Harvard/CONSER Task Force
I. Harvard's Investment in Serial Publications
II. CONSER Cataloging
III. The CONSER Office
IV. Room for Improvement
Task Force Membership
"The library's database should be the bedrock of service to its users. Essentially, productive use of a database involves the expenditure of time - time spent by a librarian at the beginning of the process, or time spent by those thousands of users at the end of the process as they seek to make sense of incoherent or even random bibliographic records." (Michael Gorman in Library Journal, September 5, 1995)
Ownership of information in serial publications is one of Harvard Libraries' greatest assets. Our financial investment in serials has been, and will continue to be, our most significant collection development cost. The last half of this century has produced an ever increasing number of serial publications - many of which cover topics that did not exist during the first half of the century. Researchers are now faced with the need to access serial information published in multiple formats - in addition to print and microform holdings, serials may now be acquired on CD-ROM, on tape, or from a remote online system. In an increasingly complex environment with a staggering volume of publications produced, continued adherence to CONSER standards is the simplest and most cost effective guarantee that our users are provided the means to access the information they seek.
The CONSER Task Force recommends that:
These recommendations are intended to increase the efficiency of serial cataloging operations without sacrificing quality of access. They will result in fuller information available to users as soon as possible, in greater throughput, and in increased flexibility for libraries to reorganize internal operations and to choose the most effective processing model for them. They take advantage of current technology and position the libraries to take advantage of developments still underway.
The success of a three-tiered system will depend upon: the use of OCLC software scheduled for release in January of 1996; the potential for HOLLIS serial record upload to OCLC - tentatively scheduled for testing late this fall; and an analysis of the program cost including OCLC credits earned for CONSER production. Therefore, we recommend that a second CONSER task force be convened in January to study and recommend whether our proposals are economically viable for individual libraries and for the HUL CONSER Office.
Harvard has been an active participant in the CONSER program for nearly 20 years. During that period, the university has made a major contribution to the building of the CONSER database, a premier national library resource. One of the underpinnings of our CONSER participation has been the University Library Council's policy that all current serials cataloging will be processed through the CONSER program. Support for CONSER participation has come both from individual libraries (who do much of the bibliographic work) and from the University Library (which provides staff and funding for the HUL CONSER Office).
Much has changed in cataloging operations and automation since Harvard first joined CONSER. The migration of bibliographic work to local systems, new options for electronic record transfer and pressure to achieve maximum productivity all affect the way we view cataloging operations today. Given the magnitude of these changes a reexamination of the Harvard CONSER program is appropriate.
In July, 1995, a task force was appointed and charged to review the organization and operation of the CONSER program at Harvard and to prepare a report to the University Council. The specific questions the task force was assigned were:
The Harvard libraries hold nearly 300,000 serials, of which more than a third are active subscriptions. For many disciplines, serials provide the most up-to-the-minute scholarship and form the indispensible core of published research. Serials account for at least 30% of the annual materials budget of most libraries, and represent an ongoing and escalating source of expenditures (increases of 20% or more in the cost of foreign periodicals are expected for FY97).
At the same time Harvard's investment in serials is increasing, so too is its investment in abstracting and indexing tools to provide analytical access to serial articles, further testament to the importance of serial publications to scholarship and research. The quality of citations in these sources varies greatly, and full cataloging of serial titles in HOLLIS allows the user to locate items at Harvard more quickly and easily. This is increasingly important as more abstracting and indexing services offer convenient fee-for-service document delivery. Inadequate local access could result in the Harvard community paying for these works a second time.
The appropriate level of description required to locate journal information in a collection of five hundred or five thousand titles is usually not enough to locate the same information in a large research collection. Records created by other libraries to meet local needs frequently do not meet the needs of our researchers. The CONSER program defines a cataloging standard which meets the needs of most research libraries.
Serial cataloging tends to be complex because serials are complex. (See sample "genealogy" of a serial in Appendix A.) CONSER cataloging is, in fact, more complete than non-CONSER cataloging; the question is whether the additional information provided adds enough value to justify the effort of producing it. (See examples demonstrating before and after CONSER treatment in Appendix B.)
