Romance Languages Discussion Group Minutes - 2007 Annual

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WESS Joint Meeting

Cataloging Discussion Group and

Romance Languages Discussion Group

ALA Annual Conference 2007, Washington, DC

Saturday 23 June 2007

10:30 AM-12:30 PM

Madison Washington Hotel, Hamilton Room


The joint meeting of the WESS Romance Languages and Cataloging discussion groups began at 10:30 AM. A total of 43 people attended, 37 of whom signed the attendance sheet. Sarah Sussman (Stanford University), Romance Languages Discussion Group (RLDG) chair, and Rebecca Malek-Wiley (Tulane University), Cataloging Discussion Group chair, welcomed them.


Margaret Schaus (Haverford College), the editor of Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index ( ), made a plea for more indexers for this online resource, recommending this activity particularly for newer professionals as a helpful addition to their résumés. On behalf of Alan Murray, she also requested additional indexers for the International Medieval Bibliography database.
Some Spanish vendors introduced themselves and identified their conference exhibit booth locations. They represented Enciclo USA, Asociación de Revistas Culturales de España, and Iberbook.

Romance-Language Collections at the Library of Congress

The main feature of the meeting was a panel discussion on the Romance-language collections at LC: their acquisition, cataloguing, and use for public services, including digital projects. The three panelists, all LC managers with many years of experience, shared their expertise in a presentation coordinated by Carol Armbruster, French Area Specialist in the European Division, within the Collections & Services Directorate.
Michael K Walsh, Head of the Western European Acquisitions Section of the European & Latin American Acquisitions Division, described historical developments as well as the current structures and processes in acquisitions at LC. He provided statistics on annual FY 2006 acquisitions within the Acquisitions & Bibliographic Access Directorate, particularly by the units acquiring Western European-language materials: his Western European Acquisitions Section, the Hispanic Acquisitions Section, and the Rio de Janeiro office. The methods of acquisition include:
  • Approval plans, a major source of current European books
  • Continuation orders for serials and monographic series
  • Firm orders, used primarily for additional copies, non-current books, back issues of serials, and nonprint monographs
  • Special bibliographic service arrangements with suppliers of hard-to-obtain publications (e.g., publications of the Kurdish community in Sweden)
  • Exchange agreements of various types, including, as examples, agreements with such European-based institutions as the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF), Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, OECD, and FAO.
Since 1965, there have been a number of organisational and workflow changes in acquisitions and cataloguing at LC. Geographic acquisitions divisions set up in 1997 divide their work based on the locations of the suppliers. Since 1992, initial bibliographic records have been created within Acquisitions, as the basis for catalogued records. Vendors actually supply most records for European materials. Since the 2001 implementation of LC’s Voyager ILS, the acquisitions sections have been responsible for serials check-in.
Michael touched on the planned reorganisation at LC, which will create new divisions that combine acquisitions and cataloguing functions. One of these units will be the Romance Imprints Division. Staff anticipate redesigned workflows with associated cross-training . He also described the institution generally as being under tremendous stress from a budgetary point of view, lamenting the continual loss of staff from his section (some of whom had been moved to other areas of the library). In this context, he said that the Casalini shelf-ready project was one very helpful way of coping with a reduced staff.
Margaret N. Wayne, Team Leader of the Romance Languages Team within the Social Sciences Cataloging Division, summarised developments in French and Italian cataloguing at LC -- which paralleled general developments there -- over the past 25-30 years. LC responded to the common trends of progressive automation and the need to do more with less as publication increased, costs rose, and resources were reduced. Major changes included:
  • The implementation of copy cataloguing, following the launch of the Voyager ILS
  • The adoption of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) core standard as the default encoding level for original monographic records
  • The 2006 dropping of series authority control at LC (which, while controversial, has almost doubled the productivity of the Romance Languages Team)
Despite concerns about the loss of staff expertise that might result from the whole-book merger, she expressed the belief that LC continues to have cataloguing staff who possess the needed linguistic skills and cultural knowledge to catalogue Romance-language materials. Having said that, she acknowledged that a copy cataloguing record might have been done by any one from an experienced senior cataloguer with fluent reading knowledge of the language involved to a technician with little or no linguistic background; there is no way to identify the staff level or qualifications by looking at the record. She noted that the paraprofessionals were often career people, who could have academic and linguistic credentials that were actually higher than required. The merger of cataloguing and acquisitions staff should help to increase the general level of French and Italian language expertise.
