The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 22, Number 2

A Report on 3 Discussion Groups at ALA Midwinter, Jan. 1998

by Gary Link Frost

[Note: The author actually turned in a report of seven discussion group meetings at Midwinter only a few days after the meeting was over. Three have been selected for this issue of the newsletter. Apologies to Gary and readers for the long delay in publishing. -Ed.]

In the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services/Preservation and Reformatting Section (ALCTS/PARS) Cooperative Preservation Programs Discussion Group, the National Endowment for the Humanities/Council on Library and Information Resources activities reports were overshadowed by the new Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) programming. They are in a hurry to spend much more money than the NEH. The total IMLS library program is 146 million dollars, with $5.5 million to the specific "Leadership" grants with categories in (1) education/training for library and information science, (2) research/demonstration projects in library and information science, (3) digitization/ preservation of library materials and (4) cooperative library/museum projects.

The CMDS (Collection Management and Development Section)/PARS meeting is always my favorite. Nowhere are the grey zones of convergence more apparent and nowhere are the flights of imagination more provoked. This time the flights of imagination were inspired by Ross Atkinson with his depiction of inner and outer and anti-collections, and by Carla Montori describing the integration of digital conversion into the routine of preservation reformatting (it is visionary to consider the transition to a routine status!). "We are simply going to trust ourselves to migrate forward ... just as we have done in the past."

"Our catalog records don't tell the reader how to read a book, but they will [need to provide systems information] in the future." "Students, right now, think that everything in the library is on the Internet." "By 2050, 90% of all publication will be on-line. The remaining 10% ... as allocated to physical libraries, will be material that cannot be captured, for economic or other reasons. But think about this: 10% is a great cut. At the present increasing rate of publication, it could easily imply a huge growth in traditional libraries!"

"We have cataloged websites that disappeared four months later." [Janet Gertz: "We have cataloged books that were stolen within four months."]

The transience and fluidity of the new environment of collection development was very evident. "Modern literature and poetry is a collaboration with software." "Likewise, it is time for preservation to give up its function of stasis. We should consider seconds of preservation ... during the critical moments between capture and transmission."

The Small-to-Midsize Libraries Discussion Group was very engaging, with excellent stories and excellent things to do in the early stages of program development. My favorite was attaching a box of rubber bands to the book drops with a note to use them to protect the returning books. This triggers a miraculous interruption that suddenly shifts attention to care of library materials (and the rubber bands are used, in spite of initial objections including a concern that they would cause squirrels to choke). There was a great preservation folk tale told by the person who started the program at Tulane. This story had all the incremental development of a lonely heroic type who must begin with nothing when all around have no commitment. Then each small material step must also breed heroic commitment in others.

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