality has its roots in unobtrusive testing begun twenty years ago by Crowley, who conducted one of the first such studies of reference performance, and has accumulated in libraries using unobtrusive methodologies, patron surveys, and peer review programs to get a better idea of how well they are serving the public. Today there is a distinction between qualitative and quantitative approaches to evaluation.
Terance Crowley and Thomas Childers published their landmark study entitled Information Service in Public Libraries: Two Studies in 1971. This was the first indication that reference librarians correctly answered questions about 50-55% of the time. Numbers of studies followed, including those done by Hernon and McClure, but most librarians and heads of reference still believe that is not the case in their libraries, that they do answer questions correctly much more often than 50% of the time. As the studies continued, the criticisms of unobtrusive studies began to appear, with articles by Bill Bailey and others arguing that flaws in research designs, such as lack of third party observation caused the results to be invalid. Jo Bell Whitlach has questioned both the validity of the questions used in unobtrusive studies, and the problems associated with using such tests to evaluate the whole of a reference librarian's job. Accuracy of answering certain kinds of questions cannot be the only criteria for testing the quality of reference service. Hults agrees that "no method of evaluation measures the totality of a job or is free of design error" (p.143) but that the important point is to find the causes and cures for reference service failures. A major study undertaken by Gers and Seward of the Maryland Public Library system found that a number of factors such as librarian interest, and most importantly, follow-up, constitute the highest predictive factor of success. (See note #1 below) We must be able to "accurately measure how well we provide [the] service we say we provide and then improve service with training that works …" (p. 149). She believes libraries must choose an evaluation program, such as peer review, and then use the results to provide accountability, and increase the service provided.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Jardine, Carolyn W. "Maybe the 55 Percent Rule Doesn't Tell the Whole Story: A User-Satisfaction Survey." College and Research Libraries 56, No. 6 (Nov. 1995): 477-85).
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Jones-Simmons, Carol. "Web Access to the Federal Government Depository Services Program: Reviewed from a Public Library Perspective." Government Information in Canada/Information gouvernementale au Canada 3, No. 4 (1997). Available: http://www.usask.ca/library/gic/v3n4/jones/jones.html
Advantages: based on consultations with librarians and from the author's experience as a reference librarian.
All of these improvements can help to transform the program, and make it into a more personalized, user-friendly service.
This site offered by DSP can do much to improve access to federal government information, for both users and librarians alike.
Kessler, JR., Ridley R. "A Brief History of the Federal Depository Library Program: A Personal Perspective." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 4 (1996): 369-380.
"Thus 34 years after the founding of the United States and in the middle of a war, Congress took time to establish the rudiments of a national information policy, based on the then original idea of sending free government publications to libraries. It has remained a mainstay of U.S. federal government information policy ever since. By furnishing, through the state executives, copies of congressional publications to libraries, Congress created one of the longest running and most important partnerships in U.S. history - that of government and libraries" (p. 370).
Forty-four years later, an outline for the depository system was developed, with Resolution 5 of the 34th Congress, Third Session stating "That the journals and Congressional documents … shall be deposited with the Secretary of the Interior, for the distribution to such colleges, public libraries, athenaeums, literary and scientific institutions, boards of trade, or public associations as may be designated by him" (p. 370). The Secretary had also been the authority to designate which libraries would become depositories, and by 1859, the FDLP began to provide government information to the public, something it has done for 136 years.
In 1895, "The General Printing Act of 1895" transferred the program from the Department of the Interior to the Government Printing Office (GPO), and the Superintendent of Public Documents to oversee the program for Congress. (renamed Superintendent of Documents). The other reason this act was important was due to its creation of three catalogs: the Documents Catalog (no longer compiled), the Documents Index, later known as the Numerical List and Schedule of Volumes, and the Monthly Catalog. In addition, the law allowed for more types of government publications to be deposited by requiring Executive Departments to distribute their information to the public free of charge. "These principles are the holy trinity of federal documents librarianship: government creates the information, depository libraries house and service it for public use, and the public gets to use the information for free. These three principles have become the foundation of the entire professional doctrine of U.S. documents librarians" (p. 371). (see note #1)
Another important piece of legislation came in the form of the Depository Library Act of 1962, which created regional depository libraries, and added both more types of government publications and increased the number of depository libraries in the system.
The author says that most documents librarians are trained on the job by teachers and mentors, stating that "training for the profession remains primarily one of apprenticeship and training from professional associations" (p. 372). (see note #2) Kessler points out that unless a library has experienced librarians to service the public, providing information free of charge, then they serve no purpose at all. Staff must give personalized help to patrons, and be knowledgeable about the basics of government organization and structure. Government documents are a very complicated area in the realm of information, and it is not easy for people coming into libraries to find the materials they are in need of. That is why it is imperative to have well-trained staff on hand to take them through the steps, and successfully search out information with them. Government documents librarians must be "service fanatics" (p. 372), who philosophically understand that they are the liaisons between the government and the people: they are serving as proponents of a democratic system.
Change is Coming to the FDLP:
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Kleiner, Jane P. "Ensuring Quality Reference Desk Service: The Introduction of a Peer Process." RQ (Spring 1991): 349-360.
Peer review is becoming increasingly popular as a means to appraising performance. From a review of research done on peer review since World War II, the following conclusions can be made: 1.) they are better than ratings made by supervisors, 2.) they are valid, accurate, and reliable judgments of employee behavior, and 3.) they can be excellent predictors of future job performance.
Peer review seems to have its merits: this seems particularly due to the fact that employees are likely to improve their level of performance when they are allowed to participate in the evaluation. Evaluation of reference librarians is controversial, as are some of the techniques used in the process, such as unobtrusive studies, but there is no question that an ongoing, formalized program for evaluation is needed in every institution, which can be particularly problematic if the responsibility for evaluation of a large staff falls on the heads of the managers.
The Louisiana State University Libraries has an average of sixteen full-time employees, as well as eight to ten graduate assistants, all of whom need to be evaluated each year. The library was also interested in making sure that good reference service was being provided to all user groups, but particularly, the undergraduate population of the university. However, the department did not want to initiate any kind of evaluation which would undermine employee morale and cause negative outcomes that could affect service provision. At the same time, they realized that relying on the supervisor's observations would not provide a clear enough picture of individual members of the reference department. They decided upon using a peer review process for many reasons, including: cost savings when compared to other evaluative procedures, accuracy, validity, as a vehicle to improve service, staff were accepting of its implementation, and because peer review seems to be a factor in career development.
After reviewing the literature and contacting libraries which had implemented such a process, a committee developed a set of criteria for the process. It included: approachability, patron interaction, question negotiation, consultations and referrals, familiarity with reference collection, staff interaction, and individual attitudes. Each trait was clarified by a definition and was rated on a one-to-five scale. The library has carried out three such peer reviews, as of the date of this article, and added a justification element when very high or very low scores were assigned. Some staff members have enjoyed an increase in their overall performance evaluation, meaning they have improved over time. The third review concluded that 30% of the staff improved their reference performance. "A comparison of the review results strongly indicates that the peer process is influencing desk performance positively" (p. 355).
With all the other responsibilities expected of reference librarians (collection development, BI, specialized searches, meetings, and outreach programs), it is difficult to maintain a high degree of quality service provision at reference desks in libraries today. Burn-out can especially be a problem in today's climate of lay-offs and lack of funding. Still, high quality service must be a priority if libraries are to compete in the information world today, and peer review seems to have helped increase employee performance in this library.
Ladner, Sharyn J., and Hope N. Tillman. "Using the Internet for Reference." Online 17, No. 1 (January 1993): 45-51.
1. The job reference librarians have historically done is being drastically changed by the introduction of the Internet into libraries, "[w]ith the Internet, we reference librarians are, in fact, reinventing ourselves" (p. 50).
2. Interconnectedness with other librarians, OPACs, and the elimination of costly telephone calls, are some of the benefits of using the Internet.
3. The Internet provides avenues or listservs that subject specialists can use to find help. One interesting one for government documents librarians is GOVDOC-L@PSUVM.
4. "And in a very real sense, the Internet is an electronic Rolodex. It is a mechanism that links the information specialists to experts in diverse subject areas, an electronic filebox containing names like MEDLIB-L, BUSLIB-L, CHMINF-L, LIBREF-L. Each a gateway to hundreds or even thousands of contacts" (p. 50).
Lancaster, F. W. "Factors Influencing the Effectiveness of Question-Answering Services in Libraries." The Reference Librarian 11 (Fall/Winter 1984): 95-108.
Lancaster says that although unobtrusive and obtrusive testing has been used in many studies, there are limitations to what they can reveal about the factors influencing the probability that a factual, unambiguous question will be answered correctly. One reason is that diagnosis is difficult.
Factors likely to influence the probability that short unambiguous/factual questions will be answered accurately by a librarian:
To conclude, Lancaster says, " Finally, as electronic information sources are increasingly used to support question-answering activities, the importance of some of these factors will decline. Clearly, access will be more important than ownership and the size and the redundancy of the collection will no longer be a significant variable affecting the quality of reference service" (p. 107).
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Larson, Carole A., and Laura K. Dickson. "Developing Behavioral Reference Desk Performance Standards." RQ 33, No. 3 (Spring 1994): 349-357.
The development of behavioral performance standards for the reference desk can strengthen teamwork, improve staff morale, and as a result, improve the quality of reference service provision because the process focuses on quality, rather than on quantity. The University Library Reference Department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha decided to develop their own set of standards for behavior. It is an extremely busy department, and staffed eighty hours a week by six librarians and four paraprofessionals, with one of each being responsible for the desk at any given time. They believed that it was time that performance standards were written down so that an element of consistency would be given to service.
What they did:
The process was an important one for the department because it gave staff a clearer picture of what was expected of them in terms of a common goal based on similarities and despite personal differences. In addition, it allowed individual employees to compare themselves against the standards and their supervisors to use the new criteria as a benchmark for expected behavior. Overall, the department believes that the creation of behavioral standards enhanced morale, developed a higher degree of teamwork, and improved the performance of their reference staff.
Lawrence, Gregory W. "U.S. Agricultural Statistics on the Internet: Extending the Reach of the Depository Library." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 4 (1996): 443-452.
"A change in how the public perceives information is driving a change in government publishing and information dissemination. While print materials are still preferred for some primary source materials, there is a growing realization that some information is better suited for electronic copy. Government response to increased demand for electronic information has led to a flurry of agency initiatives on the Internet" (p. 443). How does all this affect depository libraries and their staff? As Lawrence says, "[b]y and large, depository librarians have been left to their own resources as they attempt to extend their services beyond local print collections into a global, networked environment" (p.443). (see note #1)
The Albert R. Mann Library of Cornell University has been using the Internet as a forum to provide access to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's full-text and statistical data files, for the last two years, and it has included reference assistance, preservation, and data organization in the process. What they have done stands as a good model for the development of networked information. The USDA has three economic agencies working with it and the library to provide the data, and work together to fulfill their objectives of long-term preservation of agricultural information, and offering another way to access their electronic data-sets. The agencies benefit because they do not have to disseminate all their information in separate infrastructures, and pay the costs of doing so, nor do they have to continually replace the communications equipment since they have access to the network's professional programmers and newest computer hardware/software. In addition, the agencies do not have to worry about preservation of information, offering reference support, and are "enhancing public satisfaction with a single point of network access" (p. 451). They are the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the World Agricultural Outlook Board. And it is free!! One of the main reasons they moved beyond selling their information on diskettes and CD-ROM technology was because they realized those formats have a limited shelf life, and they worried about preservation. Mann Library was interested in enhancing its collection of agricultural economic data; provide better access to authoritative and unique data; the assurance of a variety of access points, including FTP, Telnet, and the WWW; and to help remote users. All have been accomplished, the project has grown immensely and broadened in scope, and incorporates "a fundamental rethinking of the ways in which public institutions will grow and adapt to a new communications medium" (p. 445). And that is why the library has made its own collectio n available on the Internet through a network, instead of simply offering pointers to Internet resources. Their Print and electronic collections are subject specific and they have focused their resources on acquiring only information that is relevant to the research of the university, and their agricultural projects.
Information available through the Mann Library/USDA service: 1.) Data-sets: both replicas of data found in print form, as well as some unique statistical compilations, 2.) Reports: are in ASCII form to facilitate access, 3.) Support for the remote user.
How has this transition affected library operations? 1.) Acquisitions: has moved from mailed diskettes and e-mail transfer, to direct FTP, and all material is recorded in the library's catalog. 2.) Cataloguing Services: Cataloguers are experiencing no problems in cataloguing networked information, and give each file subject headings and a full description. In addition, the library uses a 'what's new' file on the network to alert patrons of new and discarded products, and service enhancements. 3.) Reference Services: is accessible through fax, telephone, and e-mail, and include ready reference questions, technical support, and subject content. Referrals are also given if an information request cannot be fulfilled.
Of course, staff training is what makes the network run smoothly, and concentrated on making sure everyone is computer and electronic literate, as well as good problem solvers. The library does this through one-on-one training, small groups, and classroom instruction.
By becoming the single point of access for these federal agencies, Mann Library is solidifying a future for itself, and other libraries should become the access point for specific government information. (see note #2)Direct partnerships between libraries and agencies can work.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. And that is what is at the heart of the problems facing Canada's depository libraries, and what is responsible for the low accuracy rates in your study. And it works into why are we happy that the study showed such a low rate of accuracy. It is reason enough not to give them any more money.
2. This would certainly take care of federal agencies bypassing libraries altogether.
Lipow, Anne Grodzins. "Thinking Out Loud: Who Will Give Reference Service in the Digital Environment?" Reference & User Services Quarterly 37, No. 2 (Winter 1997): 125-129.
The Future of Librarianship: there is trouble in the world of libraries and librarians.
Macaulay, Tyson. "Government Information on the Internet: One Issue." Government Information in Canada/Information gouvernementale au Canada 1, No. 1 (1994). Available: http://www.usask.ca/library/gic/v1n1/macaulay/macaulay.html
The Canadian government has always seen itself as the driving force behind the development of industry in this country, using strategies such as subsidies, tariffs, regulations, and marketing boards to encourage the private sector. Currently, with high national debt, and recessionary periods, the government does not have the same resources to assign to business. Instead, the Canadian government tries to facilitate the business industry "through providing information to promote partnerships and technology transfers that will foster competitiveness in Canadian industry" (p. 1). The problem with these new initiatives is that instead of offering money or tariff protection, etc., the government is offering information, valuable information they are trying to control, "but unlike tariffs and subsidy, you cannot really control information, and this is the problem: government activities to control information valuable to Canadian industry may undermine the purpose for which the information is produced" (p. 1).
The Internet is now being used to deliver government information from such agencies as Statistics Canada, the National Archives, the National Research Council, Industry Canada, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, but the government would like this information to benefit Canadians and Canadian firms only, believing that it should not advantage non-Canadians, for example. Of the 7000 inquiries made to the Industry Canada site, 80% went to Canadian sources and 20% going to non-Canadian sources. Macaulay says that significant numbers of print-based reports have always gone to non-Canadian sources, so not much has changed, therefore, the government should continue to use the Internet for the dissemination of information. Restricting the flow of Canadian government information just because there is no way to ensure that it is only going to Canadians is not an option and will cause more problems than is warranted. Some options:
Governments will need to change in this new Information Age, with services and activities evolving, but the first step should be an openness where government information is concerned.
Macaulay, Tyson. "Cutting Off Access to Government Information: Loopholes in the Access to Information Act Generated by the Information Highway." Journal of Government Information 24, No. 1 (1997): 1-8.
It is important for government to provide access to its information because a.) having access to government information allows for comprehension of the political and democratic processes. Access to Hansard is such an example b.) Quality of life is improved through having access to government information concerning services, such as welfare and health care. In addition, fast and timely access improves overall quality of life. c) economic value is added to Canadian society when there is improved access to government information , using electronic mail, for example, to speed up business procedures. Who wants to write a letter of request or stay on the phone for a considerable amount of time waiting for important information, when a quick e-mail is sufficient and much faster?
The shape of government information: ten percent is available to the public and is unrestricted (and can be found through widely disseminated reports, regulatory documents, and news releases.); eighty percent is unrestricted, but not easily accessible to the public (this kind of information includes the thousands of local reports and complex acts and statutes.); while ten percent is restricted (including information on individuals, military strategies, trade secrets, and government deliberations.). Macaulay believes that "published information distributed under the Depository Services Program (largely in print only) to be generally unavailable since the requirements for finding, searching, and retrieving it severely discount the fact that it is technically publicly available and distributed" (p. 3).
Picture government information in the shape of a pyramid, with the 10% unrestricted and easily available information on the bottom, the 80% unrestricted but not easily available in the middle, with the top encompassing the 10% restricted information. As one moves up the pyramid, there is more extractable information contained in government information, information that could prove life-changing, a generator of economic value, and that which is able to offer insight into the future. "The challenge for the government is to develop a system for making the middle 80 percent publicly accessible and transparent (easy to find, search, and extract)…The time is now approaching when much of the 80 percent unrestricted information can finally be made publicly available in electronic form via the information highway" (p. 4). In May 1995, a survey showed that 3.5 million Canadians or 17% had Internet access, with the average user being between the ages of 18 and 45, having some secondary educational experience. But the problem is that although numbers are increasing, these people are often using computers that are three or sometimes four generations old in technological advancements, with slow modems, which is causing a retreat from, not an increase in "[t]he ability to deal effectively with electronic information…to a basic level of comprehension - a lowest common denominator of information format" (p. 5). This means that the government must accommodate the lowest levels of computer skill if they want to ensure that the public has access to its information resources. Other reasons for the government to take the 'lowest common denominator model' are problems with users understanding how to download or transfer government information from Internet sites, especially large files when coupled with slow modems, and often user-friendly, low-tech formats prove to be both more popular and flexible with the public.
Loopholes: 1.) The Access to Information Act has a very weak contingency covering electronic information technologies and their accessibility to the public. In addition, any information available for purchase, is not accessible through the Act. This data format problem must be considered by the government if it is concerned about providing access to government information since much of the machine readable data is now being published by private-sector companies with government permission. 2.) Tradeable Data is information the government views as possessing substantial value, and includes commercial, financial, scientific, and technical information - information that the government can refuse access to. These loopholes will have to be closed "if access to Canadian government information is going to be maintained and expanded in the future" (p. 6).
MacDonald, Alan H. "Mainstreaming Government Information in Canadian Research Libraries." Government Information in Canada/ Information gouvernementale au Canada 2, No. 1.4 (Summer 1995).
MacDonald says, "I came to the early belief that the ability of the publications of government to produce catatonia in librarians had nothing to do with form or content. It arose from the diligent application of arcane cataloguing rules that produce unfathomable hierarchical author entries seemingly designed to assure that no librarian or patron would ever be able to break through to their wealth of information" (p. 1). Providing better access to government information sources is a necessity in a democratic society, in which the public has a duty to be informed of issues pertaining to their government so as to allow them to make informed decisions.
