Using Web Resources in Technical Services: OLA Superconference 1998

Using Web Resources in Technical Services
an OLA Superconference Presentation for Session #202 —
"Reinventing the Job: Web Initiatives for Library Departments"
January 23, 1998

Created: 17/10/1997

Updated: 14/1/1998

Presented by:
Heather A. Fraser
Cataloguing Librarian
Bibliographic Services, Scott Library, York University
North York, Ontario, CANADA, M3J-1P3
Phone 416-736-2100 EXT: 22274
Fax: 416-736-5430


The Environment: Bibliographic Services, Scott Library, York University


There are 22 staff in Bibliographic Services; 5 librarians; 13 cataloguing assistants and 4 bibliographic assistants

All cataloguers input their own work into the database


York Libraries uses the SIRSI system in a Windows environment

All Bibliographic Services staff have a high end workstation (486 or a Pentium) plus a printer at their desks. We will be moving to the Windows NT environment over the next several months.

All staff were provided with basic Windows training before SIRSI was implemented


York Libraries got going in the Windows and Web environment a few years ago at the time the use of the World Wide Web was beginning to really take off in academic libraries. A library website was developed which became a source of information for both users and staff.

The Web was rapidly becoming a means of access to valuable tools and information pertinent to Technical Services not to mention having access to other library catalogues. This technology was also a new and efficient means of disseminating departmental and other local information.

The timing of my sabbatical coincided with all of these developments and I decided that as a sabbatical project, I would create a web page for the Bibliographic Services Department.


Creating a Web Page

The primary goal of my sabbatical project was to create a Web Page to serve the Bibliographic Services Department and have an end product that was directly applicable to the day to day work of the department.

Learning HTML Techniques

I also wished to learn HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) techniques and explore the many possibilities that this tool has to offer for library technical sercvices

Background Information

Introduction to HTML

My first introduction to HTML was through participation in an introductory HTML workshop for York library staff

I began to practice and experiment upon returning from the workshop and found that it did not take too long to get comfortable with the "basics"

Choice of HTML Editor

I chose to use HoTMetaL because it was one of several products demonstrated at the workshop, it was easy to obtain, versatile and user friendly

I learned how to apply the tagging through trial and error, by viewing the coding on other web pages when I wished to emulate an effect and from time to time by conferring with a colleague who is the local "webmaster"

Reference Texts

Here are two texts which were and continue to be extremely helpful:

Graham, Ian S. HTML sourcebook : a complete guide to HTML 3.0. 2nd ed. New York : Wiley Computer Pub., c1996.

Scharf, Dean. HTML visual quick reference. 2nd ed. Indianapolis, Ind. : Que Corporation, c1996.


Design Considerations

Once I was comfortable with the basics of HTML I began to think about how I wanted my web page to look

The next stage was a process of spending time looking at and evaluating web pages from other technical services deparments in Canada and the United States


Keep graphics to a minimum in order to avoid clutter and speed up the loading time

Maintain consistency of style in order to make it as easy as possible for users to navigate through the page(s)

Information to include

Ideas were gathered during the process of evaluating other technical services web pages

Consulted librarians and staff in Bibliographic Services and Acquisitions to see what type of information was desired

Categories of Material

Local documents such as procedures manuals, training documentation and handouts.

"Quick reference" cataloguing tools such as cutter tables, lists of abbreviations and dictionaries.

General cataloguing tools such access to other library catalogues, links to cataloguing agencies such as the National Library of Canada, the Library of Congress and USMARC and cagtegories of information and tools specific to cataloguing specific types of material such as governnment documents, serials and computer files.

Seeking feedback

Once the framework was in place, I spent a lot of time seeking feedback from colleagues both locally and abroad


Communication and timeliness

The use of a web page for library technical services means that cataloguers will simultaneously have the most up to date versions of local manuals, documents, handouts, memos, etc. New information from cataloguing agencies is accessible directly online and cataloguers can go ahead and use new subject headings and apply cataloguing rule changes from the Library of Congress much sooner than waiting for them to appear in print from the quarterly Cataloging Service Bulletins.

Versatility and learning

This web page provides cataloguers with access to a much wider selection of tools and resources to assist in the acquisitions and cataloguing process such as other library catalogues, language dictionaries and geographic information. Frequently used standard cataloguing tools such as the various Cutter Tables, lists of standard abbreviations and lists of words (by language) that must dropped when they occur at the beginning of a title are all available directly from individual workstations. The use of this web page will also help staff "self-learn" computer skills and thus increase their own comfort level with regard to computer technology.

Information sharing

Staff from other departments in the York University Library System will have access to this Web Page and be able to view and make use of the information and links it contains. Staff from other Technical Services Departments with access to Internet will also be able to view this page and make use of some of the links it contains just as our staff can view selected web pages from other technical services departments in Canada and the U.S. It is an important means of sharing information about how we go about the process of provding access to information as well as a means of sharing information about the tools that are available to assist in the cataloguing process.


Training issues

Internet training was not included in the staff training program when York Libraries moved to a Windows environment. Even with Windows training there are still widely varying levels of staff expertise and comfort with the use of technology. The move from dumb terminals to powerful workstations was a big one.

It has been difficult to find the time to provide comprehensive training sessions for the use of Netscape and the Technical Services Web Resources Page. There is also the added complication of not only mastering Netscape but also having to learn the techniques to navigate through some of the remote links contained on the website such as other library catalogues.

A handout which outlines Netscape basics has been provided. Some staff have found that this is sufficient to enable them to use the site and the resources it contains. In other cases, one on one quick "tutorials" are provided on an "as needed" basis.

Ongoing maintenance

Ongoing maintenance is a big time committment. I am fortunate in that maintenance of the website is now included in my position description.

There are always links to be edited, and new links to be added as they are discovered or suggested.

Local documents require editing from time to time and there are also new documents to be added on an ongoing basis.


Predictably, even with the varying levels of expertise there has been an increase in "surfing the net" for non work related information. Staff are encouraged to pursue this type of Internet use before or after work, at lunch or on breaks. With respect to the latter two options I prefer that people do not devote their entire lunch or breaks to exploring the Net so they can get up and move around and are not at their workstations all day.

Take a closer Look

If you are interested, I invite you to take a look at our site as well as examine the handout that was provided. Please see the URLs below:

The site

Technical Services Web Resources (

Training documentation

Using the Technical Services Web Resources Page (