|Online Bibliographic Services
Special Interest Section
|From the Chair|
Imagine my surprise when I opened my TS-SIS member survey and saw the question: "Do you think TS and OBS should be merged?" This question has been put down three times already so we didn't expect to see it again so soon. In the spirit of intellectual curiosity, Brian Striman added it to the OBS member survey, but neither of us thought much more about it. Lo and behold (or as granny used to say, "Lord in the hole!") OBS members have told us we need to think about it. In the approximate words of one: "Bibliographic utilities and local systems are so intertwined with the rest of our jobs, that it is difficult to separate them." OK. Here are some thoughts from my perspective.
Who are OBS members? A good half are technical services librarians in some capacity, but nearly half are nontechnical. More than half are academic, almost a quarter are from law firms, and a small but significant aggregate are from state, court, county, public, corporate libraries, etc. As many of you know, we have for some years tried to serve the needs of all varieties of law librarians - technical, public, and administrative - who need information about bibliographic services.
Does our programming compete with or duplicate that of TS-SIS? There is a common conception that OBS and TS compete for program slots. To the extent that the two Sections do share interests, we provide an additional programming source (or vehicle). If OBS disappeared, there might well be fewer. In fact, however, OBS consciously steers clear of traditional technical services programming. Because of the range of member types and needs, our recent programs have been aimed at a broad range of interests, with some not-so-obvious connections: archivability of electronic information; the law librarian's desktop of the future; evaluating Web sites. This summer, look for a similarly diverse selection: metadata; information architecture in the Web environment; and online systems for small law libraries. We're still interested in the bibliographic utilities, too, of course, including their reference services.
OBS is an alternative avenue to leadership opportunities. This has been true mostly for potential leaders from a technical services background. The Section has traditionally been led by tech services people, and there may be some contradiction in this. When so many public services librarians and administrators are members, why are they not more in evidence in OBS offices, in survey responses, in program development? Almost the same could be said about non-academic law librarians, of course. Academics and "techies" generally are most active, but we try to serve all of our members, even if they don't say much.
We need to look again at our stated purposes, perhaps re-evaluate our mission in light of what we learn about our members current and anticipated needs. Does OBS-SIS offer something that both technical and non-technical services librarians need? Is either group getting short shrift because of the attempt to serve both? Do tech services people find something in OBS that TS does not offer? One of our leaders, a member of both TS and OBS, shared her opinion: "I think that TS and OBS complement each other, overlap in some areas, but aren't the same. Neither one is filling all of MY needs, for example, which is why I'm in both. I'd like to see both groups concentrate on member needs and directions rather than on whether to merge or not."
Some discussion and planning by both TS and OBS will be required before we can say with any assurance how our complementary goals should be pursued over the coming years.
Candidates for OBS Offices
OBS election ballots will be mailed in late March. The nominating Committee, Sue Roach, Sally Wambold, and Jacqui Paul, have done an admirable job. Candidates for Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect are: Virginia Bryant and Ellen McGrath; for Secretary-Treasurer: Cindy Cicco and George Prager; and for Member-at-Large: Richard Amelung and Georgia Briskoe. The new Secretary-Treasurer will serve a two-year term, as will the new Member-at-Large.
Review of OBS Brochure
Caitlin Robinson and Kevin Butterfield have my gratitude for agreeing to review OBS's publicity brochure, which is primarily distributed at the AALL activities table. Their goal is up-to-date information with a fresh look.
John P. Bissett
Washington and Lee University
School of Law Library