The mainstream is an unsegregated place where most people look for information, and includes the library, the airwaves, and the newsstand, all of which require basic literacy and some computer literacy. But what are our information rights? In the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there is only one mention of information, found in the Official Languages of Canada (Section 18 (1), and it states that "[t]he statutes, records and journals of Parliament shall be printed and published in English and French…" (p.4). It says nothing about distributing them to the public, or how this section should be integrated into the new government policy of discontinuing print for electronic dissemination. Of course, Canadians have the depository program, the Parliamentary Channel, the Access to Information Act, and the Privacy Act, but they also have "[t]he $500 Budget document on the net; the Census of Canada at $250,000 a pop; significant reductions in print runs of many kinds of government information and soaring pricing for what remains; and Crown Copyright, a tool of integrity or a tool of control or simply a tool for the enhancement of revenue…" (p. 4).
Economic Challenges: Mainstreaming has always been affected by the costs of government information, and although the government has provided selected libraries with published information so that it can be mainstreamed into society, there have been many challenges to the depository program and reductions in the kinds of publications it includes.
Format Challenges: If libraries want to ensure access to government information, they must provide modes of access to many different formats of transmission, including network connectivity, CD-ROMs, computer tapes, and microforms.
Challenges of Physical Segregation: Why do libraries segregate their government documents, rather than mainstream them? Some librarians say that it is easier to control them, especially with their specialized cataloguing and formats, but this practice only serves to segregate them from users and is a "disincentive to the integration of government information into the mainstream of scholarship and teaching" (p. 7).
Challenges of Pedagogy: The use of government documents must be mainstreamed into the learning environment so that young scholars will acquire the skills necessary to use this information. Most people gets so scared even thinking about entering the documents area, let alone using them to complement their academic work, that it is paramount for instructors to integrate their use into course work, and set the ball in motion. It is nice to think that libraries have enough specialized staff to keep segregated areas of libraries well serviced, but they do not. This problem will become exacerbated when the bulk of government documents is transmitted into electronic form, and accessed by librarians who may not have the proper training. Instead, "having creating a dependence, we cannot service it, and that certainly is a disincentive to mainstreaming" (p. 7).
Challenges of Access: First and foremost, one must know that information exists before there is any chance of accessing it, and for it, in turn, to enter the mainstream. This means that it must be easy to use, easy to find, and easy to identify.
Bibliographic Answers: Proper indexes and catalogues are needed to bring access to government information into the mainstream. The library world has seen CODOC, NOMADS, and KWIC/KWOC, all of which intensified segregation of government information. There are some libraries which have kept the corporate headings and integrated the cataloguing into the OPAC, while others have fully integrated both the cataloguing and the collections into the mainstream. MacDonald is obviously a proponent of full integration!
Electronic/Technological Answers: First the OPAC, then CD-ROMs, and now the Internet, have liberated users in some ways, and given them independence from intermediaries. Digital projects around the world (the Vatican, being my favourite), have done more for providing access to special and unique collections, and are doing a lot to overcome 'place'. Anyone with access to a computer and connectivity can now see things they have only dreamed of seeing.
The Internet: The Internet will do more for mainstreaming information than we ever imagined. "Because the information is prepared in a highly decentralized manner without significant state intervention or even appropriation, it becomes a window on what we are - what we really are - not how we show ourselves when we dress up and travel, on our best behaviour. I would suggest that the World Wide Web is the window that we would be wise to share with each other" (p. 11).
Mackey, Terry, and Kitty Mackey. "Think Quality! The Deming Approach Does Work in Libraries." Library Journal (May 15, 1992): 57-61.
Adoption of Deming's Total Quality Management (TQM) system can help to improve the quality of service in a reference department. The fourteen-point plan was developed by W. Edwards Deming for the corporate business world, but libraries can also benefit from such a program which builds quality into every step of a process.
The following are Deming's fourteen-points, translated into the language of libraries:
1. Creation of constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service: organizations have two kinds of problems: today's and tomorrow's, and without adherence to a mission statement, it is very easy to get caught up in the tangle of problems and impossible to "maintain constancy of purpose" (p. 58).
2. Adoption of the new philosophy: everyone in the organization must be motivated by high-quality service; not more service, but by better service.
3. Cease dependence on mass inspection to achieve quality: because it is result-oriented and has nothing to do with the production of quality or building quality into every step of a process. "The old way: Inspect bad quality out. The new way: Build good quality in" (p. 58). This includes assuming that workers want to do a good job for an organization, can provide quality work, and should be given the chance to have input.
4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag; instead, minimize total cost - business contracts should simply be given to the lowest bidder because quality is forever forgotten. Instead, Deming believed that other considerations were more important than money. For instance, how a company handles mistakes, how it insures quality, and if it considers long-term R&D.
5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service: improvements = changes, and librarians must be prepared for them if they want to continue to improve service.
6. Institute training for all employees.
7. Adopt and institute leadership.
8. Drive out fear: fear works against production and quality improvements and causes high absenteeism, burnout, and high employee turnover. This area is a major responsibility of management.
9. Break down barriers between staff areas: internal barriers cause departments to work at cross purposes with one another, create hostility, competition, personal grudges, and lack of communication. Everyone must be committed to the library's mission statement and work together for quality service.
10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and the targets for the work force: since these often do little besides waste money and pay lip service.
11. Eliminate numerical quotas for the work force and eliminate numerical goals for people in management: examples include the requirement that pages shelve one hundred books per hour, and the provision for librarians to put together three subject bibliographies a year. Isn't it better to provide pages with the proper training and understanding that can develop the pride needed to keep their shelves in good order without quotas? Don't quotas often set the stage for mistakes?
12. Remove barriers that rob people of pride in their work: job descriptions, support materials, organizational goals, and involving employees in the organization develops a responsibility for quality in their work. Encouraging conformity, creating fear, and performance evaluations have no place in TQM.
13. Encourage education and self-improvement for everyone.
14. Take action to accomplish the transformation: "Quality does not come about by itself. It does not happen by telling people to work harder, by setting goals that encourage improvement, by threatening people with loss of their jobs, or by rewarding them with parking spaces. Quality results when every individual in the library understands and adopts the philosophy of never-ending improvement and when all the processes of library operations are in statistical control. To this end, Deming is adamant that the pursuit of quality must begin from the top down; the program cannot be driven by middle managers or grassroots advocates" (p. 61).
Massant, Eric J. "The Roles of Libraries and the Private Sector: Policy Principles for Assuring Public Access to U.S. Federal Government Information." Journal of Government Information 21, No. 5 (1994): 383-390.
Technological changes and fiscal pressures are greatly affecting libraries', government's, and the private sector's roles in the dissemination of information. There must be agreement on some basic policy principles if the future of government information dissemination is to be guaranteed: 1.) The public's right of access should be guaranteed because it is one of the basic principles of the American democratic system, limited only to protect individual privacy and national security. This means that access must be affordable; information integrity guaranteed; and the federal government should require that their agencies disseminate the information they have in a broad manner. Title 44 of the U.S. "Code" and the Freedom of Information Act stipulate that the public be directly furnished with information or through the depository system. 2.) Equal and timely access should be assured: information should be accessible without delay, and certainly not withheld. 3.) A diversity of information sources should be encouraged, which guarantees that the public can access government information through a variety of means, and often the private sector makes this possible by offering annotations, indexing, and organizational enhancers in many formats which are user-friendly. The private sector offers awareness and support, thereby, increasing the value of what is available to the public. As well, "these enhancements would never reach many people if it were not for libraries. The library/publisher partnership is essential for meeting the needs of many users. Libraries act as gateways to a variety of sources" p. 385). The federal government should ensure the role of libraries as disseminators of information by providing the funding needed to purchase products from both private and public sources. 4.) Monopoly control of public information and claim of government copyright should be prohibited. No entity should be given the right to monopolize government information resources, nor should the government claim copyrig ht control as a way to impede the use, dissemination, or sale of information which belongs to the people. 5.) Fees for access to information from the government should not exceed the marginal cost of dissemination. If the government lowers the price of its records, more people can access it, thus, costs of dissemination should not include the creation, collection, compilation, or storage of information. Only those fees needed to disseminate it directly to the user, since making money from government information is not a public service. 6.) The depository system and the direct support model: depository libraries are faced with an explosion in government information in a variety of formats, at a time when federal funds are at a premium. The depository libraries get 'free' information from the government, but providing access to it is very costly. The other problem they have is that they are not provided with any money to directly purchase for their collections, which means they have no amount of control to manage efficiently. The author uses the example of public radio which is provided with money directly with which it decides how to spend. Thus, the federal depository system seems to be run in a backwards manner. If libraries could administer their own funds, they could have "[a] more efficient, well promoted depository system that is demand driven rather than supply driven..." (p. 387), since they know best what their users are interested in. This might increase the likelihood of Congress supplying more money to participating libraries, and even expand the number. Besides direct funding, requirements laid down for government agencies to disseminate their information through the program as well, as well as a electronic locator for government information. In addition, a strong administrative support system to oversee the process perhaps in the form of a congressional standing committee. 7.) The public should be guaranteed an opportunity to participate in government decisions affecting public access. Libraries, the private sector, and the public should have the right to participate in decisions affecting access to government information.
Massey-Burzio, Virginia. "From the Other Side of the Reference Desk: A Focus Group Study." The Journal of Academic Librarianship (May 1998): 208-215.
Technology is changing libraries and the way they are being used. For example, remote access of library catalogues is on the rise, as library visits, circulation statistics, and face-to-face reference interactions continue to decline. Now is the time to reinvestigate the information-seeking behaviour of library users so that libraries can improve service and try to overcome some of the pitfalls associated with the explosion of electronic databases, electronic publishing, and Internet searching, coupled with lack of training for librarians. This new role for librarians is a complicated one, full of obstacles and new responsibilities, as the world of knowledge is being transformed into one of market commodification, with competition from the Internet and other information providers.
This focus group study will assess the degree and quality of reference service in light of these new trends, concentrating on user preferences and needs. The study was undertaken at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, John Hopkins University, gathering information from users on the service they received and their perceptions of its quality while using the facilities. The methodology was qualitative, and consisted of six small (ranging from four to ten persons each) focus groups conducted in an interactive interview setting, with a moderator leading the discussions (carried out Spring 1995-Spring 1996). There were two undergraduate groups, two graduate, one faculty group, and one consisting of Continuing Studies students. Preliminary interviews were conducted, and selection was based partly on respondents having in-building use of the library for academic research purposes.
What Can Libraries Do?
"Without focus group studies, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to discover that library patrons think that using a library does not require all that much skill development and knowledge, that they are, therefore, unwilling to invest time and energy into developing those skills and knowledge, that the way we design our libraries reinforces the concept that information retrieval is as easy as finding cordless screwdrivers at a huge hardware store chain, that access to a professional librarian is valued and needs to be marketed, and that our users are embarrassed to have to ask questions" (p. 215).
Massey-Burzio, Virginia. "Reference Encounters of a Different Kind: A Symposium." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 18, No. 5 (1992): 276-286.
Strangely, with all the changes that have taken place in information technology and the dramatic increase in available information, one thing that seems to have remained stable is the way librarians deliver reference services. Massey-Burzio contends that positive changes can take place in librarianship if the traditional mode of reference service undergoes a transformation, and as a result, "challenge some of our deeply held notions and beliefs about what constitutes good reference service…" (p. 276).
Brandeis University's main library eliminated its reference desk in March 1990 because over the years staffing problems were reaching a crisis, with morale and energy levels of the staff being negatively affected. In addition, a telephone survey done in 1988 made it clear that to adequately staff their main library, they would have to face the prospect of hiring many additional librarians, using money they did not have at their disposal. Instead, the library decided to get rid of the reference desk, replacing it with an 'Information Desk' and a 'Research Consultation Service Office', using graduate students to staff the information desk to answer directional and ready reference, and professional librarians for the research service. The changes were made so that job satisfaction could be increased; higher quality service provided; to facilitate the best use of staff; and to improve the professional image of professional librarians.
Of course, there is no easy way in which to increase the quality of reference service, but it is also "clear that traditional reference service is best at providing information to questions that take only a few minutes to answer. Because of the sheer volume of questions that librarians must deal with, the more in-depth or difficult questions are necessarily handled too briefly and superficially" (p. 277). Thus, traditional modes of reference service underutilize the skills of professional librarians, and underserve many patrons. The division of labor at the Brandeis library helped both paraprofessionals and professionals to experience an increased sense of adequacy.
Findings from research done by Joan Durrance have concluded that the environment surrounding traditional reference service triggers mixed signals in patrons because they are never sure if their inquiry is being directed at a professional or a student. This is partly a result of many librarians refusing to wear identifying name tags and dressing in a non-distinguishing fashion. "The reference interaction can be problematic because, although reference users seek information or advice in a situation that sociologists would define as a professional encounter, the setting itself seems to suggest a different interaction - one more like a quick, commercial encounter with a bank teller or department store clerk" (p. 278). Confusion reigns!
Massey-Burzio says that it true that librarians may need to improve their communication and interviewing skills, but believes that "[w]hile these points are well taken, the more natural solution may be to change the environment" (p. 278). Librarians seem to equate availability of service with quality service. They need to realize that this only results in poor reference performance and an undermining of their own value as professionals. If a restructuring of all reference environments were to take place, with librarians answering more difficult and interesting directions instead of the high number of directional questions, it may begin to establish a more professional role for working librarians, and increase job satisfaction.
The Brandeis model of having two separate reference service points is one way a reference department can be reorganized to help improve service for the public and increase job satisfaction for librarians: "This reference model seems to significantly improve the quality of the interaction between the client and the reference librarian. The privacy and quiet of the research consultation office and the focused attention of a recognized professional seem to be the key to its success…Its success suggests that libraries should consider moving away from the simplistic notion of having an "available body" to answer questions and that more attention should be paid to the fact, well recognized by social scientists, that the reference encounter is a complex social and intellectual interchange" (p. 279).
McClure, Charles R. "Output Measures, Unobtrusive Testing, and Assessing the Quality of Reference Services." The Reference Librarian 11 (Fall/Winter 1984): 215-233.
Increasingly, there is more and more pressure to evaluate the quality of reference service provision, with an "emphasis on outputs, or the services provided from the library to the clientele…" (p. 215). Quality, not quantity of services is the focus: as traditional techniques of evaluation have concentrated on quantity, and therefore, lack validity in providing insight into whether informational needs are being met by reference librarians. By using quantitative measures, libraries have historically not known if reference services are meeting their objectives and priorities; the accuracy rates of answers; how staff time is being utilized on the desk; and finally, if there is some magic amount of time needed to provide accurate answers?, or in other words, is there any evidence that shows amount of time spent with a patron can increase or decrease the likelihood that a correct answer will be given? Library outputs are increasingly evaluated using unobtrusive testing, and the following is a list of output measures which can targeted through such testing:
"The primary factor that currently limits the quality of reference services is an attitude of complacency, one which assumes that (1) the vast majority of answers given to questions are accurate and timely, (2) that the reference services currently provided are, in fact, accomplishing service objectives and resolving the information needs of the library's clientele, and (3) existing reference staff competencies and skills are "adequate" and are not likely to need improvement. These attitudes are based on assumptions which can be best tested by the use of unobtrusive evaluation techniques. Once they have been tested, specific strategies can be taken to improve existing levels of services and staff skills" (p. 225). (see note #3)
Unobtrusive testing is well-suited to collecting data on outputs, but there are Advantages/Disadvantages of Unobtrusive Testing:
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
McClure, David L. "Improving Federal Performance in the Information Era: The Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996." Government Information Quarterly 14, No. 3 (1997): 255-269.
With the onslaught of new information technologies, there will be problems with information management, and deficiencies involved with trying to bring together computer technologies, information, and work processes. 'Information resources management' (IRM) practices can help the government revolutionize the way it delivers services and information to its citizens. The Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996 builds upon the Paperwork Reduction Acts of 1980 and 1995, which outlined an IRM plan in order that the heads of federal agencies understood information needs and purposes, and that information must be collected and shared many times. The ITMRA of 1996 adopted management principles and practices employed by prominent public and private organizations to improve the performance of organizations. The Act stipulates that agency heads: 1.) to be aware of how technology and information resources assist in the delivery, management, and operationalization of services and programs under their direction, 2.) to weigh both quantitative and qualitative factors in relation to spending, benefits, and investment risks in the acquisition of information technology investments, 3.) be able to show how information technology expenditures improve program outcomes, customer satisfaction, employee productivity, and streamlining costs. In other words, ITMRA requests that agency heads make informed decisions and practice management control "in an area fraught with risk, dubious returns, and wasteful spending. Having access to better information and supporting analyses of ongoing costs, benefits, and risks, agency heads can present better budget information to Congress on how technology expenditures address effectively the pressing business problems of government agencies" (p. 256). ITMRA supports agency mission, it does not force change. Whether federal agencies take advantage of ITMRA to improve performance is a critical factor, and also if the OMB and GAO enforce the legislation's requirements by overseeing IT budgets.
To achieve dramatic improvements in the government environment using IT will be a challenge because there is more and more pressure to make cuts, while offering better services; the technology behind IT is rapidly changing all the time; and business failures involving IT can be extremely expensive, and many very costly developmental projects get canceled before completion. Still others come to fruition late and have significant escalations of costs associated with them. For example, after twelve years, and more than 2.5 billion dollars, the FAA opted to cancel its Advanced Automation System project because it had been plagued with problems. Why does the federal government have problems getting positive results for its IT projects?
1. Failure of management to oversee and manage controls.
2. Shortage of staff.
3. Poor contractor oversight.
4. Protracted procurement and acquisition cycles.
5. No benchmarking of performance.
6. Technical units are delegated to take care of IT issues.
7. The justification of IT expenditures before all processes are examined.
8. Lack tactical planning, good decision-making for budgetary concerns and evaluation.
9. No monitoring of IT spending, until it is too late.
10. Inadequate training and hiring practices.
11. There is no exact figure available for how much the federal government spends on IT, only what is reported to the OMB, which is approximately 26 billion a year.
The long term goal of ITMRA is to help agencies overcome some of these downfalls, and in the short term, expectations are that IT spending will be increasingly scrutinized, improved managing of processes, and better quality data on costs and returns.
ITMRA puts accountability for information technology and management decisions on the heads of agencies, who must appoint CIOs to executive management teams. As far as capital planning and investments are concerned, ITMRA requires scrutiny, control, and evaluation of risks, costs, and benefits. There must also be a systems for IT reporting and performance management from which success can be measured. These systems help to reduce costs, increase productivity, decrease cycle time, and improve service: there must be awareness of means and results.
McClure, Charles R. "Libraries and Federal Information Policy." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 22, No. 3 (1996): 214-218.
