Author Archives: William Warren

Access to e-content: permanent or not?

We have online access to a large number of journals and newspapers.  The terms governing our access vary considerably, and can change with the passage of time.  One of the most important aspects of our access is the extent to which it is dependable and permanent.  Following is an attempt to illustrate the range of stability of our electronic offerings.

The most stable and permanent situation is when we have a subscription with the publisher to a specific journal or packaged group of journals (e.g. Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Taylor & Francis).  In this case we have guaranteed permanent access to all material published during the years of our subscription.  Often we will also have access to a backfile of material published before our subscription started.  In some cases we are assured continuing access to this backfile, while in other cases ongoing access to any material dating from before the start of our subscription is not guaranteed. Continue reading

Retirement of long-time colleague

Submitted by Bill Warren


As many already know, Mary-Ruth Crawford has decided to retire from her position as Senior Bibliographic Searcher (and doyenne of the Library Acquisitions Department).  Her last day will be Friday 12 June. 


In her three decades of exemplary service, Mary-Ruth has become a library legend.  She is a consummate worker, a treasured resource—both professional and personal—and a cheerfully-humanizing presence among us. 


All who work or interact with Mary-Ruth in any way regard her with admiration and affection, and will feel a sense of wistfulness at her departure.  With her goodwill, optimism, and resolute spirit, to rely on, Mary-Ruth will undoubtedly enjoy the satisfying and fulfilling retirement to which her laudable career has entitled her.

Purchasing materials for Mills/Middlebury language program

Submitted by Bill Warren

We have recently started purchasing materials for the new Middlebury summer-language program at Mills College, which will start this year. Courses will be offered in Arabic (all levels), and French, Italian, and Spanish (lower levels). The items we buy will be received and paid for here. Then, after cataloging and processing, they will be shipped to Mills (in Oakland, California). Fortunately, the money to pay for these resources is not coming from the library materials budget, which has suffered a reduction of almost 6% this year because of the lamentable state of the economy. The necessary funds—a relatively modest amount, since lower-level language courses tend not to be very library-intensive—are being furnished by the language-schools administration. Thanks to colleagues in the language schools and the financial offices, we have received the necessary authorizations to directly expend money from the budget lines involved, rather than having to resort to cumbersome internal transfers of funds from one budget to another for each purchase. About 10% of the money allocated has been committed so far.

Periodical use survey

Submitted by Bill Warren


For reasons that are surely obvious to everyone, we have had to cut the current year’s library acquisitions budget by 5.5%.  It is entirely possible the budget will have to be reduced even further next year.  Consequently, we are looking for ways to save money as we never have before.  A still-substantial portion of our budget is devoted to print journals, so one possibility might be to cancel our subscriptions to some titles.  Obviously, if we have to resort to this, we would like to cancel titles that are relatively expensive, and get little or no use.


We have quickly mounted a use survey of most of our currently-received periodicals—current issues, bound volumes, and microform.  Some popular titles, like Time and Newsweek, are exempted, since we know they are very heavily used.  Since virtually all our subscriptions are non-cancelable once the year has started, the soonest we could make any cancellations is for the 2010 subscription year.  Unfortunately, we will not have enough time to do as complete a study as we would like.  Ideally, a study should cover at least one complete academic cycle:  fall and spring semesters, winter term, and summer school, in order to encompass all the courses given during the year.  To be really useful, a survey should extend for more than one year, since many courses are not offered every year.  Since we have to make our subscription commitments for 2010 in September 2009, we obviously would not be able to include even one fall semester in a survey intended to identify titles for cancellation for 2010.  In fact, we might not be able to adequately cover summer school, since we would need time to compile and digest results, consult, and reach decisions.


Notwithstanding this time drawback, it still seems worth doing.  If we found we had to make cancellations for 2010, we would have at least some use information, which would surely be helpful in making decisions.  And we could certainly keep surveying and accumulating information for the future.  If, as seems likely, hard times are with us for a while, we may well have to make cancellations in subsequent years, and as much use information as we can gather would definitely be beneficial.


So, for the foreseeable future, we are asking users not to return journal issues, bound volumes and microforms to their homes, but rather to leave them on strategically-placed carts or designated shelves, where they will be tallied by staff members before being re-shelved.  While this will render less-than-perfect information, to the extent we can induce users not to conscientiously re-shelve journals (arranging them in chronological order and assiduously replacing the layer of dust on the top issue in the pile, as some folks have been known to do), it will provide some illumination.

Electronic acquisition procedures with library vendor

Submitted by Bill Warren

We are currently setting up electronic services with our principal vendor of German-language materials, Harrassowitz, from whom we also purchase musical scores. When all is finished, we will enjoy a streamlined ordering and invoicing process, much like that provided by Blackwell, our major English-language vendor. Liaisons will be able to select items to be ordered in OttoEditions, the online bibliographic utility named for the venerated Otto Harrassowitz, who founded the firm in 1872. We purchase various categories of items from Harrassowitz, for each of which we have set up a separate account and profile. Items to be ordered in each category are assembled in a file in OttoEditions, which we import into our library system. The files of brief bibliographic records contain data added by Harrassowitz, in accordance with our specifications, which after processing through our load table causes order records to be automatically created, and encumbers the cost of each item. This eliminates the need to search for and download a bibliographic record, and create an order record, for each item individually. The ordering process is completed when we confirm our intent to purchase by electronically transmitting the order records back to Harrassowitz. We have successfully tested the procedure up to this point. Our colleagues in Cataloging are now making arrangements with OCLC, which will in conjunction with Harrassowitz furnish final bibliographic records (with embedded data that will cause our system to automatically create online invoices) for our purchases through the Cataloging Partners program. Once this second stage is completed, we will be able to implement the entire procedure.