Margaret described her experiences training Casalini cataloguers, both onsite in Fiesole and via e-mail, and reviewing their work. Because she considers their work to be of high quality, at this stage she reviews only a small (3%) sample of their bibliographic records. She is still available to answer questions, and the Casalini cataloguers, who make contributions through NACO and SACO, continue to communicate with people at LC about needed bibliographic file maintenance (BFM). The Casalini records created for LC, at core level, do provide fully controlled series access, as well as links to digitised tables of contents.
Carol Armbruster described something of the substantial, longstanding Romance-language collections at LC, including the in-depth printed collection, a number of special collections, and special-format collections, particularly the growing number of digital resources. Collection descriptions are available for:
She then talked about a number of onsite and offsite services designed to help LC’s varied groups of users find and explore its Romance-language materials, as well as to highlight the non-US content of LC’s collections. Onsite services include:
  • The European Reading Room ( ), one of a number of newly organised public access points, each with its own Web page, providing in-depth reference by area specialists. Collections descriptions for all European country collections can be accessed from this Web page.
  • Research fellowships and related means of supporting researchers, especially the Kluge fellowships and Kluge Center ( )
  • The Volunteer Internship Program within the European Division
To foster offsite use, LC has been developing digital projects designed to increase awareness of its collections. Several of them have foreign-language components, e.g.:
  • American Memory ( ): This well-known “domestic” resource in fact includes a number of French, Italian, and Spanish sources useful in the study of US history, for researchers as well as “K-12” school students.
  • Global Gateway ( ): Among other resources, it comprises portal pages for individual countries. It also incorporates collaborative multimedia digital projects with overseas libraries, e.g., the LC-BNF France in America / France-Amérique project (the latter is part of Gallica).
  • World Digital Library ( An international project being planned to provide multilingual and multicultural online resources, partly to address concerns about the perceived prevalence of English-language and “Western” Internet resources. Participants and sponsors so far include UNESCO, IFLA, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, LC, and a number of national libraries around the world.
The Question Point / Ask a Librarian feature has been another, popular means of reaching and assisting offsite users. Additional outreach is expected through the New Visitors’ Experience scheduled to open at LC next year. Both offsite and in the European Reading Room, Carol pointed out that LC is experiencing the challenges of coping with the increasing demand for specialised reference, along with the provision of translations.
Hearty applause, questions for each speaker as well as for the panel collectively, and discussion followed. Among the topics brought up:
  • In July 2007, new collections of 19th- and early 20th-century resources will be added to the France in America site, including a collection of French popular novels..
  • Casalini records: LC now immediately distributes all completed Casalini records. Any errors found in the records created for LC should be reported to Margaret Wayne ( ); Barbara Casalini said that she would also like to know about them.
  • Switzerland at LC: For acquisitions, Swiss materials are primarily handled by the Northern European Acquisitions Section. Recommendations for them are divided according to language, while their cataloguing is sorted based on subject and language.
  • The combination of acquisitions and cataloguing in libraries other than LC (a question from Michael Walsh): Several other institutions combine these functions, to a greater or lesser extent.
  • International digital library structures: The bilingual France in America / France-Amérique site is actually split between the parent sites at LC and the BNF, creating some navigational complications. The World Digital Library is planned as a seamless overarching site to which each participant contributes.

Discussion group business

The meeting wrapped up with a fairly brief joint business session.
Elections: Cason Snow (Northern Illinois University) was elected by acclaim as chair of the Cataloging Discussion Group. Rebecca Malek-Wiley, the outgoing chair, thanked him for his offer of service. Sarah Sussman announced that the new chair of RLDG would be Caroline Sczylowicz. Birdie MacLennan (University of Vermont) volunteered to serve as RLDG vice-chair/chair-elect.
Several people then suggested the following topics for the Midwinter meetings of both groups:
  • collaborative digital projects / digital libraries
  • experiences with integrating acquisitions and cataloguing
  • the ability of library systems to handle non-English-language bibliographic data
  • the application of non-MARC metadata
  • translations of European-language works
The meeting adjourned at approximately 12:20 PM.

Both during and following the meeting, participants commented that holding a joint meeting had been very enlightening and useful. The joint panel presentation on acquisitions, cataloguing, collections, and services was an effective and stimulating way of placing areas of overlapping concern together in the context of the Romance-language collections at LC. An added benefit was the reduction of conflicts in the WESS meeting schedule.
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