Government information policy is important for librarians to understand because it affects how libraries disseminate government information for the public. Libraries also have an important role to play in affecting how government information policies are developed, both at the national and local levels, and need to stay current with the issues involved because they are important stakeholders in the process. Policy changes can determine how libraries evolve, the services they provide, and the availability of resources: it can also transform traditional approaches to library service. "Only recently has information policy been recognized for its importance in shaping the evolution of societies. Libraries frequently serve as an institutional force to implement information policies through specific information policy instruments" (p. 214).
1. Information policy is an important area in public policy because: 1.) it has a great impact on the accessibility, collection, distribution, management, and retrieval of government information, 2.) has an effect on how society and individuals develop social, economic, and political choices, 3.) causes both advantages and disadvantages for different people depending upon their setting, 4.) has a direct cause and effect on how information technologies are used and applied, 5.) and because it has an effect on how all other policy systems develop and work. There is a symbiotic relationship between federal information policies and libraries.
2. In the United States, federal information policies are shaped by a number of key policy instruments, such as : 1.) The Freedom of Information Act, 2.) the Privacy Act, 3.) the USA. Government Printing Office's Depository Library Program, 4.) the Copyright Act, 5.) the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 6.) and circulars from the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, such as the all-important Circular No. A-130.
3. Information is unique and therefore, it is difficult to develop clear, equitable, and useful policy instruments for all the stakeholders involved. Information has many characteristics, including: it cannot be 'used up' by being used; it is difficult to control all parts of information and to make sure that it will not be disseminated for free; the same information can be possessed by more than one person at a time; the value of information is hard to gauge until it is known to the user; information cannot be depleted; information can become obsolete; and continual use does not deplete it.
4. Information is an empowering tool in society, and libraries can be the link between the government and the public to provide resources that can improve quality of life.
5. Information policy issues are complicated because they must consider many different stakeholders, with different expectations, objectives, and various value systems. For example, libraries are one of the many stakeholders, and there are many issues of information policy they must consider; one is the public's right to information, which is considered essential in democratic societies. (see note #1)
6. Retrieval and organization of information of government information was difficult enough in a print-based system, but now, with the exponential growth in electronic information, there are so many new dimensions. For instance, constant change and chaos reign in a networked environment, and there is a great need for more user-friendly services and programs. (see note #2)
7. If libraries do not provide their patrons with electronic access, those who do not have computers equipped with the Internet at home, will be at a great disadvantage. There will be the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. And that does not only refer to accessibility, what about network literacy? More and more, network literacy will be needed if we want to access federal government information.
8. The NII is the National Information Infrastructure, and is "an amorphous term for the collection of information technologies and the infrastructure that supports them..." (p. 217). The Clinton administration's support for the development of NII means that a revolution of sorts is taking place in American society, one that will drastically change society. The role libraries must play is to provide access to NII.
9. Copyright laws, ownership of information, and intellectual property rights will further complicate the position of libraries in a world of electronic information, as will 'what constitutes fair use?' and how will digitized information be priced?
10. There has been a decentralization occurring in the dissemination of electronic government information, with federal agencies mounting their own websites to help save money traditionally spent on providing the public with print sources, and even GPO DLP are finding it increasingly difficult to provide access to a cache of centralized information. Therefore, ."..librarians will need to have the skills and knowledge to access electronic government information via a variety of sources and Web sites. In short, the need for the librarian to serve as an electronic navigator and provide intermediation will not disappear. More likely, librarians will have to develop new skills and techniques to stay knowledgeable about this rapidly changing area...Libraries that fail to deal with these changes, fail to accept responsibility for access and dissemination,...or fail to recognize the need to transition from a print to an electronic information environment are likely to find themselves marginalized" (p. 217). (see note #3)
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. And if librarians do not know how to access the information, particularly electronic information, then how will that affect our rights, democracy, freedom, etc.?
2. What about problems with changed addresses, sites under construction, server failure, and Internet traffic, which makes for slow connectivity?
3. And incapable of providing accurate, and up-to-date information to their patrons.
McClure, Charles R. "Network Literacy in an Electronic Society: An Educational Disconnect?" in "The Knowledge Economy: The Nature of Information in the 21st Century", Queenstown, MD: The Aspen Institute, 1993, pp. 137-178.
Some important points made by the author:
1. Computer literacy is progressively becoming more important as rapidly developing communications systems and technologies make it possible for public information to be disseminated in electronic form. What are the implications when currently, there are some 30 million Americans who are considered functionally illiterate? There is an elite few, such as researchers, academics, and techno junkies who can be considered network savvy, but what about the rest of society? "The new communication techniques and the resources and services available over the Internet will continue to change the way we work and live. Those not connected or unable to use the Internet, however, may find themselves increasingly disadvantaged in the workplace, in dealing with daily issues, in being an informed citizen, and in living a quality life" (p. 143).
2. There has been inadequate federal planning and policy directives to ensure that libraries and their staff can move from a traditional model of librarianship to one which makes resources available to the public in electronic formats. Librarians need to be able to access, use, and communicate network literacy to the population, if the strategies of NII and NREN (National Research and Education Network) are to be successful and widespread throughout society. Therefore, strategies must be developed to ensure that electronic technologies will become integral in the 21st Century, as well as: capable of bringing different segments of society together (i.e. the haves and the have-nots); promoting social equity in terms of network literacy; and enhancing the role of libraries and educators to bring about the desired objectives.
3. Some inherent problems with moving towards an information society include the mentality that the public will naturally (I say miraculously) understand, use, and navigate easily through the network without intervention from local, state, or federal planning. The private sector, educators, and libraries will provide the resources and training required to transcend society. Is this a reasonable assumption?
4. One major ideological change from traditional notions of information is that network information is an empowering tool, rather than simply information. It has the power to change lives, contribute to a more productive society, and provide individuals with the knowledge to make better decisions in their lives. The White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services released a report in 1991 that included the following remark: "As dependence on information grows, the potential increases for emergence of an Information Elite and the possibility of a widening gap between those who possess facility with information resources and those who are denied the tools to access, understand, and use information....Today, now more than ever, information is power. Access to it and the skill to understand and apply it is increasingly the way power is exercised" (p. 173). (see note #1)
5. It is imperative to assist individuals, no matter where they are, to learn how to navigate in a networked environment, and learn how to use the information to empower their lives. Federal policies and programs should reflect and support this ideology. Debate must ensue.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. Author has footnoted White House Conference on Library and Information Services. "Information 2000 Library and Information Services for the 21st Century."
Mendelsohn, Jennifer. "Perspectives on Quality of Reference Service in an Academic Library: A Qualitative Study." RQ 36, No. 4 (Summer 1997): 544-557.
This qualitative study chose two librarians and two users, and tried to elicit from them to answer, "What is meant by the term "quality" as it applies to reference service?" (p. 546). An indepth interviewing process was used, along with a coding matrix to identify (1) key factors of quality service, (2) factors referred to over and over again, (3) factors that seem to work against quality service.
Two major environmental factors that are essential for high quality reference service are: TIME and MORALE, and are factors dictated by library policy and managerial ideologies. For instance, if time is limited, morale may be adversely affected. Management may have a clear policy of allowable time spent with individual patrons and is usually related to: 1.) The cost of providing quality service: money is time, and depending on if good quality reference service is seen as a luxury or not. 2.) Crowd Management, especially during busy times can be problematic. "I think that the more information sources are coming on stream in the libraries, the more frantic the librarians are for the time to keep up and to set up in their own minds the kind of hierarchies of sources of information and ways to get people started towards information that they need to sort the patrons out in terms of what they can most profitably use" (p. 553) 3.) Appointments or Consultations 4.) Morale: how one feels is directly related to how well they can perform their job, and there is a direct link between morale and the provision of high quality service. Administrators may be more interested in having a 'body' on the desk, whether that person is a paraprofessional or professional, and may have forgotten that it could be detrimental to the provision of good service, and makes users angry that there are not qualified librarians readily available to help them with their questions. (see note #5) Appropriate funding must be allocated to maintain and improve quality service.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Miller, William. "Causes and Cures for Inaccurate Reference Work." Journal of Academic Librarianship (May 1987): 71-73.
Miller, William. "What's Wrong with Reference: Coping with Success and Failure at the Reference Desk." American Libraries 15 (May 1984): 303-6, 321-22).
Miller makes the point that all the new services libraries are offering have caused an overload of work for reference librarians. The problem lies, not in being able to offer more services to the public, as heads of libraries broadcast, but rather, in trying to manage all the services that are available already. The demand for reference services has increased, as more and more people come into libraries looking for help on many different tools, tools which librarians may or may not be suitably familiar with. (see note #1) The author points out that even a decade ago, libraries did not have to worry about providing bibliographic instruction to anyone, but now they have to worry about making sure there are programs in place for foreign students and those with special needs. There was no large program for librarians to develop user guides, pathfinders, freshman workbooks, and library tours. In addition, online searching was not a consideration, nor was worrying about finding the money for all the new technologies that are infiltrating the information age. He says, "That we are doing so much more is a tribute to our concern and good intentions. It is not, however, a tribute to our foresight and planning. We have largely ignored the consequences of our reference sprawl, and it would behoove us to consider such consequences now" (p. 303).
Problems associated with the explosion of services in reference departments:
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Monty, Vivienne. "Canadian Government Information: An Update." Government Publications Review 20 (1993): 273-282.
The Depository Services Program (DSP) has been providing Canadians with access to government publications since 1927, operating under the general guidelines of the Treasury Board, not any specific legislation. With no official legislation to back it up, all the DSP can do is hope that the guidelines will be followed. Beyond that, there is little they can do to demand compliance. "[I]n Canada only guidelines and no legislation exist for a depository program. There has been increasing concern among participating members of the program that legislation be passed to assure the continued viability of the program…This concern has been heightened by the fact that CCG-P's changed mandate "allows" it to compete with the private sector for government business" (p. 276), and to make money.
The Federal Depository Program: In 1988, the Library Advisory Committee (LAC) and the DSP formed a Task Group with an aim to evaluating the depository program. 1990 saw the rendering of its final report, entitled Partners in Access, which contained thirty-five recommendations for consideration. Since the DSP was operating on a minimal budget, they took action on some of the recommendations, including withdrawing numerous libraries from the program (media libraries, for instance), and made those pay for any government publications, as well as contacting federal departments, asking them to provide depository libraries with their publications.
As far as nonprint formats go, many departments in the federal government have claimed they have no responsibility for making them available to depository libraries, this being the case specifically for Statistics Canada, a large producer of electronic information. With hard work on the part of the LAC and the DSP, Statistics Canada floppy diskettes and CD-ROM titles have begun to appear on the Checklist, and late in 1992, Statistics Canada offered the 1991 census to seventy-five depositories. Electronic formats need to be considered as the technology is increasingly becoming a means to disseminate government information. The DSP funded the Electronic Products Task Force to consider such things as archiving electronic information and "what type of networking should there be and who will bear some or all of the costs of networking and licensing considerations" (p. 275). All of these questions are important when the budgets of both libraries and the DSP are receding. Who will pay for hardware/software, electronic products, and connectivity? Other occurrences affecting the depository program include the abolition of such agencies as the Science Council of Canada, the Economic Council of Canada, and the Law Reform Commission of Canada, all of which were dedicated providers of information to the depository program. In addition, the 1992 budget of the federal government stated that there was no longer a requirement for departments to provide annual reports of their activities, as long as the data could be found in other places, such as the Estimates. "Annual reports of departments have been among the most historical and useful government information sources in the past" (p. 276). On the bright side, there has been the creation of GOVINFO, a LISTSERV for government documents on the Internet that acts as an information network.
Statistics Canada: At the time this article was written, Statistics Canada was just beginning to be heavily involved in the electronic dissemination of its information and was working with the depository program to provide access to data. Not that it ever directly distributed any to the program, but it had them on their mailing list and distributed data when notified by the depository program. Currently, with its new mandate to disseminate electronically and to generate substantial revenues, it will be difficult for Statistics Canada to develop lucrative commercial contracts with the private sector when they are providing the same information for free to depository libraries. (As we know things have changed in the intervening years.)
Monty, Vivienne. "Due North: Issues in Access to Government Information, A View from Canada." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 4 (1996): 491-497.
Despite a variety of similarities between Canada and the United States, the two countries have very different systems of government, including the procedures and policies which govern the dissemination and access to government information. No legislation exists in Canada that requires the government to disseminate or provide citizens with access to its information resources, while the Americans have a strong ideology and laws that make it a constitutional right for them to access to government information. These differences have their roots primarily in copyright law: the Canadian government or Crown holds copyright in Canada, while the American Constitution forbids the government to retain it because it is owned by the people. Thus, there is less information flowing through the Canadian system compared to the American, even though both countries have federal depository systems that provide the public with access to information. One thing that we as Canadians must understand is that our access to information is different from our neighbors to the south, who have laws that guarantee them that information flows from the 'powers that be' to the citizens. Not so in Canada, where the elected officials have no legal requirement to make information available, and have the right to decide what and how much is released.
The Canadian Depository Service Program (DSP) has its roots in pre-Confederation years, but was officially created in 1927 by an Order in Council and later packaged with other Treasury Board directives, which do not have the force of law. Two things to keep in mind: 1.) depository libraries are selected by using a set of demographic and geographic rules, and 2.) there are no guidelines addressing the electronic dissemination of government information, with the bulk of government information policies being under common law instead of statutory law, leaving the DSP in a precarious position, and under constant threat.
"The DSP, despite all the threats against it, is now and has been for some years, under CCG-P (Canada Communications Group-Publishing). This has produced a synergy that has brought together the government's publishing arm (the Queen's Printer) with the government's sales and dissemination arm (Publishing). The combination has given the DSP the right to request (not demand) departments to supply a quantity of free publications for deposit purposes" (p. 492).
Currently, government information policy is threatening the depository program from four different areas: 1.) Privatization: large national debt combined with a pressure to downsize and reduce expenditures, equates privatization. (At the time of this article: ) The CCG-P was on its way to being privatized, leaving the DSP without the government's publishing arm close at hand. What does this mean for the DSP? It will no longer have easy access to published information; where and how will it get the materials it needs to meet the public's informational requests? Certainly, privatization will cause information to become more costly, with federal departments under greater pressures, and no hard and fast rules for the information products to be deposited with the selected libraries.
2.) Electronic Publishing: "In most cases the DSP must purchase documents from departments in order to disseminate them to the depository system. They are provided a budget for this, but their funding has not increased in several years to meet these increased internal purchase costs. Indeed, CCG-P has provided the DSP funds for years out of other areas to assist in the purchase of publications for the program. Interestingly, as electronic products become easier to create, paper products are viewed as being 'value added' and their price has increased substantially" (p. 494). The advent of electronic publishing has made federal government agencies and departments independent publishers, creating their own homepages and diskettes. Simply because a library is a depository depot for government information, does not mean that they receive everything published. For instance, the last federal budget was released on diskettes that cost $500.00, but there were not enough funds available through the DSP to buy them for the depository libraries, nor were many local libraries able to come up with the revenues necessary. Therefore, not many Canadians had the opportunity to look at their own federal budget. Another problem with electronic information is the licensing fees attached to the software for government data, software that is produced by private sector companies, which are in the business of making profits, not giving depository libraries free copies of their products.
3.) Departmental Autonomy: is another outcome of the decentralization, and means that federal government departments are under no obligation to publish through the CCG-P, and often use cheaper, private sector companies (my note: and homepages) for production. The do provide the DSP with publications at a reduced cost, but "[t]he departments consequently say that giving materials to the DSP actually costs them even if they are reimbursed to some degree" (p. 494). Decentralization of federal government departments has meant that cost recovery is necessary, which has increased the prices of information resources, and has accumulated into an atmosphere that breeds poor bibliographic control.
4.) Cost Recovery: the government has mandated cost-recovery as a means to increase revenues, particularly for data that it believes has market value. Statistics Canada is a case in point. It has historically been relied upon for its wealth of detailed statistics - information that was regularly and freely passed on to research and depository libraries and used by a multitude of people. Currently, their information is quite costly, in electronic format, and too expensive for even large institutions, depositories, or members of the public to afford.
Moore, Audrey D. "Reference Librarianship: "It Was the Best of Times, It Was…"." The Reference Librarian 54 (1996): 3-10.
Technology has greatly changed the work of reference librarians, and has given libraries reference tools, such as electronic indexes, which have impacted in very positive ways. Librarians have never before experienced such a need to constantly improve their skills, and keep proficient as technologies keep changing. Libraries need skilled staff to improve the quality of reference services; staff who are willing to be the intermediaries between the resources and the users: an historical constant.
Current Reference Services:
"Although reference librarianship has experienced many changes during its evolution, and is currently experiencing more, there has always been the core concept of personal assistance by the librarian to the individual seeking information. It is this concept that allows us to recognize in our past and present some glimmering of the nature of reference services for the future. We may have access to more information, receive it faster, in whatever format deemed acceptable by our wizards of technology, but the reference librarian who will continue to be the intermediary between a good deal of this information and the user will still be operating by the concept of individual personal assistance" (p. 9).
Morris, Leslie. "Unobtrusive Reference Testing vs. Obtrusive Reference Testing ." Journal of Interlibrary Loan and Information Supply Vol. 3, No. 3 (1993): 1-3.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Morton, Bruce, and Steven D. Zink. "Contemporary Canadian Federal Information Policy." Canadian Public Administration 34 (Summer 1992): 312-338.
"The Canadian information environment is such that the government views the information that it produces as a corporate resource" (p. 312), and furthermore, the costs of creating, collecting, and providing access to it, are very costly, and therefore, revenues must be recouped. What this ideology does in fact is to construct a new philosophy that disrupts the old traditional view that government information belongs to the public, free of charge. The implications of this statement are that government information is a valuable commodity that must be managed; management must not preclude public access to it; and policy is needed to implement/phase in a national information and communications infrastructure.
Some important points to keep in mind:
1. Information at the provincial level of government are a separate issue, and are not the focus of this discussion of national information policy.
2. Although Canada has a long history of examining its information systems (nearly thirty years), no long-reaching, coherent national information policy statutes have been put in place. With influences coming from the British and American concepts of individual rights and information dissemination, the Canadian approach is one of contradictions: government is best suited to decide what information that it needs to disclose to its citizenry, while at the same time, there is the belief that the public has a right to government information in a democracy.
3. In Canada, the government environment is one of decentralization, fiscal austerity, and privatization. One needs only to look at Statistics Canada, which provides information from their databases to agencies in the private sector for a fee and the permission to resell to any interested parties. Therefore, the private sector is playing a prominent role in the dissemination of government information.
4. In 1982, the privacy Act of Canada was passed through legislation, with specific contributions to the protection of data, restrictions on the surveillance, with a comprehensive code for the collection, protection, and disposal of personal information.
5. In 1988, the Treasury Board began to restrict the use of the Social Insurance Number, and plans to phase out its use over a five-year period. This policy reflects three principles that form the basis of Canada's current information policy structure concerning privacy, and they are: 1.) unless government needs information in relation to a program or activity, it will not be collected, 2.) personal information will be collected from the person directly, 3.) government will tell the person involved the purpose for which the information is being collected.