CONSER cataloging standards emphasize the creation of detailed descriptions and consistent access points, including
- Subject access points - Corporate body access points - Publication history, including earlier and later titles - Dates of publication
These characteristics are frequently missing from non-CONSER records, and are critical for the accurate identification of the title and for the ease and clarity with which the title can be located and used. Cataloging serials to CONSER standards maximizes the university's investment in these crucial materials.
The HUL CONSER Office today serves a number of functions for the HUL community:
CONSER cataloging and the current model of CONSER processing at Harvard have served the libraries and library users well, but outside forces, particularly the changing technological environment, suggest ways the model could be improved to increase efficiency, cost effectiveness, and flexibility. The Task group focussed on the following areas:
- Elimination of redundant effort - Cataloging at a level appropriate to the material - Increasing libraries' flexibility to optimize their own workflow
There is redundancy in the current environment because all records, whether cataloged by CONSER staff or by local library staff, must be processed through the CONSER Office. Those units which do their own cataloging will key a provisional record in HOLLIS, input or edit a cataloging record in either OCLC or RLIN, print it, annotate the printout, and send the printout to the CONSER Office, where CONSER staff will call up the record in OCLC, edit it to match the annotations on the printout, and download it to HOLLIS. This process was established initially to insure quality control and to enforce participation. HOLLIS was designed to support this model, and will discard any non-recon serial record which is not downloaded by the CONSER Office.
The task group recommends the following actions:
Level 1 Libraries: Independent CONSER units
Level 2 Libraries: Decentralized copy cataloging
Level 3 Libraries: All cataloging by the CONSER Office
Implementation issues for the three-tier system:
Training for Level 1 and Level 2 would be coordinated by CONSER Office. The CONSER Office would retain responsibility for review, revision, and certification of CONSER records produced by independent libraries.
HAAC Standing Subcommittee on Serials, Series, and Continuations would examine all records produced during training period and would periodically examine sample records after certification of an independent library to insure that standards are maintained.
As internal circumstances change, libraries would be able to move among the proposed levels.
The CONSER Office uses the "HUL" logon in OCLC which allows permanent changes to be made to serial bibliographic records in the OCLC database. Also, serial records being claimed/updated on OCLC for HOLLIS must be targeted or reclaimed on OCLC using this logon. If a three tiered CONSER system is implemented, a decision must be made as to whether Level 1 and 2 libraries also use the HUL logon or whether their own logon codes should be enabled for CONSER.
The use of HOLLIS as our mandatory shared database is the only bond among the university's libraries. The cataloging labor of the first library to create an original CONSER record alleviates the burden for other libraries cataloging the same title. The second and subsequent libraries need only add their holdings information to a shared bibliographic record.
Harvard has long been considered an outsider in the development and implementation of national cooperative projects from which we benefit. Our leadership and participation in the CONSER program has been cited as our major contribution nationally.
The task force is convinced that CONSER cataloging is an appropriate and valuable way to insure that serial titles throughout the university receive the level of access they deserve and users require. It is the procedures rather than the policy which need alteration.
Past decisions to accept less than standard cataloging in exchange for short-term efficiencies have resulted in limited accessibility or costly clean up projects. In a world of remote-access to multiple online catalogs, we should create an environment in which a researcher can find information at Harvard at least as easily as he can at another institution. Given the size and complexity of Harvard's collections, that means we must do more, not less.
