As I wrote this on January 20, 1998, I had received 44 survey responses. Eight came via the OBS Web site. Although it has experienced some teething problems, the Web survey form has much to recommend it, as it is immediate and requires no stamp. As I hope is evident, we value these responses, and wish we got more of them. Please send your response if you have not!
Predictably, almost everyone we heard from was an academic law librarian, predominantly with over ten years of law library experience. There are, apparently, only a few firm, corporate, government, court, self-employed, or other non-academic members in OBS, but we want to include all members' interests in our plans. We try to get the word out that we are not just the academic technical services Online Bibliographic Services SIS, and that we do try to cover the online bibliographic world, or as many of its aspects as we can.
Since our purpose is to develop programs and projects that will be appealing and useful to a wide cross section of our members, let's not look at the numbers as scores, but as indicators. Several topics received a large number of 4s and 5s, interpreted respectively as "very interested" and "hot topic," including "Z39.50; Integrating the Electronic Library; Cataloging Tools and Services in New Technology; and Cataloging Electronic Resources. This strong response can't be ignored and efforts will be made to get them developed into programs.
Receiving fewer of the highest rankings, but lots of 3s ( average interest) and 4s, the following still appeal to a large number of members: After CD-ROM; Electronic Publishing; Evolution of Bibliographic Utilities; Alternative Methods of Database Maintenance; Ramifications of Internet Catalogs; Multiple Versions; Libraries Digitizing Projects; and Adding Call Numbers to OCLC and RLIN. If there is active interest in working on any of these, it will receive our full support.
With rankings mostly in the 1 ("fergit it!") to 3 range, these last few suggestions should be thoughtfully considered: Small Online Systems; Online Bibliographic Services for the One-Person Library; FTP; and Migration to a New Local System. Several had a few very strong supporters. If there is not enough interest in these topics for programs, we need to find other ways to help these members get the information they need, using TSLL articles, workshops, or focus groups.
The OBS listserv is a new way for members to air questions or concerns that relate to online bibliographic services in law libraries. Committee chairs and members should be able to respond in appropriate ways, with answers or referrals. The listserv may even have potential for continuing education, by posting of organized lessons, with prior notice, like a teleconference!
Your OBS Board will follow up the survey results in a couple of ways. First, we will approach members who indicated interest in particular topics and encourage them to begin to put a program together. Those of you who expressed especially strong preferences can expect to hear from us! There are many more program possibilities here than any SIS can handle, so the folks who are willing to go to work on a proposal will have our support and a chance at lasting fame.
Second, we will continue to pursue some of those programs or projects that appeal to non-academic and non-technical services members, and those potential members who may have needs that fall in our area. OBS - We're not just for catalogers any more!
We asked members to tell us what they need from OBS. Are we going in the right direction or are we leaving our members unserved? Here are excerpts from the comments received, ranging from the practical to the professionally philosophical:
"... most pressing need is everything related to migrating to the next automated system ..."
" ... strong interest in [adding call numbers to OCLC and RLIN records], but I can't see it as an OBS project."
"Being the only tech services librarian I feel isolated. Need professional involvement to keep current on issues & technology."
"OCLC has widened its scope so much that it would be helpful to have some way of filtering information targeted for technical services."
" ... efficient and timely updating of products and procedures. Ongoing projects which foster exchange of information. OBS needs to increase opportunities to learn from each other. My most pressing continuing education need is a way to learn more about creating web pages."
" ... integration of OPACS and non-residential subscriptions. Access/license issues, pro se patrons versus paid members of the library. How to keep those with the least technology informed of the advances in technology. ... We can't ignore those librarians/libraries [with limited
web access, equipment, training, staff]. I guess the major step the SIS can take is not to rely exclusively on electronic communication ..."
"I am in OBS-SIS for the contact with OCLC officials and other OCLC users. I receive more information and education from the OCLC Committee than almost any other SIS committee."
"OBS does an excellent job of providing continuing education and resources. The Local Systems Directory has been helpful to me, and TSLL is wonderful! The OBS committees are an excellent forum for discussion, but scheduling and competition with other meeting keeps them a secret."
"I cannot think of any topic that has not been addressed by OBS-SIS. The articles in the newsletter get better every year. Could we have a review added concerning electronic gadgets, programs, hardware. What works, what's hype, which have good instructions, cost analysis, etc."
"I like hard-core cataloging issues - interpreting murky rules, ... fine distinctions in LCSH, etc., both as programs and in TSLL articles."
"What I consider to be most valuable is a forum for sharing information with colleagues. ... being in a room with people who do similar things and hearing about new initiatives and solutions to problems, and offering my own input is very important to me. I want lots of hands-on information, but [the program proposal and acceptance process seems to discourage programs for specialists.] ALA programs appeal to me more these days."
"Keeping abreast of possible uses of Internet for technical services."
"I need answers to my questions, training, etc. when I need it, not just at the annual meeting. ... & need help developing bibliographic/local system crib sheets. Most pressing CE need is to learn html in general and Innopac webpac in particular - don't know how to begin, nor have time!"
"I run a law firm library & am very busy - don't have OCLC or other utilities. Could use: lists of contents of sites, how to's for ftp or telnet, search engine instruction, bibliographic information about the serial publications we use or need to have access to."
"The best thing SIS's do is present useful continuing education on topics relevant to our jobs."
"The most important thing we do is connect with each other for information, problem solving and support. That includes educational programs and sharing sessions like at the annual meeting."
None of these respondents are asking for the impossible or even the unavailable - much of it is in existence. OBS's job is to try to help our members and colleagues connect with it.