6. "There has been an emerging understanding, sometimes grudgingly, that access to information may be a public right rather than a privilege. It is this perspective that is explicitly articulated prefatory to almost all current communications and information policy initiatives" (p. 322). To do this, government must accomplish two things: organize government information to facilitate public access to it, and understand the climate that surrounds the public's need for information.
7. Canada sees their Crown Copyright laws to be their way of making sure that Canadian information remains Canadian, while the private industry sees it as an impediment to their role and investment in the information industry, and as a major restriction against operating in international markets. Canada only has to look to the south at the United States to see how increasingly their information industry is being dominated by mostly European companies.
8. "It is extremely difficult under the type of parliamentary government that exists in Canada to hide critical information...in the final analysis, the fabric of Canadian government itself and an ever-vigilant press may be the ultimate safety net. This is consistent with the view expressed thirty years ago in the report "To Know and be Known" that ultimately basic freedoms depend on the proper functioning of the parliamentary system with the only real guarantee of liberty being the alertness and maturity of the Canadian public and their elected representatives" (p. 338).
Morton, Bruce. "Canadian Federal Government Information Policy and Canada's Electronic Information Industry." Government Information Quarterly 12, No. 3 (1995): 251-295.
Morton, Bruce, and S.D. Zink. "The Dissemination and Accessibility of Canadian Government Information." Government Publications Review 19, No. 4 (July/August 1992): 385-396.
2.) A sampling of the major government information players:
Other important points:
Morton, Bruce, and Steven D. Zink. "We Are Here to Make Sure that Information is Available, and Cost-Effective: An Interview with Patricia Horner, Director of the Canadian Government Publishing Centre." Government Publications Review 17, No. 5 (Sept./Oct. 1990): 397-410.
Patricia Horner not only is head of CGPC, she also oversees the Depository Services Program (DSP), and Reference Canada, both of which allow access to government information to the public (particularly those who cannot afford to pay for it). Horner is operating the agencies with a market-driven philosophy, which incorporates working relationships "with the private sector to make information dissemination more cost-effective" (p. 397). Horner says that they have been operating like a business since 1986, and are charged with recovering the costs of collecting, creating, and disseminating government information.
Concerns and Directions:
1. One of the things that Horner and associates are reviewing, is the concept of providing depository libraries with electronic information and all that entails. The issue is not only whether the libraries will want it, but also how they will provide access to it. Will they have the hardware/software capabilities to do so? One way to get around the problem of libraries which do not want or cannot provide access to electronic information is to develop regional electronic libraries to disseminate digitized government information.
2. Statistics Canada is both an independent publisher and not a Crown Corporation, which has retained its revenues from its publishing program since 1986.
3. Government departments are structured so that their publishing and communications professionals are centralized. The DSP is trying to use that to their own advantage: to have more of the free publications distributed through the depository system for greater access. The "Weekly Checklist" acts as the acquisitions tool.
4. At the time this article was published, the DSP had a budget of 3.16 million dollars. (I will try to find out what it is now, since I am surprised that it is not greater.) Reference Canada's is cited as being 3.941 million.
5. Fifty of the depository libraries had not ordered a depository publication in five years. As Horner points out, "How can these libraries maintain that government publications are fundamental to their collections when they have not requested any products?" (p. 406). Full depositories receive every title, while select libraries choose from those on the "Weekly Checklists."
6. Canada and the United States have about the same number of depositories.
7. Obligations to the Parliament of Canada include the publication of the Senate and House of Commons debates and bills, as well as Hansard and Gazette.
Murfin, Marjorie E., and Gary M. Gugelchuk. "Development and Testing of a Reference Transaction Assessment Instrument." College & Research Libraries 48 No. 4 (July 1987): 314-338.
Murfin, Marjorie E., and Charles A. Bunge. "Paraprofessionals at the Reference Desk." Journal of Academic Librarianship 14, No. 1 (March 1988): 10-14.
There has long been a debate over paraprofessionals working on reference desks. The pro side says that most of the questions asked at reference desks do not need the experience and knowledge of reference librarians to be answered. The con side says that using paraprofessionals is a disservice to the public, diminishes the quality of service, and lowers the probability that patrons will find the information they need for their inquiries.
This study was part of the Wisconsin-Ohio Reference Evaluation Program, which used the RTAI (see article #27), a computer-scannable form that analyzes information collected from patrons and librarians. The RTAI forms have two parts, one to be filled out by the staff member, and one for the patron. The study looked at data from twenty of the thirty-three academic libraries that participated in the larger study, and had requested to participate (were not randomly selected).
The findings for professional librarians were: 1.) Patrons found exactly what they wanted/satisfied 60.4% of the time. 2.) Patrons found part of what they were looking for or not satisfied 22.8% of the time.
The findings for paraprofessionals were: 1.) Patrons found exactly what they wanted/satisfied 50.5% of the time. 2.) Patrons found part of what they were looking for or not satisfied 29.6% of the time.
Reasons for patron dissatisfaction with paraprofessionals? Patrons said that they would have preferred more indepth information on their questions, or another viewpoint for the answer.
Information reported from patrons on their overall satisfaction rating (separate from their satisfaction of quality of answer or source) of the service they received from paraprofessionals indicated that 1.) They felt that they did not get enough explanation or help from the staff member. 2.) Clarification was needed for the explanations. 3.) Staff exhibited confusion about the inquiry. 4.) Not enough time spent with the patron.
The study showed that paraprofessionals have more difficulties with conducting a reference interview/negotiation of questions, as well as more problems with communicating with the patrons. When answering complex questions, paraprofessionals (44.3%) performed significantly less well when compared to professional librarians (59%). On less complex questions, there was no statistically significant difference. The lower the amount of time spent with a patron, the lower the success rate. (see note #1) And when comparing the higher scoring paraprofessionals against the lower scoring ones, those who did not perform as well did more directing to sources rather than helping the patron find an answer.
Other interesting points: 1.) paraprofessionals consulted with professional reference librarians on only 7.9% of the questions. 2.) patrons felt that they were being helped by staff who were not as knowledgeable as professional librarians. 3.) Paraprofessionals were less aware that the patrons they helped had difficulty in understanding the information they received. 4.) "It is clear that academic libraries that use paraprofessional staff at the reference desk cannot routinely assume that such use is effective. Instead, such libraries should carefully assess the effectiveness with which reference questions are answered, using their patrons' perceptions and other relevant data" (p. 14).
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Nelson, Michael, Colin Freebury, Don Rennie, Mary Anne Stevens, and Alan Way. "Federal Government Information Policy: An Introduction." Government Information in Canada /Information gouvernementale au Canada 1, No. 3.1 (1995). Available: http://www.usask.ca/library/gic/v1n3
The very nature of government makes it a vast collector of information, using technologically-advanced systems to process and support it. Besides the collection of information, government must have processes in place to store, protect, and to disseminate information when it is needed. To facilitate the process, the Canadian government has developed policies over the years, policies such as:
Nilsen, Kirsti. "A National Access Strategy for Government Information."
This is a position paper on government information and its current accessibility.
The trend in the dissemination of government information is a move away from publishing on paper, with an increasingly accelerated move towards the use of electronic formats. "Public access to government services and information will be primarily through electronic means" (p. 1). One of the conclusions of the document Building the Information Society, was that unless the public interacts with the government through the Internet, there will be many services they will have no access to. For example, electronic filing of income tax returns are becoming more commonplace. But what about those in society who are not connected to the Information Highway? They will have less access to government information, which is a concern, especially when this trend towards the digitization of government information was precipitated by "deficit reduction and technology imperatives" (p. 1), and not necessarily, as a public good.
Present policy: 1.) The Access to Information Act, some policies of the Treasury Board, and Crown Copyright currently control access to government information in Canada. As well, individual departments have their own directives for cost-recovery, and these can have an effect on access to information. Since being issued in 1984, the Access to Information Act has given Canadians the right to unpublished government information , with exceptions, "in any format" (p. 1). As Canada's Information Commissioner, John Grace has stated, the federal government does not always comply with the open access policy, but rather, keeps its information under tight control, complaining that compliance is very costly, and puts up barriers to access. Barriers such as denying access to certain materials, charging extremely high prices, which seem to get higher as time goes on, and operating with slow response times. There are many who believe that the government would save itself a lot of money and be operating under a more democratic process if it simply provided free open access, rather than forcing the use of the Access Act. 2.) Crown Copyright is the mechanism by which the government protects its information; it also allows the government to limit access to government information, information that is collected with taxpayers money. Crown Copyright acts against the Access to Information Act because it "prevents wide dissemination of government information through the private sector" (p. 2). The government sees wide dissemination of government information to the private sector as a means to generate revenues, and does so by employing agreement contracts with market agency databases and through franchising, which limits marketing competition and keeps access fees high. Currently, Crown Copyright acts as a monopolistic device that disallows distribution of government information through the private and public sector. If eliminated, the public could still get access through distribution in libraries and on free government websites, and information industrialists could market the information with value-added components, to a wider audience. 3.) Treasury Board's latest policy documents "define government information as a corporate resource and a commodity, rather than as a public resource or public good" (p. 2), and as Nilsen points out, if this philosophy is allowed to continue, the only access which will be provided freely, will be to those materials that are considered unmarketable and of little value. Or, the federal government may decide that it will only give free access to meta-information (citations), while charging for the content. All of these current policies will limit the amount of access Canadians will have to governmental information and change the nature of government information in electronic form.
Issues pertaining to universal access: 1.) How the public sees access to information is very different from how the government understands it, made obvious by suggestions from the Treasury Board that their duty to inform the public "is limited to information about federal policies, programs and services which should be disseminated free or at subsidized cost within indices and reference tools" (p.3). That is not providing information, only meta-information!! 2.) For Canadians to participate fully in their society, information rights must be legislated. 3.) Because Crown Copyright gives the government freedom to charge whatever it wants to for information, and acts as a monopoly, universal access to information is very limited. Statistics Canada being a case in point. Since the taxpayers of this country have already paid for the collection of information resources, shouldn't they be charged marginal costs, or nothing at all? 4.) The archiving and preserving of electronic information must be considered for government documents to ensure that they too will become a part of our historical record. These issues must be addressed in any future information policies.
Nilsen, Kirsti. "Canadian Government Electronic Information Policy." Government Information Quarterly 10, No. 2 (1993): 203-220.
The rapid progress of computer technology and the facilities to store electronic information have brought great changes to the information policies of the Canadian government. In 1989, Peter Gillis, Director of Treasury Board's Information Management Practices Group, "stated that over the previous decade the Board had to undertake a complete revamping of information policies because of advances in information technology which made earlier policies obsolete" (p. 203).
1.) Preservation: the deletion and manipulation of electronic government information from databases, and its overall preservation is of great concern. In 1973, the public Archives of Canada asked the Treasury Board for the financial resources needed to deal with the problems of preservation, acquisition, and administration for historically-significant electronic information. Subsequently, the Machine Readable Archives Division was created, later being merged with the Government Archives Division in 1986. The National Archives of Canada also holds a substantial collection of electronic information, which it maintains. The National Archives of Canada Act (1987), makes it illegal for anyone to destroy government records without the express permission of the National Archivist, and that includes all formats of government information.
2.) Information Industry Involvement: considering reduced budgets and cost-effectiveness, as well as a desire on government's part to act as a support for the information industry, there has been a trend towards government/private-sector arrangements. (This is especially lucrative for government because they can take advantage of all the new technological advancements provided by private-sector corporations.) - particularly since the Green Paper, Communications for the Twenty-first Century noted that there was a need to strengthen the hardware and software industries of Canada. Robert Gibson of Micromedia has "argued that government could do a great deal to support the Canadian industry by allowing the private sector to release government information" (p. 205). This would also allow them to be more competitive with American information industries, which do not have to worry about Crown Copyright.
3.) Crown Copyright: Canadian information industrialists see Crown Copyright as a barrier to them doing business, and "limits its ability to exploit the market potential of the data" (p. 208). It certainly puts them at a disadvantage when compared to companies in the United States, who have free access to government databases. They want to see the Canadian government do away with Crown Copyright altogether. "In his 1991-92 Annual Report, the present Information Commissioner, John Grace, states that Crown Copyright is an "anachronistic relic" which is "capriciously and arbitrarily invoked" and is incompatible with the spirit of the Access to Information Act" (p. 208).
4.) Public Access to Government Information in Electronic formats: public access to data that is stored in electronic form is increasingly limited, as information, once in printed form, is now only found in electronic form. (Statistics Canada comes to mind here.) As government has set an agenda to make government information a marketable commodity using a cost recovery policy, and increasingly works with private industry, public access to affordable government information becomes tenuous, as profit making becomes the main consideration. This is particularly true of those who are disenfranchised in this country and without the resources to pay for the information they require. The other problem is "[w]hether public access will be enhanced by commercial marketing of government databases is questionable, particularly when one goal is to get around the heavy costs associated with the Access to Information Privacy Acts" (p. 210). If a vendor has distribution rights to a database, it is considered published information, and is not covered by the Access to Information Privacy Acts, meaning that an individual Canadian must pay whatever the market will withstand for the information.
Since the 1984 cost recovery initiative by the Canadian government, information policy has treated government information as a commodity that can generate revenues and help reduce the federal deficit, however, government continues to express its willingness and desire to enhance access for the public. It wants to help support information industries, provide access to the public, commoditize government information, and keep Crown Copyright, a very ambivalent situation to say the least. All in all, it looks as if access to Canadian government information will be reduced for the majority of the public as digitization becomes the dissemination tool of choice for the government.
Nilsen, Kirsti. "Government Information Policy." Government Information Quarterly 11, No. 2 (1994): 191-209.
"In the late 1960s and 1970s, government policy recognized the existence of a public right to government information. In the mid-1980s, government information began to be defined as a corporate resource which needs to be "managed" in a cost-effective and coordinated way. In addition, information began to be seen as resource which could be commoditized and commercially exploited. Consequently, the public right concept has been de-emphasized in recent policy documents" (p. 192).
Olson, Linda M. "Reference Service Evaluation in Medium-Sized Academic Libraries: A Model." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 9, No. 6 (Jan. 1984): 322-329.
There is a lack of standards for the evaluation of reference service performance, no national standards, and no yardstick against which to measure it. (see note #1) The goal of Olson's research is to determine the quality of reference service given to the public in libraries, and hopes that it will be the basis for the development of a standardized reference evaluation model.
This model will provide library planners and management with a lot of information concerning the quality of reference service provided in their libraries. "Improvement of service must always be the overriding goal of the evaluation process if it is to succeed. Evaluation of any sort is bound to cause considerable staff discussion and in some cases outright resistance. Only when …evaluation becomes the routine rather than the exception should library management and staff consider using the evaluation results in personnel matters" (p. 328).
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Olszak, Lydia. "Mistakes and Failures at the Reference Desk." RQ 31 (Fall 1991): 39-49.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
O'Mahony, Daniel P. "State and Regional Service Strategies for an Electronic Federal Depository Library Program." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 4 (1996): 427-434.
Currently, the FDLP is undergoing rapid change, sparked by technological advancements, lack of support by Congress, financial realities, and the government's intention of disseminating all of its information electronically. However, the depository program would like to continue offering no-fee access to information, and even improve services to its user groups. O'Mahony believes that depository libraries should begin working with regional and state libraries to evaluate the needs of their patrons in this new electronic era.
Since FDLP must undergo structural changes anyway, discussions have addressed "[t]he concept of state and regional service strategies for electronic government information...to restructure the FDLP" (p. 428). Regional depository libraries are being overwhelmed by their service, collection, and administrative responsibilities, so the time has come for the FDLP to move towards a model which spreads some of these responsibilities to other libraries in the service area to facilitate a more comprehensive approach to providing service, especially in an electronic age. If the FDLP can develop a system built on cooperation, using an administrative body to oversee the region, no one library will be expected to take on more than it can handle. The bottom line is depository libraries should make use of any and every cooperative association they can, including affiliations in overlapping regions to efficiently and strategically meet the needs of its user base. Depository libraries might even consider teaming up with non-depository libraries, freenets, and regional Internet service providers to develop a gateway for government information dissemination. Examples of some working systems already in place include the University of Maine's depository library that services Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire; the Consortium of Rhode Island Academic and Research Libraries, which is utilizing many alliances such as the Ocean State Free Net; as well as South Carolina's decision to divide its regional depository responsibilities between two libraries to reduce the burden of administrative and service requirements, thereby increasing participation and the provision of government information.
GPO's Superintendent of Documents (SOD) should also play an integral role in developing new services and strategies to support the new direction the depository program is taking by mandating program-wide standards for service, the provision of training, administrative support, technical expertise, and identifying potential alliances.
For a cooperative state/regional model to work, a planning process to develop service strategies is needed and should include: 1.) Assignment of a team of librarians responsible for drafting, developing, and coordinating the plan and overseeing its implementation. 2.) A definition of the service area. 3.) Identification of regional partnerships which may include education associations, library networks, training organizations, freenets, Internet providers, depository libraries, as well as non-depository libraries. 4.) Assessment of regional needs to a.) identify the needs of users in relation to electronic information, b.) assessment of the technical infrastructure to ensure that it is adequate to provide information, c.) assessment of electronic storage capabilities in the service region, and d.) establishment of training programs to increase the proficiency of staff's Internet and computer skills. All will identify strengths and weaknesses that will need to be considered. 5.) Development of service strategies with goals that include acquisition patterns, storage collection, resource sharing, locator services, technical support, user support, and communication infrastructure, to name a few. In addition, the responsibilities for all participating members should be clearly defined. 6.) The drafting of cooperative service agreements. 7.) Review and evaluation of service strategies are needed in such a changing environment in order to continue to meet the needs of patrons.
With shrinking budgets, lack of congressional support, and the advancements made in electronic information dissemination, libraries must be prepared to meet the changes head-on, whether they like it or not. FDLP has always had a cooperative philosophy, and now must enhance it by taking advantage of local, state, and regional alliances to move the program into the 21st Century.
Parker, June D. "Evaluating Documents Reference Service and the Implications for Improvement." Journal of Government Information, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 49-70, 1996.
Some of the findings are as followed:
Within the realm of government documents in American federal depository libraries, what is known about their use comes mostly from surveys of users and quantitative studies. Important studies by Hernon and McClure have used the qualitative method of unobtrusive evaluation to focus in on the ability of reference librarians to answer questions with government documents, asking short factual questions. Some of the criticisms levied against them have been that since academic librarians often lead the patron to possible sources or demonstrate how certain indexes and databases work, rather them giving out answers to questions (which is supposed to develop library self-sufficiency in patrons), it is unfair for researchers to consider a non-answer, an incorrect one. In addition, since proxies are aware of the correct answers, this also changes the dynamics of a reference encounter. (see note #2)
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Postema, Beth, and Terry L. Weech. "The Use of Government Publications: A Twelve Year Perspective." Government Publications Review 18, (May/June 1991): 223-238.
