time to consider and branch out to a completely new kind of work.
All of that is, of course, too tidy for most of us. There are periods when our careers are at the top of our priorities, and periods when personal considerations make work seem relatively unimportant. For some people their work is their life, for some it is just that thing you have to do to get through life, and for most of us it falls somewhere in between. I think a "reasonable man" definition of a career should be: remunerative activity in an area which one finds interesting and about which one can expect to achieve a level of expertise. This makes law library technical services work an attractive career for many people. There is enough complexity in the work to keep most people busy at learning new things through many years. Just the technological changes alone should provide any of us with a rich, ongoing source of new activities and concepts to be mastered.
You should also consider ignoring my career-oriented advice if you find a particular situation where it seems not to matter. As discussed in the last issue, we are in a period with a tight labor market. Neither your short tenure at one place nor your job hopping will be overly detrimental if the place you land in is desperate for you and you come in and do a good job. Most people are willing to overlook miscalculations or wrong turns if they end up with someone they like. So, finally, you should be honest with yourself. If you know you are simply in the wrong place and that a change will make all the difference, then go ahead. If, on the other hand, this would be your 4th job in 6 years, and if youíve always been forced to work with awful people in awful places, you may want to look at yourself and see if something besides your job needs to change.
Dear Miss Manager:
By the time you read this, the Presidential election will be over, and my problem, too, I hope. Picture a dyed-in-the-wool, New Deal, Liberal Democrat heading up one unit in my department and an equally stalwart Conservative, Reagan-loving Republican heading up another. Theyíve always gotten along fine, especially it seems in years when the elections were not close B lots of good-natured ribbing and humorous acknowledgment of differences. But this year, with things so close, they both have been very serious about the whole matter, have broken into arguments, and have been less than cooperative with one another. Since I never made objections to such discussions when they lacked bite, am I now justified in asking them to tone things down? As I say, this will all be over on November 7th, thank goodness, but I hope to be better prepared next time.
Oh, dear. I can only hope that by the time this is published, the election may have a result. Your expected alleviation, I assume, has not occurred. And now you are assailed from all sides with charges, counter-charges, recounts, injunctions, absentee ballots, pregnant chads, and more trivia about the counties in Florida than you ever expected to hear in a lifetime. Your politically-minded colleagues are at odds over a non-work related issue, and that raises the whole problem of the inclusion of non-work activities into the office. It is of course possible for there to be too much chatting and other non-work activity in the workplace. I assume that even if you have no formal policy concerning extra-curricular behavior that you feel free to intervene when the work of the department is suffering. If your cataloger and your acquisitions librarian are not speaking to each other for any reason, or are speaking disruptively, you are responsible for seeing that they shape up and act like professionals. I should say that you are responsible for trying to get them to behave better, for, although you may be their manager, your professional colleagues should be self-regulating as far as their professionalism is involved. But as we know, some professionals are more professional than others, and a good talking-to may be in order if this does not clear itself up.
Now, as to the general policy in such matters and how you might avoid similar problems in the future, I think you may want to go with an informal rather than a formal policy. It does no good to be insistent on a total ban of non-work discussions at work because everyone will violate it sometime. And as long as a reasonable amount of chatting is tolerated, Miss Manager takes the bipartisan stance that managers are not to tell people what they may or may not discuss. But your departmental leaders must show the way in this. If they are the chief culprits, then not all support personnel will feel the need to behave any better than they do. In future, as you see discussions getting out of hand or as you notice a pattern of too much fun in the fun-to-work ratio, you need to point those situations out to the offenders. Donít worry too much about this marking you as a killjoy. As long as you set the example of what is reasonable in the department, others will learn to work within those boundaries.
Dear Miss Manager:
At the AALL Annual Meeting last year in Philadelphia, at the "Instant Gratification! The Z39.50 Gateway to Searching, Cataloging and ILL" program, Mary Jane Kelsey of Yale proposed an ethical question for you: should a library that allows other libraries to make use of its MARC records via Z39.50 be able to charge a fee for the downloading of those records? Iím curious to know your answer.
As flattering as it is to be asked, I feel compelled to point out that my ethical opinions (not to mention my ethics) are, by virtue of my exalted position as a TSLL columnist, no better than any other librarianís, or of anyone who may take an interest in this topic. But since the question has been broached, and since it is an issue which librarians will have to face soon if they are not already facing it, I think it is a very useful discussion for us to have. And, of course, there has already been some airing of this issue in the library world. For example, see the thread "How Does OCLC Feel About Z39.50 Transfers" from the Autocat listserv archives (discussion beginning April 21, 1998). That discussion centered around the idea that someone in library X might download records from library Z after library Z had downloaded the record from OCLC and paid the appropriate fees to OCLC. Library X could theoretically be getting free OCLC records via Z39.50 transfers from other libraries.
The other question before us is what to do about library A going to library Y and retrieving a record created, let us say, by library Y and representing hours of work analyzing an esoteric subject in a foreign language. Library A has a lone paraprofessional responsible for all the cataloging; library Y has 11 professional catalogers, including a specialist capable of cataloging this esoteric work. Now, it seems clear that for anything it has bothered to create from scratch, Library Y should be able to claim some ownership. So what could be wrong with charging A a fee for the record? Y recoups some of the cost of employing the specialist and A gets a very hard-to-catalog record for a lot less than it would cost locally. But has library Y also placed that record in a utilityís database? Has it made that record available for all the world to use via one or more cooperative agencies already set up to help libraries share the workload? Doesnít the centralized database of an OCLC or an RLIN already exist in order to spread the costs of manufacturing and consuming cataloging records among all the libraries which subscribe? Why should library A get the benefit of shared cataloging without bearing any of the cost that membership in a utility entails? If everyone behaved like library A, OCLC would fold up and we would all be scouring catalogs across the Internet looking for records instead of going to a single large database. On the other hand, why should library Y care what a patron who happens to be looking at the catalog does with the information found there? Is it up to library Y to determine who is downloading records for edifying reasons and who is downloading them for ignoble uses? Arenít we in a service profession? If library A can provide better access to information in its library by making use of information in library Y, why not allow it?
I think in the end, each library is free to do what it wants and what it can get away with while still adhering to its agreements. So, if library Y allows any and all users to download for any reason, then any other library should feel free to come in and use those records. But, if those "consumers" are also members of utilities, they are obliged to indicate their holdings. If the library Y record would be new to the utility, it is probably necessary for the downloading institution to discuss with library Y getting that record into the utilityís database. If library Y has a policy of charging for such library-use downloads, or of forbidding them, the downloading library should certainly honor that policy. I would argue against such a policy, however. The information available in a library should be as free as possible for as many patrons as possible. This is harder for law libraries than for public libraries, harder for law firm libraries than for academic law libraries, but wherever your library falls along the spectrum, if you can make a choice between information that is easy to get at and information that is difficult to get at, you should go with easy.
In the end, this issue may be resolved by the triumph of the practical over the ideal, presuming that an ideal is even possible. The fact is, most libraries will be unwilling to set up the underlying structures that will make restrictions to their cataloging records workable. The point of the Z39.50 protocol is openness, allowing the outsider access to what was once only locally available. Sharing the records is just the next logical step in that progression toward greater and greater accessibility.