14 December, 2019

Computerizing, automating libraries and other trends

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Since 1999, Tebtebba has been using Computerized Documentation Service-Integrated Set of Information Systems (CDS-ISIS) in cataloguing its collection of information resources. CDS-ISIS is a software and database developed, maintained and disseminated by UNESCO and the Association of Research and Academic Library Information Network (ARALIN).

ARALIN is an online bibliographic database intended to computerize initially Filipiniana collections and eventually the entire collections of libraries of participating private colleges and universities in the Philippines.

But there’s a problem now. 

The CDS-ISIS and ARALIN are no longer as efficient as before. While work is in progress, the computer monitor suddenly gets blocked. Possible cause: the old software and database may no longer be compatible with the new specifications of new computers. Thus, there is an obvious need for an updated software and database for the library.   

Resource Description and Access.  So a recent forum, which sought to help keep librarians abreast with new trends in cataloguing, was timely. One worth considering was called Resource Description and Access or RDA, an international standard cataloguing rule that provides a comprehensive set of guidelines and instructions on resource descriptions and access for all types of content and media.   This new standard is being developed primarily for libraries and other communities such as archives and museums.

But introducing new changes and trends is not easy and library experts say libraries have to hurdle various issues and challenges. For example, only a few librarians attend trainings on RDA due to lack of support from their institution, according to Sony Boy T. Manalo, chief librarian of the Quezon City-based Technological Institute of the Philippines or TIP. 

Manalo spoke during the October 11, 2013 daylong forum, “Library Trends: Where Are We Now?”which was organized by the Philippine Library Association, Inc. or PLAI-IRLC held at the St. Louis College, City of San Fernando in La Union. 

He identified other issues and challenges such as major changes in cataloguing records and that these catalogues must be displayed.  The cost of shifting to RDA and the reluctance of librarians to embrace changes in content standard are equally challenging issues that must also be addressed, he said.

Machine Readable Cataloguing.  Another important item tackled during the forum was Machine Readable Cataloguing or MARC21, an international descriptive metadata format. This was developed by the Library of Congress as a means of encoding bibliographic records so they could be read, displayed and shared by computers. It is also a standard format used for encoding catalogue records in an automated library catalogue system.

“MARC21 plays a significant role in the library because it enables libraries to employ automated systems to manage operations more efficiently and to share bibliographic resources, reduce duplication of work and thus lower cost,”saidAlbert P. Disto, circulation librarian of the Saint Louis College in the City of San Fernando, La Union.

These two terms are different standards designed for two different purposes. RDA is being developed only as a “content standard”while MARC21is largely an “encoding standard.”

MARC21 entails the use of library automation or the computerization of traditional library operations such as (acquisition, serial control, cataloguing and circulation). But it includes also such activities as information organization, information storage, retrieval and use.

Amid these developments (RDA and MARC21), Tebtebba prefers to use the established international standard cataloguing rule—the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2) 2nd ed. 1998 revision.  Reason: this content and display standard practically facilitates the need of Tebtebba as a special library.

Still, Tebtebba is open to new methods and tools of helping improve its collection of information resources, which include books and other materials about indigenous peoples’rights, “self-determined development,”climate change, traditional knowledge, indigenous women, gender issues, biodiversity, international conventions and covenants, and many others.

Librarian as Information Professional.  In a related development, library experts exhorted librarians in the country to tap “modern strategies to accelerate the career path of information professionals.”   

In an October 24-25, 2013 national congress in Manila organized by the Association of Special Libraries of the Philippines or ASLP, library experts told fellow librarians to manage their own respective libraries as “information professionals.”

An “information professional,”said Dr. Fe Angela Versoza, former director of libraries at De La Salle University in Manila, is “one who preserves, organizes, disseminates information, organizes and retrieves recorded knowledge from different formats such as printed materials, electronic, visual, audio, and digital.” 

In this digital age, librarians, say library experts, must also be skilled in communication and information dissemination. The librarian today must be “methodical (enough) to pay attention to details,”and must have good “communication and literacy skills (written and oral) as he or she interacts with different kinds of peoples and must be able to advise and give lectures (related to information collection resources) to the public,”said Dr. Versoza.

She said librarians must also have excellent research skills because library work entails the need to find out the background of materials. “(The librarian must be) comfortable with new technologies,”she added. “(He or she) must work independently without much supervision and discerning which material and documents are confidential.”

Other library experts stressed about collaboration. “A library must engage in proactive local and international collaboration activities to maximize its resources and services,”said a paper by the Board for Librarians headed by Corazon M. Nera, which was presented by Mr. Joseph Ya, ASLP president.

Nera also encouraged librarians to participate in consortia through which resources could be shared through an agreement, subject to existing policies of the parent institution and publishers. 

For personal and institutional development, she likewise advised librarians to become members of local or international organizations covering information science, knowledge management and related fields.

Multicultural Centers.  In a national congress, librarians were introduced to new technologies and were also encouraged to make their libraries “multicultural centers.” 

During a November 20-22, 2013 national congress of the Philippine Library Association, Inc. or PLAI held in Iloilo in central Philippines, Lauren Kipaan of Benguet State University introduced CARIANA, an open-access digital library.  

CARIANA is a database and section about the arts, beliefs, culture, customs, language, technology, agriculture, laws, values and other indigenous knowledge in northern Philippines’Cordillera Administrative Region. It defines culture as “a way of life (practices) socially acquired and is passed from generation to the next and is inherited and that makes our heritage.”

To help preserve and promote culture, librarians were thus exhorted to “tag’em (in flicker, scribd, slideshare, etc.), blog’em (as an ALT to costly digitization project), write’em, join research (open access), act as an archivist, and re-orient his or her old views about culture.”

As multicultural centers, libraries must be open to “cultural diversity,”according to advocates of multiculturalism or “the harmonious co-existence and interaction of different cultures.”  One such advocateis Professor Marilou L. Pasion of Saint Louis University in Baguio City.

She thus advised librarians to gear their services towards helping their users become aware about their own local and others’culture. A librarian, for example, can orient users in their own language or train them on the use of electronic database using specific cultural diversity titles as sample, she said.

Competence.  Besides being agents of multiculturalism, librarians, according to other experts, must improve their competencies. Corazon Nera, former chair of the Professional Regulatory Board for Librarians, cited the National Competency-Based Standards for Filipino Librarians or NCBSL, which seeks to improve not only the image and status of librarians but their competencies as well.

A professionally competent librarian, she said, is one who can “perform particular task with skill of acceptable quality.”  She said these tasks cover the areas of managing information resources, managing tools and technologies, and managing information organization.  This third area includes strategic planning, policy-making, budgeting and funding, managing project and research, managing personnel, public relation/marketing and promotion, collaboration and networking, and managing facilities.

The national competency standards must also apply to special libraries, said Nera. 

The Tebtebba collection of information and other resources is considered a special library and as such it is expected to be competent in delivering its services as a multicultural center.  (Tess Deliu, Tebtebba)