Summary of article's important points:
1. Only eighteen studies were done on the use of government documents in the years preceding 1978, including seven citation studies, six user surveys, and five library surveys (covering over forty years of library research). The years from 1978-1989 have seen a great increase in interest, with twenty-five studies published. Circulation studies, three citation studies, six library surveys, and thirteen user surveys have been identified.
2. Findings from the last twelve years of research bring some of the following conclusions to light: 1.) Patrons of academic and special libraries make the greatest use of government documents, 2.) school libraries make the least use of government information sources, 3.) the analyzation of citation studies show that of subject literature, government documents represent a small percentage of information used, although, "[c]itation studies do seem to suggest the underutilization of government publications compared with the use of other cited resources, [w]hat citation studies do not reveal, however, is the level of importance of the cited government publications relative in comparison with other cited sources. It might be the case that the cited government publications are much more important to the work being reported than the other cited sources" (p. 227), 4.) economists, political scientists, and social scientists, in general, use government documents more than any other group in academic libraries, 5.) political science students use government information more than any other students in the social sciences, while economics faculty are moderate-to-heavy users, 6.) the most used documents are those published in the three years prior to use, 7.) one-third of social scientists use government documents heavily, or more than sixteen times during an academic year, 8.) those who do not use them, cite that access to the information takes more time than the information is worth, and believe the information is irrelevant to their discipline.
3. There are limitations inherent in all studies cited before and after 1978, including: 1.) citation studies are obviously biased toward academic literature, 2.) user studies have the problems of survey reliability, non-standardization of the questions asked, and data collection techniques to overcome, 3.) the perception of the librarian is the only one obtained when library surveys are undertaken.
1. Statistical data far outweighed any other reason economists have for consulting government information.
2. Over 60% of those who used government information consulted documents issued in the previous three years. (see note #1)
3. Paper was the preferred format for those who use government information, with only 19.2% using microformats, and nearly 17% taking advantage of machine readable sources.
4. Many libraries do not have government collections put into the OPACS and circulation systems. (see note #2)
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. What will this do to the practice of archiving information? If the government believes this finding to be true, will they decide not to archive? Will federal depository libraries be the ones that will have to undertake this task?
2. Would use of government documents increase if they were more accessible in library catalogues. I would say that even many gov docs librarians are unaware of large portions of their collections. How will the mainstreaming of gov docs affect the dissemination of them in the future. I guess if they are put in the stacks, they will have to be inputted into the library catalogues, and thus be more accessible. Maybe mainstreaming is not such a bad idea after all. Will ask her about it.
Powell, Ronald R. "Reference Effectiveness: A Review of Research." Library and Information Science Research 6 (1984): 6-19.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Quinn, Brian. "Improving the Quality of Telephone Reference Service." Reference Services Review (Winter 1995): 39-49.
Telephone reference could be an important component of a library's overall service provision, but many libraries and their staff overlook it, find it to be a nuisance, or "is considered secondary and subordinate to serving on-site patrons" (p. 39). Academic libraries seem to be less involved in telephone reference , which may be due to academic librarians believing that their primary role is to provide instruction, not information. "This belief may change as the quality of telephone reference becomes increasingly important due to emerging technologies that are becoming increasingly prevalent on many campuses. Dial-in access via personal computer and modem now enables many students to search library catalogs and other databases remotely. It is no longer uncommon to have students calling the reference desk from home with questions concerning the material they have found online. In addition, some patrons may prefer to communicate their queries via e-mail" (p. 40).
An organized telephone reference program can:
Characteristics of Good Quality Telephone Reference Service: Accuracy Is Not the Only Thing to Look Out For.
A Survey of the Literature: is sketchy at best, and somewhat difficult in helping to determine the quality of telephone reference because most studies look only at accuracy and give no consideration to the other elements that constitute quality.
What they did:
What they found:
From these studies, it is clear that telephone reference can become more effective, and more consideration should be given to speed, promotion, etiquette, policies, and versatility. What can be done to improve the quality of service?
Telephone reference service provision is an underutilized aspect of the reference department in many libraries, and given secondary status. Training for telephone reference is almost non-existent. Reference librarians do not see the telephone as a reference tool.
Rettig, James. "Future Reference: 'Sired by a Hurricane , Dam'd by an Earthquake'." The Reference Librarian 54 (1996): 75-94.
Reference service had its origins in a tradition that stood for the good of the public: as a way to help the public better itself. Since the 1870s, reference service has had an element of timelessness, with few changes occurring; that is, until the last decade. The last ten years have seen external and internal pressures affected reference departments, and "[t]here is a sense that a new reference service is struggling to emerge. As these external and internal forces build in strength, we can begin to discern the outline of future reference and can sense that hurricane force winds of change outside of libraries and earthquake-like pressures within will lead to a service that operates much differently…even as reference service's fundamental mission will remain unchanged" (p. 76).
The Past Decade has brought: a hurricane of changes.
Rethinking in the 1990s: Change must come to traditional reference service provision.
All these new trends focus on individual needs, requiring librarians to be client-oriented and more mobile, rather than content-oriented and anchored to a desk. They are all win/win situations for both staff and patrons!! "The hurricane of external changes and the earthquake of internal changes that have come together to produce the emerging Future Reference promise to produce an offspring much gentler and more productive than Twain's destructive, albeit colorful, lout. If reference librarians assess their environment, learn their users' needs and desires, and capitalize on opportunities offered in that environment, they will be able to develop a service program that meets users' expectations, that is focused on the mission of reference service, and that is adaptable enough that it will not suffer serious upheaval even when new forces within or without pack the power of a hurricane or an earthquake" (p. 92-93).
Rettig, James. "The Convergence of the Twain or Titanic Collision? BI and Reference in the 1990s' Sea of Change." Reference Services Review (Spring 1995): 7-20.
There seems to be two widely diverging views on BI: 'that it is the most important future consideration', versus, 'it has no future'. Rettig cites research by Roma Harris as enlightening for the topic, particularly her articles Bibliographic Instruction in Public Libraries: A Question of Philosophy (1989), and Bibliographic Instruction: The Views of Academic, Special, and Public Librarians (1992). She found that librarians in academic institutes tend to participate in bibliographic instruction more so than special librarians, who tend more towards providing their users with the information they need. Harris found that public librarians seem to fall in between the two extremes. Do academic librarians tend to show their patrons how to find the information themselves rather than to provide them with the answers, as a way to teach library skills that will last a lifetime? How can librarians best serve their patrons?
The Philosophy of Reference:
Historically, there has been three, long-debated methods of reference provision: 1.) the conservative position, which can be equated to instruction, 2.) the liberal position, which can be equated with providing the patron with the information they seek, 3.) the moderate position, which covers the middle ground. However, do reference librarians faithfully adhere to a particular philosophy and strictly follow it? And do reference philosophies help to shape reference departments? The author "suspect[s] that librarians' desire to do what is best for each patron makes reference practice highly situational and…highly inconsistent" (p. 9). The other problem is that there is no clear-cut and concise definition for what constitutes bibliographic instruction.
Values, beliefs, and semantic ambiguity have made a definition for BI problematic. The BI community has rejected many put forth in the academic literature, especially those that do not integrate a sense of user independence into the equation. Researchers such as Mellon and Frick believe that the purpose of BI is to develop independent use of library facilities. Obviously, others see BI as something very different. Both BI and reference service in general, have been subject to the external forces of change; change, in the form of automation, budget cutbacks, and the proliferation of information services (i.e. Prodigy) and resources. In addition, both have felt the pressures issuing from internal forces of change. For instance, librarians working longer hours on the reference desk; more responsibilities to fulfill, without the addition of extra staff; and a fundamental change in the way BI is perceived: "[i]t has shifted its emphasis from the teaching of tools and tool-based strategies to teaching critical thinking techniques" (p. 11). However, the thing that had more impact than all the others was research studies. Work done by Fister and Valentine, tend to conclude that there is no positive correlation between using the BI strategies set down by librarians, and undergraduates' ability to proceed through the research process. In other words, they seem to find suitable strategies themselves to reach the same end, and therefore, how valuable is BI? And should we say that one person's strategy for finding information is necessarily better than someone else's, or even assume that everyone can be instructed? Librarians themselves vacillate between suggesting that the primary focus of their profession is to offer service, and to offer instruction. Some librarians believe the focus should shift from teaching the mechanics, to teaching the process. There is quite a difference between the two.
Importance of Systems Design:
Librarians must realize that users will always choose the easiest way to do their research, and do not appreciate overly-complex or ineffective library information systems. The fact that many are so problematic, forces users into needing bibliographic instruction. It is like comparing using DOS with the point-and-click features of Windows. Which would you rather use on your own? Librarians should "devote energy to making systems easier to use and thereby minimize the need for compensatory user instruction…Designing systems in which these needs are paramount, designing systems that don't require instructional manuals, designing systems that give users a feeling of control over their work will certainly serve our users' needs. It will equally serve our needs and aspirations, for it will allow us to shift efforts from teaching the mechanical how-to of information systems to higher, more intellectually challenging and longer-term issues such as teaching the need for critical thinking" (p. 14).
By providing user-friendly designs for information systems, librarians can provide their users with a priceless gift: the luxury to concentrate on information assessment, rather than on information retrieval. With all of the technological advancements seen in the last decade, is it too much for users to expect that they can be given the freedom to make their own decisions and conceptualize their needs? With so many stresses coming from living in the 1990s, including a lack of time to do everything that is expected of us, the buzz word is 'multi-task', and letting technology help us to achieve our goals. So shouldn't libraries design systems that make life easier and consider the impact of societal trends? Rettig writes that "[c]hanges in both BI and reference ought to provide fertile soil in which the value of freedom will flourish…both reference and BI must surely change to avoid a titanic collision…" (p. 15).
Future Tasks for Reference and BI:
Rodger, Eleanor Jo, and Jane Goodwin. "To See Ourselves as Others See Us: A Cooperative, Do-It-Yourself Reference Accuracy Study." The Reference Librarian 18 (Summer 1987): 135-147.
The staff and administrators of the Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL), Fairfax, Virginia believe that evaluation of information services should be an ongoing process, and although they knew what types of questions they were asked, what sources were used, how many questions came into the reference department, and what kind of services were requested, they did not know "How well are we handling the questions the public asks?" (p. 135). They decided to use unobtrusive testing to judge the accuracy and quality of the answers provided in their library. They assumed that they were doing better than the usual 50-60% accuracy (as most libraries do), and wanted to find out if that was the case, as well as how they could improve their reference service. Although unobtrusive studies are those which are normally done to libraries unknowingly, they had the model of the Maryland study (see article #28) to follow, and really wanted their own librarians to be involved in the process and not be excluded from the design and collection of data. They believed that if the librarians were involved in the process, they would have faith in the study and be more accepting of the findings. (see note #1) In keeping with this cooperative plan, they agreed that no individual librarians would be blamed, but rather, the library system would be seen to take responsibility for any failures in service. The problem they faced was a shortage of funds to carry out an expensive study using paid proxies to ask questions unobtrusively, and as a result, decided to use staff from three neighboring library systems in Washington counties as unobtrusive callers. What began as a necessity, turned into a learning experience for all librarians involved because it gave them a chance "of seeing themselves as others see them" (p. 138).
What they did:
What they found:
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Ryan, Susan, M. "Square Peg in a Round Hole: Electronic Information and the Federal Depository Library Program." Journal of Government Information 24, No. 5 (1997): 361-375.
A Synopsis of Major Points:
1. The U.S. Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) has been in existence for more than 150 years, and has as a mandate to provide the public with access to government publications. The FDLP is a cooperative arrangement between select libraries and the federal government. There are nearly 1400 federal depository libraries in the United States.
2. It is administered by the Government Printing Office (GPO), which has distributed government publications in paper, electronic, and microfiche format to libraries across the United States, however, the very existence of the FDLP is now being called into question because of the speed with which technology is advancing. In particular, the rapid progression of electronic information systems and the government's policy to disseminate their publications in both CD-ROM format and on the Internet through GPO Access.
3. One of the biggest problems affecting the FDLP is the availability of government information through other avenues, including the Library of Congress' "Thomas Legislative Information Service", through fee-based private sector companies, and on websites posted by individual agencies of the federal government. Another, is how libraries and their staff learn to cope with the new world of electronic information: how to access, navigate, archive, and teach the public the steps they need to be network literate. And finally, the future of depository libraries is called into question because as the technology increased rapidly, there was a slow response on the part of the FDLP, due in part to its reluctance to move beyond the traditional role it had always played, as well as the policies issued from Congress, namely, the provision of funds to move the FDLP into a program which embraced the electronic advancements made in information dissemination. The Depository Library Council (DLC) urged the GPO to integrate electronic information formats into the federal depository program, and used the "Depository Library Act of 1962" to demand that all forms of government information be made available to the public.
4. In 1989, the libraries involved in the depository program received the CD-ROM version of the "Census Test", as well as thirteen other titles published by the government.
5. Two important pieces of legislation were passed in subsequent years: 1.) In 1993, the OMB revised OMB Circular-A 130, which acknowledged the depository system by issuing policy statements advocating that federal government agencies implement a system by which to supply the GPO with all information dissemination products for distribution to the federal depository library program, 2.) Congress passed Public Law 103-40, "Government Printing Office Electronic Information Enhancement Act of 1993 (more commonly known as "GPO Access Act"), which mandated that the public be provided access to all electronic government information. This legislation delegated three tasks for GPO: 1.) GPO Locator Service: the Superintendent of Documents must establish and maintain an electronic directory for federal government information in electronic format, called the GPO Locator Service, 2.) Online Access: it is also must provide Internet access to the "Federal Register", the "Congressional Record", and other government publications, and 3.) Storage Facility: the GPO is required to establish an online storage facility for stored electronic data files indefinitely for the purposes of archiving. This service is called the "Information Depository for Electronic Access" or IDEA, and it began operations on March 31, 1994. Access would be provided through the Wide Area Information Server (WAIS) to federal depository libraries in exchange for them allowing free access to the general public.
By 1995, GPO was forced to provide free access to "GPO Access" because of pressure from special interest groups and the private sector, which pointed out that they were entitled to the information as tax payers. The other reason was that the emergence of the WWW made it possible for federal agencies, as well as commercial services, to mount websites for their publications quite easily. With pressures to reduce printed publications, agencies offering free access to their databases produced a win/win situation for them and the public.
6. In 1995, Congress announced that all information provided to the depositories would be in electronic form by the end of 1998, leaving only twenty-four titles in paper format. This brought about an outcry from depositories. How could a totally electronic environment be attainable in two years? (See note #1) Libraries won a small victory, as Congress agreed to a more gradual implementation process for the electronic transition, and on February 29, 1996, the first Internet-only electronic government document was posted. The other problem for depository libraries was the requirement that they provide Internet access to the public by October 1, 1996.
7. The federal depository program is in a state of flux for many reasons, including their new mandates, lack of congressional funding and support, and an ideology based historically on print dissemination. ."..[T]he agency has failed to embrace a new dissemination model and instead has tried to fit its square peg traditional mission into the round hole of the electronic age. GPO correctly identifies the reasons for the failure of its current distribution model: federal agencies bypass GPO by producing, distributing, and storing their own information; federal agencies are under pressure to treat their information as commercial assets to be sold for revenue; federal agencies are entering into agreements with private publishers to produce titles previously in the public domain; and laws passed by Congress allow agencies to copyright government information, effectively removing it from the FDLP" (p. 368). By not mandating otherwise, Congress has encouraged federal agencies to bypass the GPO and, therefore, depository libraries: "Executive agency documents have traditionally made up two-thirds of depository titles and the decline in agency documents, rather than congressional documents, is what has hit the FDLP hard" (p. 371). (see note #2)
8. As GPO Access' success on the Internet grows, and more and more people download their own electronic documents from personal computers, what does this spell for the depository program? It will have to justify its existence in an environment which is predominately electronic because of the costs involved, however, it does help to preserve historical government information. What that means of course, is that its role will move from key disseminators of information to storage facilities of electronic government information, and the question will be, are depository libraries willing to continue to bear the additional costs for status when non-depository libraries can serve their primary clientele with government information by going to agency websites and GPO Access? As the author asks, "[w]hy would any depository library continue in a totally electronic program?" (p. 369). And if so, will they download and print off the information to allow for better access to their patrons? And if they do, is that not defeating the purpose of having an electronic collection? For now, GPO has offered little guidance to depository libraries struggling with these issues.
9. Will libraries stay in the program solely because they do not want to forfeit their government collections, which have taken them years to compile?
10. And what does all this mean for the public who can access government information easier, and in a more timely manner if they visit the Library of Congress' "Thomas Legislative Information Service", or services offered by private sector companies enhancing access to government information?
"Ironically, the very technology that the depository library fought so hard to include in the FDLP may be what eventually destroys it" (p. 373).
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. How could librarians be trained to navigate in an electronic environment? There doesn't seem to be any allocation of money for training librarians in the searching techniques they need to tackle the Internet. I wonder if there was any training program in Canada? If the federal government is saving so much money through its paper reduction program, and still expecting libraries to provide access electronically, who is paying for all the hardware and browser software? Full depository libraries may receive government information or access to it for free, but is it really free, if there is no money allocated for training staff, no money for computer equipment, and no large-scale program to instruct the public in the use of electronic information. I called Quebec, and no one seems to know much about the kiosk program, apparently it is very up in the air, no information has been provided to "Information Quebec" on it, and seems to be something they would like to do. If they do get it off the ground, will there be any training for the public? I think some of the issues will have to well stated in your book because if the Canadian situation is the same as the American, then the libraries seem to have gotten a raw deal, and the government should allocate money to the depository program for training.
Saffo, Paul. "The Information Superhighway is a 'Quivering Oxymoron' and other Musings on Government Information Policy in an Era of Rapidly Evolving Information Technologies." Journal of Government Information 22, No. 4 (1995): 289-296.
An Interview with Information Futurist, Paul Saffo. Interviewed by Steven D. Zink.
There are some prevalent issues influencing society's ability to access the myriad of publications and internal documents compiled with increasing fervor in this age of tremendous information explosion, and the Information Superhighway, which Saffo says is still in its utopian stage. Although "[m]any people are saying that this is going to revitalize democracy…The real problem with electronic technologies today is that they create tremendous stress on governmental systems because they leave no time for reflection by elected representatives" (p. 290). This is one of the major trends discernable in government practices today. Rapid change in the structure of government departments and policies: changes that have had an incredible influence in access to information.
Saffo does not believe that the government can fund the national information infrastructure because it will be too expensive, and that instead, it should act as a catalyst and in the future, as a regulator, rather than a controlling body because it is too big to be controlled. What about universal access? Saffo believes that there is a myth surrounding the ideology of universal access, based on everyone having access to libraries. "Even if libraries were widely available, people would still have to know enough to be able to use the access provided by the library. We seem to have to hang on to the myth of universal access and see it as a Platonic ideal…" (p. 292). There should be a push toward having more private sector companies disseminating government information, and open the market so that neither government nor private companies exclusively control information owned by the people. Of course, privacy issues connected to data matching are issues that must be addressed. Saffo believes the public will probably end up being forced to pay for an element of privacy in the future.