We have learned rather painfully that it costs less to "do it right" up front. Time saved by using less than standard cataloging is far exceeded on the user end when lack of detail in the bibliographic record impedes the work of researchers and the public services staff they consult for assistance.CONSER Task Force
TITLE: Forschungen zur brandenburgischen und preussischen Geschichte. Neue folge der "Mrkischen forschungen" des Vereins fur geschichte der mark Brandenburg. PUB. INFO: Leipzig, Duncker und Humblot. NOTES: Vol. 45-54 include: bibliographie zur Gesschichte der Provinz Brandenburg und der Stadt Berlin, 1932-1943. INDEXES: Indexes: vol. 1-10 in vol. 10; vol. 11-30 in vol. 30.; vol. 31 -40 in vol. 40.; vol. 41-50 in vol. 50.EXAMPLE 1: CONSER
TITLE: Forschungen zur brandenburgischen und preussischen Geschichte : Neue Folge der "Mrkischen Forschungen" des Vereins fr Geschichte der Mark Brandenburg. PUB. INFO: 1. Bd. (1888)-Bd. 55, 1. Hlfte (); N. F., 1. Bd., Heft 1 (1991)- Leipzig : Duncker und Humblot, 1888- DESCRIPTION: v. : ill. ; 22-24 cm. FREQUENCY: Semiannual LINKING NOTES: Continues: Mrkische Forschungen NOTES: Vols. 1-9, 11- each in 2 parts separately paged; v.1-6, 15- have, besides the general t.-p. for each volume, also a special t.-p. for each part. Vols. for 1991- issued by: Preussische Historische Kommission, Berlin. Vols. for 1888-1943 also available on microfilm from the Library of Congress Photoduplication Service. "Sitzungsberichte" of the society included in each volume, vols. for 1888-1943. INDEXES: Bd. 1-10 in Bd. 10. (includes index to the earlier title); Bd. 11-30 in Bd. 30.; Bd. 31-40 in Bd. 40.; Bd. 41-50 in Bd. 50. ISSN: 0934-1234 SUBJECTS: *S1 Prussia (Germany)--History--Periodicals. *S2 Brandenburg (Germany)--History--Periodicals. AUTHORS: *A1 Verein fr Geschichte der Mark Brandenburg. *A2 Preussische Historische Kommission.EXAMPLE 2: Non-CONSER
TITLE: Archives of otology. PUB. INFO: New York. DESCRIPTION: v. ill. FREQUENCY: Bimonthly LINKING NOTES: Continues: Archives of opthamology and otology, ISSN 0092-5624 NOTES: Also published in German as: Zeitschrift fr ohrenheilkundeEXAMPLE 2: CONSER
TITLE: Archives of otology. PUB. INFO: v. 8-37; 1879-1908. New York, G.P. Putnam's Sons. DESCRIPTION: 30 v. ill. 25 cm. FREQUENCY: Quarterly, 1879-1897. Bimonthly, 1898-1908 LINKING NOTES: Continues in part: Archives of ophthalmology and otology, ISSN 0092-5624 Other editions available: Zeitschrift fr Ohrenheilkunde INDEXES: Authors and subjects: v. 22-28, in v. 28 (pp. 505-527). Authors and subjects: v. 29-35, in v. 35 (pp. 600-625). ISSN: 0893-1380 = Archives of otology SUBJECTS: *S1 Otology--Periodicals. ABBREV TITLE: Arch. otol.EXAMPLE 3: Non-CONSER
TITLE: Medieval Encounters : Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Culture in Confluence and Dialogue. PUB. INFO: Leiden; New York : E.J. Brill, 1995-. DESCRIPTION: v. ; 24 cm. SUBJECTS: *S1 Middle Ages--History--Periodicals. *S2 Christianity--Relations--Islam--Middle Ages, 600-1500. *S3 Christianity--Relations--Judaism--Middle Ages, 600-1500.EXAMPLE 3: CONSER
TITLE: Medieval encounters : Jewish, Christian and Muslim culture in confluence and dialogue. PUB. INFO: Vol. 1, no. 1 (June 1995)- Leiden ; New York : E.J. Brill, c1995- DESCRIPTION: v. ; 24 cm. FREQUENCY: 3 times a year NOTES: Language note: Chiefly English, with some French and German. Summaries in English. Title from cover. ISSN: 1380-7854 SUBJECTS: *S1 Civilization, Medieval--Periodicals. *S2 Christianity and other religions--Periodicals. *S3 Islam--Relations--Periodicals. *S4 Judaism--Relations--Periodicals.EXAMPLE 4: Non-CONSER
TITLE: Punto cardinal revista De Accion Poetica PUB. INFO: Miami, Fla. SUBJECTS: *S1 Latin americaEXAMPLE 4: CONSER
TITLE: Punto cardinal : revista de acci¢n potica. PUB. INFO: Miami, Fla. : [s.n.], DESCRIPTION: v. : ill. ; 22 x 28 cm. NOTES: Description based on: 2 (jul. de 1967); title from cover. SUBJECTS: *S1 Spanish American poetry--20th century--Periodicals. *S2 Spanish poetry--20th century--Periodicals.