Information: to have or have not? Saffo sees it more as the difference between 'knows' and 'know-nots', rather than 'haves' and 'have-nots', and sees younger people in society as having the savvy to efficiently gain access to information in the future. Libraries will have a role as long as they change their outlook on the role they play in society: "Libraries were originally created in an era of scarce information. Librarian's jobs were to collect and thus make information available to a larger group of people. In that sense, librarians were sort of mad information hoarders, who were hoarding in the public interest. Now, information is so abundant that trying to collect it in one place is a pointless exercise" (p. 294-295). Not so anymore, with the realization that the days when libraries could collect everything 'just-in-case' are now over, and an increased necessity for librarians to visualize a rebirth and to help their patrons muddle through all the information to find what is pertinent to them.
Schumacher, Mark. "The Continuing Debate on Library Reference Service: A Mini-Symposium." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 13 (Nov. 1987): 278-279.
The Journal of Academic Librarianship put out a symposium on the accuracy of reference service in its May 1987 issue, which provided the findings of work done by Hernon and McClure (see previous article) and their 55% rule. Reactions from a reference librarian are chronicled here.
Mark Schumacher agrees with Hernon and McClure that librarians certainly should be able to do better than 55% accuracy rate on factual questions, they should not be abrasive with patrons, nor should they simply say 'they do not know' when given an inquiry. He also agrees that the authors have raised questions which get at some of the fundamental issues currently involved in reference service, namely: the crisis of cutbacks, continuing education, staffing decisions, and the relationship between technical services and those on the front lines of reference service. As a reference librarian, working 12-20 hours a week serving the public, he has some insight into the problems.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Schwartz, Diane G., and Dottie Eakin. "Reference Service Standards, Performance Criteria, and Evaluation." The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 1986): 4-8.
When the University of Michigan wanted to establish criteria for the evaluation of librarian performance, the Reference Department at the Alfred Taubman Medical Library decided to develop a set of standards. This article describes the process, but more importantly, how it affected the evaluative aspect of reference librarians' work. Thirty-one qualities were identified as being associated with good reference service, qualities which fit into three distinct categories: behavioral characteristics, knowledge, and reference skills. (see list on page 5 of article). Having done this, they did a review of the literature to see how other libraries had implementing reference evaluation, and found that the taking of surveys or unobtrusive studies were the two most commonly used avenues. The survey to determine satisfaction, and the unobtrusive study to pinpoint accuracy rates of librarians. Because both would be time consuming or expensive, and could not be done on an ongoing basis, they tried to devise something that could be done in-house on a regular basis. They developed a checklist with three levels of performance: 1.) "always performs at this level, 2.) usually performs at this level, 3.) performance needs improvement" (p. 6). At least two librarians were scheduled to work together, and after four months they all filled out the checklist for every member of the team. Problems associated with this kind of evaluation procedure include the stress of evaluating peer performance (see note #1 below). This is particularly true if the process is tied to merit or salary considerations. They found that because of this, the procedure could be quite destructive, competitive, and there is the added problem of subjectivity and inconsistent judgement. In the end, the library decided to use the checklists for self- evaluation, in hopes that the librarians would be honest with themselves, and divorced the method from the merit review process. The evaluation process has continued, and has been decided favourable in providing the l ibrarians with an insight into what is expected of them on a daily basis, and given them insight into their own individual deficiencies.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Durrance, Joan C. "Reference Success: Does the 55% Rule Tell the Whole Story?" Library Journal, Vol. 114 (April 1989): 31-36.
Some important points made in the article are:
Seavey, Charles. "Fixing the Depository Library System: Some Thoughts on Vacuum Cleaners, the Manifesto, and the State of the Government Information Distribution System, with a Modest Proposal to Remedy the Various Ills Therein." Journal of Government Information 21, No. 2 (1997): 77-81.
The author reviews Peter Hernon's analogy of the current depository program being likened to a vacuum cleaner.
1. Hernon has said that the vacuum has three principal parts: (see figure #1 on page 78) 1.) Suction power, which is likened to the acquisition policies for government documents that are managed by the GPO and the Library Programs Service, 2.) the engine, which is the processing of government information through the Library Programs Service, including classification, cataloguing, and distribution, 3.) the vacuum bag, which represents the 1400 depository libraries that make up the network.
2. The system is currently overloaded due to a series of factors: 1.) the depository system or bag has demanded that the engine acquire more and more government information, 2.) however, the Library Programs Service (or engine) has not been able to keep up with the demands because of financial shortfalls, 3.) the depository libraries have asked for more material to be included in the system, but they have not been discriminate about what they have included in their collections, due to two factors: many librarians hold the ideology that more is better, especially if it is quote/unquote 'free'. (see note #1)
3. However, more can be a problem, especially if the documents are not relevant to the user groups served by particular libraries. 'Free' and 'more is better' have simply changed the rules and caused the focus to be washed away. As a result, the engine and the bag are overloaded with material that may be non-relevant, but more importantly, quite inaccessible due to no one even knowing what the collections are comprised of, and a shortage of funds for time to find out and space to properly display the information.
4. Previous suggestions to some of the problems: 1.) although Hernon has offered a discussion forum in his article, no solutions have been offered, except his desire to separate the depository system and the LPS from the GPO, 2.) Gary Cornwell, and associates in their article "Manifesto", have called for Congress to provide more funding for the LPS to handle the increased workload, 3.) Bruce Morton's reaction to Cornwell's "Manifesto" has raised the following issues: a.) given the basic mission of the depository program, there is too much information in the "List of Classes", b.) since the depository program includes more academic and specialized libraries than public libraries, doesn't that limit the accessibility of the general population?, c.) the "Manifesto" and depository spokespersons are drawn, not from the community, but from academic institutions, d.) how likely is it that Congress will provide more money for the program?, e.) libraries may say they are swiftly moving into the electronic age, but how many can even provide CD-ROM access to the 1990 Census, let alone the sea of electronic government information?
5. This paper is not interested in analyzing the new frontier of electronic information, but rather focuses on the handling of microfiche and paper formats that are very problematic. If solutions can be found to these collections, maybe depository libraries will be better able to take on electronic dissemination, especially when change is going to come whether we like it or not. Some suggestions made by the author: 1.) Libraries in the system do not need everything issued by the government, so cut the "List of Classes" by forty percent. Librarians should make the cuts based on user needs, and not, on fiscal realities, and librarians should imagine that they have to actually pay for the government documents because if they did, they would be more selective. This philosophy, along with an indepth collection development policy, would cut down on the number of documents going into libraries. (see note #2) 2.) One must question whether government information is best disseminated through academic and special libraries when it is supposed to be available to the general population. (I think what Seavey means here is that people would be more likely go to a public library, and the fact that only certain user groups are serviced at academic and specialized libraries.) Perhaps Congress should authorize more public libraries depositories. 3.) The idea that regional depositories collect everything and keep the collection forever should be discontinued because the vacuum cleaner is clogged and needs to be fixed if it is to continue its usefulness.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. But is more actually better in a system where even the cataloguing and space allocations are problematic for most libraries, to say nothing of staff considerations, and training? And whatever happened to collection development policies, of which I am queen, as you know?
2. And then, a well-constructed system of referrals would come into play. Throughout past decades, especially after the 1960s 'walk on the moon', libraries were very well funded, and there was not the amount of information there is today to deal with. As a result, libraries could theoretically have a universe of knowledge under one roof; they could collect everything of quality, but those days have changed with the explosion of the Information Age, the explosion in the publishing world, and the onslaught of technology, coupled with budgetary cutbacks to libraries. Everything has changed, and the days of 'just-in-case' are over. The mentality really must be 'just-in-time'.
Shapiro, Beth J. "Ongoing Training and Innovative Structural Approaches." Journal of Academic Librarianship (May 1987): 75-76).
As a deputy director of a library, Shapiro says that as much as libraries and librarians do not want to believe the findings of Hernon and McClure, nor the issues which have been raised by them, once they are carefully examined, they are not that surprising after all.
Some of her observations:
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Sherrer, Johannah. "Thriving in Changing Times: Competencies for Today's Reference Librarians." The Reference Librarian 54 (1996): 11-20.
"Libraries are in the midst of a revolution. Technology is dramatically changing library practices and procedures. More significantly, technology is changing user expectations" (p. 11). Now, more than ever, successful reference service is attained by helping one person at a time: using technological advancements to provide quality service, with specialized services being the buzz word of the 1990s. To be successful, reference librarians must have the appropriate competencies of knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and they must never lose sight of the individual user and the intermediary skills needed in these complex times. Reference work requires a linking together of personality, skills, knowledge, attitude, and effective interviewing techniques if it is to be successful and provide the information needed to fill the knowledge gap in the user.
A library school degree is a good base for knowledge, however, librarians need to increase their understanding of information systems, software development, and technological advances. Even more than that, "[r]eal value comes with the ability to move on, to acquire the needed technological skills and even more importantly to leave them behind when they become outdated" (p. 14). Successful reference librarians are interested in continually growing in the profession and take on the responsibility to involve themselves in self-directed learning.
Other important skills and attitudes needed for the future success of reference work:
Most libraries are having problems with staff layoffs, budget cuts, and incredible changes experienced through technological advancements, and they are trying to provide good quality service by reorganizing reference departments, and using different staffing and economic models. "Good service, however, is the result of personal commitment and idealism tempered with reasonableness that combine to produce satisfied users. Paradigms aside, libraries are only as good as their front lines. Their consistency, success, and value are judged at that point. In today's world that front line may be a person or a computer screen but in either case it must be friendly, approachable, intuitive, and service centered" (p. 16). Focus on the individual user!
Shill, Harold. "NTIS: Potential Roles and Government Information Policy Frameworks." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 3 (1996): 287-298.
The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) began in 1945, and acted as a clearinghouse for U.S. research and development; since then, it has gone through many changes, including efforts to privatize the organization. The Clinton Administration sees it as a good model for an information dissemination agency. In 1992, NTIS released the following as its mission statement: "The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is a self-supporting Federal agency that actively collects and organizes scientific, technical, engineering and business-related information generated by the United States Government and foreign sources and makes it available for sale to the research and development community, businesses and the general public" (p. 288). In addition, it handles Freedom of Information Act requests, CD-ROM mastering, and database dissemination for other federal government agencies. It calls itself self-supporting, and that means that it must generate enough revenue by selling its information products to at least break even: hard to do when many agencies bypass their services and supply the information directly, and since technical reports of the federal government cannot be copyrighted, it is possible for those in the private sector to copy and sell them. "Politically, NTIS cannot undercut its private-sector competitors by lowering its prices significantly without risking the charge of unfair competition. Financially, NTIS cannot price its products and services too high without losing customers" (p. 288).
In 1994, business and industry were responsible for 71% of the paper products sold; government clients bought 13%; while the academic community purchased 16%. As far as electronic information, business and industry 53%, government 41%, and academia only 6% of total sales.
NTIS is an important player for archiving technical documents having archived more than 2.6 million since the 1940s, including information for NASA, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy. Federal agencies have been mandated to provide NTIS with all of their non-classified reports since the American Technology Preeminence Act of 1991.
Two initiatives by NTIS: FedWorld and ADSTAR have helped to position the agency for the future. FedWorld was the prototype for electronic gateways, and is currently accessing information from more than 130 federal databases, provides public access, and allows NTIS to attract new users through its website (www.fedworld.gov) which "features access to documents of current interest, major U.S. government sites arranged alphabetically and by subject area, the Commerce Information Locator Service (CILS), White House information, and major foreign sites of interest to the NTIS user community..."(p. 290). ADSTAR (Automated Document Storage and Retrieval System) is another important component because it enables the agency to scan print and electronic documents from anywhere, and to send copies to clients. Currently, they have a two day turnaround time for patron requests.
Six potential roles are envisioned for NTIS: 1.) a super-agency for international scientific and technical information (STI), 2.) the federal government's central repository and dissemination agency, 3.) have sole responsibility for the dissemination of federal government documents, as well as the archiving of both electronic and print STIs, 4.) an agency that controls government-wide dissemination for STI, 5.) it will become a government corporation, 6.) continue as is.
Having an organization of knowledgeable staff and strong leadership, with vision, NTIS seems to have a bright future, but there are problems with organizational shortcomings and vulnerabilities. Politically, there is still a push to privatize the organization; it may lose revenues because of documents being posted on web and gopher sites; and it will always be shortchanged by existing copyright legislation which makes it impossible for it to protect intellectual property.
Shuler, John A. "Civic Librarianship: Possible New Role for Depository Libraries in the Next Century?" Journal of Government Information 23, No. 4 (1996): 419-425.
The author makes some very interesting points about the dissemination of government information:
1. For the past two hundred years, government officials have distributed public information in a number of ways, including the use of public radio (one only has to think of Clinton's continued use of radio on Sundays), free subscriptions to government publications, the postal system, television, and through the organization of federal depository libraries, which have played an historical role in the dissemination of government information. Most often, particular libraries were chosen because of their links to institutions having social or political power structures. The people were well served by the cooperation that existed between libraries and elected officials, and as time went on, these libraries became important gatekeepers of public knowledge, and providers of civic awareness. "Depository libraries, as organizational forms, marry the physical and human capital resources of the local libraries with the human capital and skills of government information librarians, along with the social capital generated by relationships and arrangements shared among the participating institutions" (p. 421).
2. Over the last thirty-five years, there has been an undermining of the gatekeeping roles of elected officials and depository libraries, in the form of two major developments: 1.) the powerful network of information infrastructure that has connected computers across the globe to the Internet, means that citizens no longer need to rely on being geographically situated near a federal depository library to get access to a world of government information, (see note #1) 2.) the revival of a concurrent antigovernment ideology that stresses that individual rights have priority over the ideals of a 'public good'. What this entails are a number of demands for governmental reform and reorganization: 1.) the reduction of red tape and a smaller, decentralized federal government, 2.) innovative systems to distribute government products and services, 3.) the desire for local and state governments to take back some of the responsibilities they have lost since the mid-1930s to the federal government, 4.) more of an emphasis on nongovernment organizations, and 5.) the deregulation of large economic organizations, such as phone companies and the banking industry.
3. All of these developments have an effect on libraries, including how to deal with the technical aspects of collecting government information in an electronic age; how libraries can continue to provide 'free' access to government information that is very expensive to collect and disseminate; and is continuing to provide separate departments for government information "still serve a common good?" (p. 422).
4. There are many burdens related to being a federal depository library, which include the commitment to staff training, the purchase of hardware/software equipment, and the need for constant management. Many libraries believe that because these government collections are not used to the extent that other collections are, the burdens and responsibilities are too great, and with budgetary pressures, some may decide to give up their depository status, especially now when direct ownership of paper collections will soon be a thing of the past.
5. The author believes that civic librarianship and the development of 'community information organizations' (CIOs) can help libraries to use the electronic resources of the government and help libraries to become more involved in their communities in the form of outreach and education programs. Librarians will have to find their niche in a changing world in which tangibles may be a thing of the past, if they want to continue in their role as information mediators between the government and the people. This role is particularly ironic in an age when citizens can access the information from many other sites instead of coming into the library. "Ultimately, if government information librarians wish to reclaim their traditional rhetoric of "documents to the people," they are going to have to reformulate a new relationship among the physical, human, and social capital. In the nineteenth-century universe of depository libraries, physical and human capital were heavily invested at the expense of social capital" (p. 423).
6. There will be many problems and obstacles to overcome as the transition from paper to electronic continues to move full speed ahead, including how citizens will know what are valid sites of government information? what about corrupt data? will the sites be anything more than ephemeral? Librarians can see their future as liberating rather than chaotic. They will be able to explore new territory, and experience more productive relationships with their patrons searching for government information, and help them through their frustrations with the political system. In contrast with traditional government librarianship, which "focuses too much on "where" the information is coming from rather than where it should be going" (p. 424). Civic librarianship concentrates instead on supporting active public participation and on helping to create an arena of public dialogue and problem solving; and it can help to restore ideals of democracy, which were based on a solid communication system linking the people with elected officials. "The powerful integration of computers and telecommunications is replacing many of society's traditional "self-correcting mechanisms" forged by the printing press. These mechanisms include newspapers, books, magazines, pamphlets, journals, and newsletters. The national medium of information exchange, at least through the early part of this century, was the public postal service. These public resources, bundled together in this fashion in one building, create and sustain opportunities for citizens to learn, consider, debate, and exchange ideas. But that is true only because the libraries, reading rooms, lecture halls, and accessible government services generate further relationships and increase the formation of social capital" (p. 425).
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. And I say that is great when one considers the families who live in small outports across Newfoundland, and a multitude of other places which dot the planet. Why should only those who have physical access be the haves? That is why I have always seen the value of digital libraries.
Skrzeszewski, Stan. "A National Vision for Canada's Information Infrastructure." Government Information in Canada /Information gouvernementale au Canada Vol. 1, no. 4.5 (1995). Available: http://www.usask.ca/library/gic/v1n4/skrzeszewski/stan.html
Stan Skrzeszewski is the Chief Executive Officer of Canada's Coalition for Public Information (CPI), an organization that advocates access to the information highway for all, stemming from a belief "that the new information technologies have the potential to transform Canadian society from one that was dependent on agriculture, resource extraction and industrial production to one that is based on a less environmentally damaging, self-sustaining, post-industrial model, that is, an information society" (p. 1). An infrastructure is needed that is economical, and based on the tenets of democracy and social equity, and which provides access to information and creates a venue for communication. Skrzeszewski has identified three strategies which the CPI sees as integral to the development of an information society:
Sprehe, J. Timothy. "Ways to Think about User Fees for Federal Information Products." Government Information Quarterly 13, No. 2 (1996): 175-186.
Federal government agencies are now providing information to the public on microfiche, paper, fax-on-demand, disks, and through Internet websites, and wonder if instituting user fees is not a bad idea. This at a time when budgets are being cut, there is a demand for reductions in government spending, and movement to allow the public more access to more information. User fees would help the agencies to recoup some of their losses, but should they or shouldn't they?
Rationale for user fees: Title 5 of the Independent Offices Appropriations Act of 1952 states that "a reasonable charge will be assessed against each identifiable recipient for benefits derived from Federal activities beyond those received by the general public" (p. 176). Revisions of Circular A-130 "set user charges for information dissemination products at a level sufficient to recover the cost of dissemination but no higher. They shall exclude from calculation of the charges costs associated with original collection and processing of the information" (p. 176). And the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 states " [w]ith respect to information dissemination, each agency shall not, except where specifically authorized by statute, establish user fees for public information that exceed the cost of dissemination" (p. 176). No higher than the cost of dissemination, and no inclusion of the costs for acquisition and collection. There should be no attempt at making a profit!! But a way of getting around the issue is for agencies to provide the public with free basic forms of the information they are obliged to have, and charge user fees for value-added information, or enhanced forms of dissemination that are both expensive for the government to produce (CD-ROMs, microfiche), and easier for people to use. But one must question what is value-added. Is it simply putting in paragraph breaks, charts, an index, rows and columns? Can these be considered above and beyond what agencies are expected to provide to the public for free? Does anything done to data, constitute value-added? "So the real question is not whether Federal agencies should create value-added information products. In order to use information for programmatic purposes or indeed for any purpose at all, agencies must add value. Rather, the "real question" regarding added value is this: "Over and above the value agencies must add to information strictly for the government's use (i.e., for programmatic purposes), how much value should agencies add strictly for the public's use?" (p. 179). And if there is no money budgeted for adding value above those needed for programmatic purposes, but constant pressure to make the information more user-friendly for the public, where is the money supposed to come from? And how much money will be needed for user fee collections?
Two important points to consider: 1.) The establishment of user fees relies on the assumption that agencies have both the authority to collect and receive them. 2.) And since user fees are often deposited in miscellaneous accounts, and cannot be used by the agencies, why collect them in the first place? The alternative is to have another agency administer user fees for a series of federal agencies, but that would likely increase fees to end users.
Why not make a little profit off government information? Because "[t]he business of government is not to be in business" (p. 178), and should not be in the business of making a profit, but rather "regulate the marketplace" (p. 178). There are statutes, such as the Freedom of Information Act, that the government has to consider as well. And the federal government is complying at the moment, but what about local and state governments? There is a trend underway that sees more and more states putting prices on the information in their databases; states such as Alaska, Hawaii, and Colorado are exercising state copyright protection to do so, and are selling state legislative information to the legal research industry. The same can be said of local governments across the country, and both are doing it because they need to put money in the coffers. "The state and local governments tend to view the Federal point of view as interesting philosophizing that ignores contemporary realities such as cutbacks in critical social services because of revenue losses" (p. 179). And people often do not realize how expensive it is to disseminate information, and wonder what all the fuss is about when the agencies already have the information in their databases. They do not consider the peripheral costs associated with it, such as user help manuals, training aids, employees knowledgeable enough to answer technical questions, and what about errors in information? Agencies cannot just collect information, and then take a hands-off policy, they are inherently responsible for the information they release to the public. However, when members of the public really need information, but do not have the money to pay for it, there is legislation that allows the government to charge some groups lower fees. For example, health statistics are supplied to public health schools free of charge, while foreign parties may be charged more than other groups.
If agencies decide to charge, here are a few things to keep in mind: 1.) Preparation of explicit policies, and put them in writing, 2.) publish the policies, 3.) a clear method for tabulating the fees, 4.) assignation of costs, 5.) rules for administering user fees, and to measure true costs, 6.) periodically review the policy, 7.) where will the revenues go?
Stalker, John C., and Marjorie E. Murfin. "Quality Reference Service: A Preliminary Case Study." The Journal of Academic Librarianship (November 1996): 423-429.
You should be very well-versed in the WOREP system through the first set of articles I did for you. I will not repeat the details here.
If libraries had access to a list of factors that contribute to quality reference service, particularly if the factors were controllable, it would be very beneficial. Such data is available through the Wisconsin-Ohio Reference Evaluation Program (WOREP), which has named the Brandeis University Library as the highest scoring four-year institute. By assessing the factors that contributed to this level of service, the authors believe that there will be a better understanding of what constitutes quality reference service.
The Brandeis Library is considered a medium-sized library, whose reference department received the very high score of 72% on the WOREP scale of accuracy. Its other claim to fame is its adoption of the innovative two-tiered reference model that may have contributed to its success. In addition to examining the WOREP data, the authors took a two day visit to the library in 1995, both of which contributed to the following findings:
Factors for success:
The interesting thing about some of these success factors is that they are under the control of the reference staff. For instance, in-depth training on electronic databases can be mandated; reference collections can be arranged in a manner which provides both librarians and patrons with easy access; architectural lay-out; having an administration that is compatible with reference staff, with similar priorities; and providing sufficient time for each reference transaction. "Vital to the success of the model, nonetheless, is a commitment on the part of the library administration to high-quality service. The end goal must be to provide adequate time for each patron's question" (p. 428).
Stratford, J.S., and J. Stratford. "Computerized and Networked Government Information." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 5/6 (Sep./Dec. 1996): 749-754.
This article examines some of the newer models that are coming to the forefront in data dissemination.
Sulzer, Jack. "U.S. Depository Librarians in Reality and Myth: A Framework for a Future Government Information Program." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 3 (1996): 307-325.
"Today, the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and U.S. depository librarians are confronted with a conflicting confluence of technological capability, politics, and traditional values. High capacity digital storage, fast microprocessors, and direct means of telecommunications and transferring data have formed a technological triad that requires thinking well beyond current standards, laws, policy, and philosophy…Because of the expansion of computer technology and the development of a common electronic information infrastructure, they are now also in direct competition with the educational and public service marketplace, the domain in which libraries and government information producers function" (p. 308). What does all this mean for documents librarians? They understand that they must change the way they have historically done their jobs now that the Information Age is here, not to say that their jobs are no longer important, but "[h] ow well librarians deal with it will determine the status of libraries in the Information Age" (p. 308). One of the most important problems they seem to have is that there is no conclusive data on how effective depository services are, what kinds of information that their users are in fact in need of, nor who their users are. These difficulties are intensified by the uncertainties that exist with technology in general and how it will affect political decisions. Overall, librarians have to adjust how they see themselves, and let go of their traditional views of librarianship, and begin to fine-tune the skills needed to perform electronic searches, provide better access to information sources, and create a system that will teach users how to take advantage of all the new horizons that have been opened up by the electronic age of information.
The author uses a great analogy when he compares the pre-Internet world to one of a Ptolemaic model, in which the GPO, depository libraries, and the government were really the nucleus of the information dissemination universe, with user groups orbiting around them. Currently, with the state of electronic information technology, the users are now in the middle of the universe, while the government and its agencies, the depository libraries, and a multitude of information handlers are circling around. There has been a fundamental shift in the information environment that allows users direct access at any point in the life cycle of information, and so it seems as if libraries need to concentrate less on being repositories, and more on becoming experienced service intermediaries and points of access to a universe of electronic information. Will they make the shifts in personnel, money and time needed to recreate themselves? That's the question to be answered! With communication technology being what it is, the 1400 depository libraries can form an alliance and collaborate as information providers of government information, in a virtual library gateway system. Virtual associations are needed to develop the structure and coordination required for information professionals to work together for a common cause. "The opportunity is at hand to build a new government information dissemination program based on useful services and products rather than a system of "just-in-case" repositories" (p. 313).
Some twenty libraries have already begun a system that provides direct remote access to GPO Access through their online systems; and the GPO Model Gateway Library Project means that there will be evolutionary changes ahead for the FDLP, with new alliances made to facilitate its development.
A lot depends upon the political environment: there must be a willingness to establish, for the good of the public, information policies at the federal and state levels. Currently, there has been no comprehensive federal electronic information policy developed with guidelines on how to handle the life cycle of electronic government information, or that will guarantee the public free access to electronic government information. Depository libraries must realize that their vision of government information dissemination is not the same as government officials, and that information policy development is based particularly on political and economic considerations. The Clinton Administration believes in providing better access to government information, but the foundation for its ideology is commercial and economic: to develop America's economic competitiveness in the global market. That is not to say that the current administration does not believe in every citizen's right to access government information because they do believe it to be an essential component in a democratic society, and it has provisions for schools and libraries to be a part of the interconnected network, but there is no mention of the FDLP in its agenda. Rather, they outline possibilities, such as a system built on thousands of federal agency offices from which government information can be communicated to the people. And the administration envisions libraries becoming part of a digital network of electronic information with connections to publishers, universities, commercial players, and research organizations. Congress has also gotten into the process by trying to break up the GPO, and sending the FDLP and the SOD to the Library of Congress. Its plan did not work out, but it required that the GPO report back on its vision of FDLP in an electronic government information dissemination system.
Ultimately, libraries must work with public interest organizations if they hope to influence the political system and sway it in their favour.
What must depository librarians do before they can develop a new system for the dissemination of electronic government information? Dispel some mythologies: 1.) "A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both" (P. 318). Eloquent as this principle is, librarians have used it to justify the federal depository program, and it has led to political battles with others in the information industry, such as those in the publishing industry. 2.) "Documents to the People. We are the gateway to government information for government by the people" (p. 318). The author says that libraries do not know who their users are, nor how effective the services they offer to these people are, and until they do, there can be no real hope of developing a plan on how the electronic environment will be traversed. "Until more is known about its users and the results of its services, it will be exceedingly difficult to agree on what the FDLP should be, let alone do any meaningful planning for the development of services in an electronic environment. Moreover, without such data, it will be increasingly difficult to argue for continued government support" (p. 318) (see note #1) 3.) "Not all depository libraries are created equal, but should be" (p. 319). This is a very unrealistic statement, and it has fundamentally crippled the FDLP by setting strict rules and regulations over what can and cannot be done by a depository library, rules that restrict access options, and a demand that even electronically-advanced depository libraries keep to the status quo set by the lowest common denominator in the system. 4.) "The FDLP is not an entitlement program for libraries"(p. 319). Bruce Morton has argued long and hard that the FDLP is nothing but a program which entitles mostly academic and law libraries that serve special groups in society, and not the general public (75% of American depositories are found to be in academic and law libraries). Would these same institutions, who support the sanctity of the system and hold the belief that the dissemination of government information, in any format, is an important duty they perform, still be willing if they had to pay for those materials which are now provided to them for free by the government? It is highly unlikely that any of the institutions could do without the federal subsidies. Bruce Morton feels that the entitlement program should be expanded to include more libraries. The author states that the entitlement program is one that should continue in an electronic age, and makes the point that it will be specially trained documents librarians who will be such important players in the system because they will provide what the government cannot afford: information skills to go along with the information. 5.) "Preserving print preserves access for a large segment of our population"(p. 320). Why are many or most federal depositories in large urban areas? Because those libraries have space enough to house the huge collections that make up government information. Librarians have long fought to keep print publications in the system as a way of continuing the long history of the program, but perhaps the time has come to think of smaller areas across the country who have no such geographical access to government information. Smaller libraries will always have space for a computer terminal, hooked up to the Internet, so maybe the time is right to expand the system to include more libraries which can offer electronic information to the public. This would "help to alleviate the problem of being a nation of "information have-nots," a problem traceable to the limitations of the ink-on-paper. Preserving print does not preserve access" (p.320). 6.) "The FDLP is the safety net for information 'have-nots' in the electronic age. All government information in electronic form, without some mitigating institution like the FDLP, will create a nation of information 'haves' and 'have-nots'" (p. 321), a concept which should probably have never been perpetuated by librarians because it relegates them to a secondary role, a sort of back-up system like welfare is. Rather, libraries are key players in a democratic system, librarians are professionals, and they must continue to be ensure that the public will be able to use their services in an electronic era.
The Future of the FDLP?
The FDLP should form the basis of a consortium of libraries, government agencies, publishers, etc. which will manage the networking of government information and develop a new and improved program of library services, all along taking advantage of what new avenues for access are opened up by the electronic era , and making sure that the information remains free.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. There is the possibility, which is suggested in this article, that it is necessary to have data on how successful services are before the depository program can venture to ask the government for an expanded budget allocation for training, etc. In addition, there seems to be a great need to know who the users of government information are, if there is any hope of developing a truly successful system of information dissemination, or to offer specialized reference service in particular areas. What I mean is if you knew that the bulk of patrons using Weldon's government documents, were say, farmers interested in any number of particulars, then the staff could make sure they are well-versed in these specialized materials. Apparently, there has been no work done to expose who is using government documents in Canada, and very little in the U. S., although I do recall reading that Hernon and McClure did some such study in the U. S.
Summerhill, Craig A. "The Emerging National Information Infrastructure and Reference Services." The Reference Librarian, No. 43, 1994, pp. 131-144.
With the advent and propensity towards electronic information, the Internet, and on-line services in libraries, there are both challenges and opportunities for reference librarians. Reference departments will have change as they are faced with "the changing nature of research practice"(p. 131). Advances in technology are moving so quickly that individual libraries are finding it hard to keep up with both the legal and economic issues that go hand in hand with the explosion. Problems and costs associated with upgrading computer equipment, the legalities of copyright, equal access to information, especially public information, and the provision of service and application. From 1963-1991, the money that libraries spent on salaries decreased, while the money on automation and operations increased (For further information see the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation report, "University Libraries and Scholarly Communication: A Study Prepared for The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation by Cummings and associates.) Trends in reference departments seem to be the demand for printing services attached to CD-ROM products; requests for specialized software packages which can handle full text search engines; and a decided change in how research is done, with users becoming more and more expectant of instantaneous access to electronic information. The other problem is with the quality of information that is available on the Internet and other electronic information services. Librarians need to have enough experience with the evaluation of such information as to help their patrons make qualitative evaluations of them, and intelligent decisions for their use.
Quote: "Reference librarians have already begun to face new challenges due to the introduction of electronic information products on such media as computer diskettes and optical discs. The network is going to exacerbate this situation and add an additional layer of technology which the reference staff will be required to master if the library is going to provide reference services in this area. Is the staff prepared to meet these challenges?" (p. 143) The author's opinion is "that reference librarians lag behind their peers in technical services in their understanding of computer and networking technologies mainly due to this focus on systems development for back room use. In this decade, administrative support for increased training of reference personnel and for the development and deployment of networked information retrieval systems will be the chief challenge facing many large research libraries" (p. 143).
Summerhill, Karen Storin. "The High Cost of Reference: The Need to Reassess Services and Service Delivery." The Reference Librarian 43 (1994): 71-85.
When undertaking future planning for reference departments, consideration must be given to costs, particularly at a time when libraries have been hit hard with economic realities. Of course, libraries could decide to keep the status quo and continue to hold their own, while offering the same services. They could also reassess reference services, its models of operation, established priorities, and staffing procedures, with a mind to making it more productive. "Information technology brings new questions about the most effective and efficient methods of organizing, storing, retrieving and accessing information, and indeed whether reference services as we have provided them in the past will be needed at all in the future" (p. 72).
The world has been rocked by an explosion in information, information technology, and the Internet; increasingly, information is seen as an important commodity, something to be valued. However, libraries have historically been egalitarian organizations, offering information for free to everyone as a social good. Is it time libraries put this service model aside and introduce user fees for access to information resources? No, but it is imperative for libraries to understand that there are advantages to introducing certain kinds of information technology into libraries, and if they use marketing strategies to help the public realize "that librarians can provide advantages of breadth of knowledge of information sources and retrieval strategies, specific knowledge of our local clientele, minimized bias and self-interest" (p. 73).
"A final cost may be to society. If we cannot demonstrate to those who control the funding for our various institutions that our services are crucial, and that we are the most appropriate group to provide primary information services, we will be eliminated…While it's true that librarianship isn't brain surgery, the fact is that in reality, only brain surgery is brain surgery. Librarians have significant skills and experience to offer, skills that are in more demand than ever. With effort, and perhaps funding, we might have even more. We cannot waste what we have to offer" (p. 84).
Sutton, Stuart A. "Future Service Models and the Convergence of Functions: The Reference Librarian as Technician, Author, and Consultant." The Reference Librarian 54 (1996): 125-143.
The current state of information technologies that are presently used in libraries and which will continue to shape the future decades include: powerful computers; the fusion of advanced telecommunication technologies and computing; and new multi and hypermedia information structures. These technologies will forever change society, including the role of libraries and the professionals who work in them. As much as they forgo 'library as place' and enable geographic constraints to dissolve, there will still need to be subject specialist intermediaries to sift and disseminate information.
Typology of Libraries:
What has all this to do with improving reference service in the future?
No matter what kind of reference service dissemination model that is used in the future, there will be a need to have reference librarians offering a mix of products and services to patrons. Library schools must also realize that as the continuum moves from traditional library to automated to hybrid to digital, unique skills will be needed; they can do their share in providing the basics in a controlled environment. "The teaching and learning universe of the information age assumes that the boundaries of place and geography become less important as the demands of time and access for the individual become more important" (p. 143). The information needs of individual users will be of primary importance in the future, as it should be today. If reference librarians are expected to offer high quality service, isn't it essential that they have the knowledge and skills needed to fulfill this mission? We must prepare now for the future.
Turock, Betty J., and Carol C. Henderson. "A Model for a New Approach to Federal Government Information Access and Dissemination." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 3 (1996): 227-240.
Points to keep in mind:
Tygett, Mary, V. Lonnie Lawson, and Kathleen Weessies. "Using Undergraduate Marketing Students in an Unobtrusive Reference Evaluation." RQ 36, No. 2 (Winter 1996): 270-276.
Walsh, Anthony. "All the World is Data and We But the Ciphers in it … William Shakespeare 1992." The Reference Librarian 38 (1993).
Use quote: "In this age of decisions based on data collection libraries will be expected to gather statistics to describe, evaluate and justify their existence. Whether libraries count people, things, or interactions, even when they use questionnaires, they must understand how assumptions and uncontrolled variables contaminate their work and therefore its implications. Over the past hundred years libraries have been transformed in response to users, politicians, pressure groups and now technologies. How will libraries control and evaluate this resource allocation to preserve mission effectiveness"? (p. 21)
Problems associated with libraries simply counting things to evaluate: 1.) Counting people with a turnstile does not allow the library to differentiate between their user groups and understand their wants and needs. 2.) Counting things has problems because it does not distinguish between quantity and quality. For example, technological assets can be counted, but the data alone could not tell us if it is sufficient to meet user needs or if it is even beneficial for the library to have. Counting interactions is something reference departments do all the time but the data is easily corrupted by librarians adding in directional questions or even intentionally extrapolated to keep numbers up. It also equates all reference inquiries as equal, and does not reveal accuracy rates or quality of service.
Using questionnaires for data collection has the problems of survey design, and the possibility that only patrons who feel very strongly about some aspect of the library will bother to fill one out.
All types of evaluation methods have their pitfalls which can be overcome with diligence and caution. The author also reminds us that no matter which method is used, libraries must expect changes simply due to evaluation taking place. Known as the Hawthorne Effect. People's behavior does change when it is targeted for attention.
Some Interesting Observations Made by the Author:
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Weech, Terry L., and Herbert Goldhor. "Obtrusive Versus Unobtrusive Evaluation of Reference Service in Five Illinois Public Libraries: A Pilot Study." Library Quarterly 52 (1982): 305-324.
Unobtrusive evaluation of reference service has its limitations:
This pilot study was designed to determine if there was any measurable differences between unobtrusive and obtrusive evaluation, when using the same test questions. Five Illinois public libraries participated in the pilot project, and although the directors of the libraries knew there would be unobtrusive testing of the reference departments, they were asked not to inform the librarians of the study.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Weingand, Darlene E. "Competence and the New Paradigm: Continuing Education of the Reference Staff." The Reference Librarian 43 (1994): 173-182.
With the explosion in information, unparalleled in history, librarians are facing obstacles and many challenges. Continual changes in information technology are making it difficult for librarians to stay current, at a time when they must if they want to have a place in the 21st Century. The solution is to undergo 'continuing professional education'. The author breaks down 'continuing professional education' into two categories: 1.) personal career development or continuing education, and 2.) inservice training or staff development. The first focuses on the individual, the second, on the organization; but both are needed for librarians to enjoy a solid career in the profession.
"Continuing professional education is no longer an option; it is vital to professional health, [since]…The quality of information service is based in large part on the competence of personnel. When competence is maintained or improved, the quality of service will be correspondingly affected" (p. 174). Competence must be a prime concern for librarians today.
Four Aspects of Competency:
Certification: is the verification that an individual is competent enough to do the job they are being paid to do. This is especially important in the library world because it is a matter of public awareness, as access to libraries is a part of the democratic right to information, information that is accurate and timely. Since some states, with more to follow, have mandated professional certification, it is imperative for librarians to continue their education if they want to stay current and continue working in the field. "…with information access, storage and retrieval becoming increasingly vital to world economy and quality of life, it is likely that some form of regulatory control will continue to be urged and often enacted" (p. 179).
For librarians to remain important players in the world of information dissemination, they will have to accept new challenges, increase the diversity of their skills, and realize that some of the traditional aspects of librarianship are no longer useful in this new paradigm. They must focus more of their energies on service provision for client information needs, and use continuing education to develop competency levels as their vehicle to find their niche and meet the new challenges of information provision in the 21st Century. If not, they will go the way of the dinosaur.
Whitbeck, George W., and Peter Hernon. "The Attitudes of Librarians Toward the Servicing and Use of Government Publications: A Survey of Federal Depositories in Four Midwestern States." Government Publications Review 4, No. 3 (1977): 183-199.
There are many reasons why government documents are used so rarely, including unfamiliar classification systems; a separation of the documents, which may result in many not being put into the library's catalog; their drab appearance; and librarians who are themselves unfamiliar with the government documents. "The question may well be posed as to what extent librarians may function as gate keepers in discouraging use of documents by the public whether through ignorance of governmental structure or publishing, bibliographical tools, and accessing methods. It is hypothesized that librarians unfamiliar with government publications may well shy away from referring users to these sources and from helping users exploit them. It is further hypothesized that library administrators may discriminate against documents; they may be "stacking the deck" against them by isolating them in special collections which are relatively inaccessible to the user" (p. 184). (see note #1)
This study looked at depositories within Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan to survey the attitudes and knowledge of reference librarians and administrators in both public and academic libraries. The study used two questionnaires: one for government documents librarians and chief reference librarians (sixty-five responded), the other for public service librarians (ninety-two responded). 63% of those who took part were working in academic libraries, 37% from public.
Some interesting points: 1.) 72% said that they used reviews to build their government documents collections, while others noted using the "Monthly Checklist", state checklists, or honored patron requests. 2.) 45% of library administrators say they select less than 55% of the federal depository categories available, 11.8% stated they took less than 25% of the items. 3.) The authors assumed that collection organization would greatly affect the use and servicing of government documents, and that separate facilities and unfamiliar classifications would result in lack of use. To find out if their assumption was correct, they asked document and chief librarians a series of questions. 80% said that most of their documents were shelved separately, 7.7% answered that the collection was fully integrated, while another 7.7% stated that government information was totally separate. 90% said that the collections were housed in the same building as the main collections, with 34.4% being on the same floor as general reference. 4.) Of the 59 administrators who were asked if the gov docs were included in the catalog, 25 responded that those classified could be, 6 stated that references could be found to the collection in the library's catalog, and 25 said no. Asked how many professional librarians they had working with government documents, 57 had two or less, four had three or four, one administrator stated they had five or six, another, had more than six, and two were not sure. Of those professional librarians, fifty-three of the sixty-three said that two or fewer worked with the public full time, meaning that they have many more duties to carry out. 5.) Asked whether they had sufficient staff to deal with the public's inquiries, 55% needed more librarians, while 42% said they had adequate staff. Of those stating that additional staff would be beneficial, 75% were from public libraries. Does this mean that academic libraries are supporting their collections of government documents more than public libraries? 6.) Asked if they actively assisted users in finding the needed information, 84.7% responded that they accompanied patrons to the shelves, while 13.4% did not. 7.) 84.1% held a masters degree in library science, and 13.4% did not. 8.) 47.1% had taken a course in government documents, while 41.4% had not. The others did not respond or said the question was not relevant. 56.7% stated that they had no opportunity for any formal education in government documents, and 23.6% said they had. 64.3% felt they needed more education, 31.8% said they did not. 9.) Having been asked how they promoted the use of their collections, 56 libraries indicated they did so through regular reference; 38 included the collection on library tours; 33 through library lectures; 17 used brochures; 16 special seminars; and 17 through other means, including cassettes. 10.) Trying to ascertain librarian attitudes of government documents, the respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed that government documents were under-utilized resources: 46.5% strongly agreed, 42.7% agreed, 7.6% disagreed or strongly disagreed, while 1.9% had no opinion. Asked about how confident they felt servicing the collection, 52.2% said they were confident, 30.6% felt they needed further training, 4.5% said they always referred a question to another staff member, while 7% were fully confident in their ability.
1. The majority of libraries used unfamiliar classification schemes and housed their collections in a separate area, both of which could have an effect on use, but no substantiation was uncovered.
2. The need for more staff was indicated, especially clerical personnel.
3. Although the researchers had hypothesized that librarian attitude played a role in lack of use, the survey found an overwhelming positive attitude toward the collections, as well as a desire for more education to increase their ability to do their jobs better.
4. More research is needed to generalize the findings.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
1. I always thought that a separate collection model was beneficial because it enabled specialized service from qualified staff, who had the all the documents in one place. I guess if the staff is not interested or qualified, then the documents are better to be mainstreamed. I must remember to talk to the doctor about this.
Whitlatch, Jo Bell. "Unobtrusive Studies and the Quality of Academic Library Reference Services." College & Research Libraries 50 (March 1989): 181-194.
Although unobtrusive testing methodologies have come to be valuable tools for researchers interested in evaluating reference service in libraries, library managers and administrators have not used the findings to improve reference service. They were developed as an alternative to user satisfaction surveys, which have done little for improving reference services for the public.
The obtrusive study carried out by Whitlatch was done in five Northern Californian academic libraries. Librarians were told to ask every fifth patron to fill out a questionnaire, while they filled out a companion one for each of them. Librarians were guaranteed confidentiality, and were made aware of the importance of providing unbiased information for the surveys. Three measures were used to evaluate reference performance, and they were: 1.) librarian judgment of service. 2.) user judgment of service. 3.) how successful users were in finding the information they wanted. Questions were classified into the following three categories: Factual, Bibliographical, and other questions.
Finding of the obtrusive testing were: 1.) for factual questions the user found what they wanted 78.6% of the time, 10.7% found some of what they wanted, and 10.7% found none of what they wanted. 2.) for bibliographic type questions users found what they wanted 70.5% of the time, some of what they wanted 13.6% of the time, and none of what they wanted 15.9%. 3.) for subject/instructional inquiries, users found what they wanted 62.6% of the time, some of what they wanted 33.3% of the time, and none of what they wanted 4.1%. Through picking every fifth question to become part of the study, they did have a random sample of reference questions, and of the 256 questions selected only 29 (11.3%) were factual, while 46 (18%) were bibliographic in nature, and 181 (70.7%) were subject/instructional. This concurs with Childers' rough estimate that about one-eighth of questions asked in reference departments are factual, and therefore, the results of unobtrusive studies should not be taken as a window into all reference services, even if results hover around 55%. And as the author points out, "[w]ith such a relatively small percentage of factual queries, librarians get little opportunity to develop on-the-job expertise using a broad range of tools to answer requests for specific factual information" (p. 184). (see note #1)
"Thus, the correct answer fill rate appears to be a useful, but extremely limited, measure of reference performance" (p. 185).
Other interesting points:
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Whitlatch, Jo Bell. "Reference Services: Research Methodologies for Assessment and Accountability." The Reference Librarian 38 (1992): 9-19.
Whitlatch has broken her article into sections which include "preconditions for successful assessment of effectiveness . . characteristics of good measurement… and an introduction to strengths and weaknesses of various data gathering strategies" (p. 9-10).
To conclude, Whitlatch points out that since libraries are so entrenched in the philosophy of using surveys to evaluate reference success, qualitative methods are rarely used, and thus, as Jarvelin and Vakkari (see note #3) have found, what is emphasized is the libraries point-of-view, rather than the users. We can ask, what good is that?
Whitlatch believes that a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods will bring about the best assessment of reference evaluation.
Ideas, Thoughts, and Notes
Whitson, William L. "Differentiated Service: A New Reference Model." The Journal of Academic Librarianship (March 1995): 103-110.
Three trends have forced libraries to restructure and to develop new models for their reference departments: 1.) Budgetary Restrictions: have forced many libraries to reduce the hours of their reference service, to hire fewer professional librarians, and to hire paraprofessionals, especially for handling the myriad of directional questions, 2.) A Call for Accountability: library administrators are being faced with the pressure of being more accountable for the allocation of budget funds. For example, is it cost-efficient to have higher paid professional librarians answering simple directional questions, such as, "where is the photocopier?" Many libraries have decided to institute a tiered service system that has patrons directed to an information desk, staffed with paraprofessionals, who decide if the patron should be referred to a professional librarian, 3.) The Rapid Increase in What a Librarian Needs to Know to Competently Work in Reference: as computer technologies and electronic information systems increase, and access to an explosion of information resources pervade libraries, there is an increased need for professional specialization in the field, even in reference work.
The traditional, undifferentiated service model for libraries assumed that qualified reference librarians would be available to answer a multitude of questions, within a short period of time. There were advantages to this system, including the convenience it offered to patrons; an element of efficiency; and by using qualified staff and a reference interview, there was a minimization of misunderstandings at the desk. However, there were disadvantages as well, including:
Alternative Model: Differentiated Service Provision:
This new model eliminates the notion of reference as a single activity and replaces it with a composite of many. Five Major Service Areas may be defined:
Advantages of a Differentiated Model:
Trade-offs are apparent in any choice, and are especially obvious when a library is considering a multi-tiered differentiated model for reference service, however, libraries must become more cost-efficient and take control of the services they are willing to offer. "One of the main advantages of "compartmentalizing" services in the differentiated services approach is that it allows easier ongoing evaluation and adjustment of services…[and] attempts to optimize both the delivery of services and the utilization of staff" (p. 109).
Wilkinson, Patrick J. "Beyond the Federal Depository Library Program: Providing Access to Information from a Reinvented Government." Journal of Government Information 23, No. 4 (1996): 411-417.
The American democratic process has the open dissemination of government information as one of its most basic distinguishable traits, and has used the services of the FDLP to provide information to the people. In an effort to correct some of the early problems with distribution of government information, the Printing Act of 1895, designated the office of the Superintendent of Documents within the GPO, and began distributing free documents to select libraries called depositories; created indexes to its publications; and started selling public information. In general, it had the provision of government information to libraries and the public as its mandate.
Public dissatisfaction with the American government and rising fiscal debt have Republicans calling for the dissolution of 'big government', and Democrats urging for a reinventing of the current system. There is a move towards a more responsive, downscaled vision of government that uses a sophisticated electronic infrastructure to govern. Based on writings by Heidi and Alvin Toffler ("Creating a New Civilization: The Politics if the Third Wave"), Newt Gingrich ("To Renew America"), and Al Gore ("Third Report of the National Performance Review"), seven possible directions for government reform relevant to the depository system are examined: 1.) Moving beyond government's nineteenth-century organization and structures: the four authors agree that change is needed in government to make it more efficient and to move it beyond the 19th Century. 2.) Less centralized, smaller, and less monopolistic government: government needs to be smaller and much more responsive to the needs of the people. "In the Information Age, big organizations will not be able to perform as well as small ones. Small organizations will rely on speed, knowledge, and computers, while large organizations that rely on central planning and control will become increasingly paralyzed. Any organizational structure that relies on a "factory model" stressing standardization, centralization, concentration, and bureaucratization will not be able to survive the Third Wave" (p. 413). And all agree that monopolies are counterproductive, unhealthy, and tend to be more interested in serving their own interests instead of the common good. 3.) Information as a basic resource: Gingrich and the Tofflers see information as the defining key to this era, with its creation and distribution as the power that turns the wheel. Gore and Clinton have both established themselves as proponents of the Information Age. 4.) Information technology and improved citizen services: all of the authors understand the importance that technolog y plays in the empowerment of the people, especially how the Internet and the government kiosks in post offices across the nation will help to deliver much needed government information to the people. 5.) Demise of bureaucratic organizations: as information technology increases, and organizations decrease in size and scope, it will be virtual organizations that are important to society, organizations such as the Library of Congress's Thomas, which disseminates information about legislation, and congressional and committee reports to the public, and available twenty-four hours a day. 6.) Empowerment: the provision of government information that concentrates on the people, rather than focusing on what is good for government agencies. If the public wants access from their homes and offices and do not want to be forced to go to specific locations for the information they need, the government will have to provide the infrastructure to enable this transition. 7.) Balanced budget necessity: meaning that America now needs a government that is less expensive and more effective.
Challenges for the FDLP and libraries: two fundamental challenges.
1. In this current era, one must ask if the depository system is still needed? Designed for the 19th Century, and based on geographics, is it still the best system to provide information to the public when one considers government homepages, gophers, and GPO Access. If the public can access the information themselves off the Internet, where does that leave FDLP? Can it move from a traditional model of dissemination, based on the printed word, into the 21st Century?
2. Beyond FDLP, with libraries offering the public access to commercial sources such as Lexis/Nexis, it is obvious that many have already moved beyond using only FDLP for government information, especially when Congress is trying to move the GPO beyond the FDLP. In "The Electronic Federal Depository Library Program: Transition Plan FY 1996-FY 1998", an outline for a new FDLP is outlined. Here are some of the highlights: 1.) the program will primarily disseminate electronic government information, 2.) the Superintendent of Documents will have the responsibility for continuing long-term access to the information instead of the 1400 libraries making up the program, 3.) the FDLP is expected to provide both the public and depository libraries with free access to GPO Access.
In the near future, depository libraries will be more concerned with computer equipment, training for staff, and browser software than they will the size of their collections. They will become gateways to electronically disseminated information and be less concerned with traditional formats of government information. "Documents librarians and support staff will become more involved in user instruction and the designing of guides to information and less involved in managing collections. Consequently, library users will become less dependent on depository collections and more dependent upon the knowledge of library staff with specialized training in government information" (p. 416). As well, sophisticated non-depository libraries can now have their day to shine in the sun by providing access to the multitude of government websites. The traditional depository library program has seen its finest days, and they are over: the principles will be alive and well, but not the methods.
Yerxa, Shawn W., and Marita Moll. "Commodification, Communication, and Culture: Democracy's Dead End on the Infobahn." Government Information in Canada/ Information gouvernementale au Canada 1, No. 3.2 (1995).
Communication and Democracy: "Perhaps the quintessential question of political philosophy, "who should rule?" has, from our earliest record, been synonymous with questions of knowledge, information, and communication…Various constitutions articulate the central premises differently, but throughout much of the world the answers to "who should rule?" and "how' are closely related to the principles of free speech and equality, two fundamental democratic principles which are found in conflict with the relations imposed by capitalist production" (p. 2). With the rise of transnational corporations and a market mentality, information is increasingly seen as an exploitable resource, while there has been a commodification of culture, which affects communication, and "communication is facilitated subject to market restraints" (p. 2). All seem to be moving us away from the model of the Athenian agora, and towards one that circumscribes an individual citizen's right to communicate.
The federal government, in conjunction with its Information Advisory Council, wants to recreate the country's communication infrastructure by: 1.) using innovation and investment to create jobs for Canadians, 2.) develop a stronger Canadian cultural identity and sovereignty, 3.) provide universal access (at a reasonable expenditure) through the creation of: 1.) interconnected networks, 2.) collaborative partnerships between private-sector and public organizations, 3.) using competition, while ensuring network security and protection of privacy.
The problem is that there are many inherent contradictions in this plan. For instance, "[w]hile universal access is a necessary precondition of democratic communication, the inclusion of an ambiguous cost qualification indicates the economic determinism of the getting prices right philosophy which is rapidly eroding the very cultural distinctiveness that the second objective alludes to, cultural sovereignty" (p. 3). Secondly, if the government foresees job creation through information technology, it must realize that it is technology that has precipitated the trends of downsizing, decentralization, and a reduction in wages. "This economy…is facilitated by the very technologies that the government seeks to Promote" (p. 3). Thirdly, the mandate to have the telecommunications and cable infrastructures interconnected will concentrate ownership of media communications systems, which does nothing for an expansion of democracy, free speech, or equality, especially when the control is held by the private-sector.
Other important points:
Younger, Jennifer. "Total Quality Management: Can We Move Beyond the Jargon?" ALCTS Newsletter 2, No. 8 (1991): 81-83.
Forty years ago, W. Edwards Deming helped rebuild the Japanese economy by introducing the country to his fourteen point system called, "Total Quality Management" (TQM), a system that introduces quality into every step of a process. TQM can be used in any kind of organization, including libraries, to improve quality of products and service. "Organizationally, the starting place is at the top where first the directors declare their intent to address the problems of tomorrow as well as those of today. This means primarily that the organization intends to stay in business and while this may seem to be an unusual starting point for a commitment to quality, Deming sees a direct connection between these two concepts. Staying in business means staying one step ahead of customers, meeting present needs but also planning for future needs" (p. 81). With customer expectations on the rise, libraries must be prepared to improve the quality of their services if they want to carve out a niche for themselves in the 21st Century. That means a commitment to user needs.
To begin, a library should define the level of quality it desires to offer its patrons, then develop a process to reach the goal. All too often, reference librarians are blamed for the low accuracy levels uncovered in unobtrusive studies, however, Dr. Deming believed "that 94% of the problems are caused by the production and these are under the responsibility and control of the management" (p. 82). As a result, blame is not put upon individuals working in a TQM organization, but primarily on management and other special problems.
In the Deming system, 'Total' means everyone is expected to help create and maintain high quality service and products. 'Quality' stands for the customer's perception of the quality offered, because realistically what the customer believes is the only important constant. Everyone in the organization must work towards providing quality to meet the needs of customers, and 'Management' emphasizes the continuous commitment necessary to improve quality in an organization. To reach this goal, the process requires the ongoing management of innovative teams, employee involvement, and creative thinking. Libraries can benefit from exploring the concepts found in Deming's TQM.
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