BL RIC logo Appendix A

Retrospective Conversion of Library Catalogues in the UK
Report of a seminar held at
The British Academy, 8th May 1996

1.0 Programme

Following a welcome from Barry Bloomfield, Chair of the Project's Advisory Group, the programme consisted of four sessions interspersed with three periods which provided over two hours of discussion. Each session had introductory presentations and the synopses or notes of these presentations appear in 2.0 below

1. Overview of the national situation and background to the project

Bernard Naylor (Chair of the Project Monitoring Group of the FIGIT study)

The study (Chair: Barry Bloomfield)

2. Planning the study;the questionnaire; libraries to be included?
Philip Bryant (Project Leader)

3. Material to be covered by the study?

Peter Hoare (Chair: Historic Libraries Forum)

A 'national programme' of retrospective conversion of library

catalogues? (Chair: Geoffrey Hare, County Librarian, Essex)

4. What are the HEFCs needs?

Derek Law (Director of Information Services and Systems, Kings College London )

5. Possible models for a 'national programme'?

Ray Templeton (Director, Information Services, Library Association)

Funding, organization and administration

(Chair: Frances Hendrix, Director, LASER)

6. Alternative sources of funding

Graham Jefcoate (Hon.Secretary, Library History Group)

7. What libraries require from a 'national programme' and what are the priorities?

Chris Koster (Director, Kensington and Chelsea Public Libraries)

2.0 Presentations

The following are the synopses or notes of their presentations provided by the speakers.

1) An overview of the national situation (Bernard Naylor)

The United Kingdom has a wealth of libraries which are well represented by the participants at this seminar. The types include: the national libraries, the ancient academic foundations, the newer universities, gentlemen's clubs, learned societies, county and city public libraries, historic private libraries, professional organisations, cathedral libraries, government departments and the libraries of stately homes.

Libraries have always shown a strong readiness to collaborate. Librarians have pride in the collections they administer but also a sense of their incompleteness. Automation has affected the different types of libraries to different degrees. Publicly funded libraries have usually found the investment easier to obtain. Automation of the library's catalogue must always raise the question of retroconversion.

Three decades of experience in the field of library collaboration have taught me some clear lessons. The flow of detailed information, at the level of the individual item, is critical. Although advances in library automation may have made the centralised database obsolescent, accessibility of information remains of the highest importance.There is also a nice balance in the value of stock information, whether material is of low use or high use. The conservation implications are also strong.

When the Follett Report was published, I expressed my concern that a retrospective decision had been deferred for a further study. Subsequent events have given weight to that fear. There is a danger that a historic opportunity may be missed. Widening the scope of retrospective conversion, as this meeting and this study seek to do, is very timely and fits with other initiatives such as the Anderson Report.

There is a need to make choices. We cannot do everything. The over-riding imperative is to appreciate that an appropriate programme of retrospective conversion must become as fundamental to our profession as the urge to cooperate itself.

2) Planning the study; libraries to be included; the questionnaire

(Philip Bryant)

(i) Motivation for the study. There is a national and international context: IFLA; LIBER Working Group on Library Automation; Council of Europe Recommendation of September 1989; the 1995 FIGIT study.

(ii) There are a large number of libraries and the resources for this study are limited!
A lot of activity is going on e.g. Cathedral Libraries' Project, National Trust, etc

(iii) What parameters should be set?
- Should an attempt be made to cover all types of library in the forthcoming survey?
- Should only those categories of library be covered which are not currently involved in any coordinated programme of activity and all the other initiatives be 'mapped' in the final report?

(iv) The FIGIT study employed both quantitative and qualitative methods. It also attempted to determine a range of unit costs for producing retrospectively converted catalogue records. In the current study the intention is to use quantitative methods only and to omit a study of 'costs' as it is not considered that these will significantly differ from the range of costs detailed in the report to FIGIT.

(v) The questionnaire, copies of which have been distributed to those attending this meeting, have also been 'piloted'. In the main it worked well, although some changes are desirable. Further suggestions are invited.

(vi) Sources for the survey's mailing list. It is proposed to use the LA Directory Libraries in the United Kingdom . . . 1996. What other sources should be used?

(vii) The intention is to mail the questionnaire, with a covering letter and s.a.e., at the beginning of June.

(viii) It is proposed that, once the final report of the whole study has been accepted by the BLRIC, it will be sent to all the sectoral bodies represented in the survey, to the Library and Information Commission, the DNH and to other appropriate bodies for their consideration. When it has been approved, it is planned to publish an edited version of both this and the report of the FIGIT study in a single volume at the end of 1996/beginning 1997.

In addition to the above, a copy of the paragraph in the FIGIT report headed 'Defining what has to be counted' (see Section 3.3.3) was circulated to the delegates to underline the

problems of being consistent in the use of the terms: title- record - item.

3) Material to be covered by the BLRIC study on Retrospective Conversion

(Peter Hoare)

The following factors and questions are for discussion:

Type of material or collection

Importance for research - richness - depth of coverage

Local or regional significance

Special material in the general library - to be considered as 'special collections' or



From the earliest relevant date to the present - or earlier cut-off for some types of

material, e.g. 1800, 1850, 1900, 1950?


'English' (scope of STC, Wing, ESTC - world-wide)

Europe - European languages (wherever published)

Rest of world - especially Oriental languages?

Printed material

Traditional text printing - letterpress, litho, etc.

Informal publishing - duplicated, photocopied, computer print-out

Engraved - textual, other (music, maps, prints)?

Physical formats

'Books' of whatever size - including pamphlets, etc.

Periodicals, serials - newspapers, magazines

Broadsheets (printed notices, posters, etc) - ephemera?

Not covered by the present study, but needing further consideration

Manuscripts and archives - drawings, plans, etc.

Non-print material of other kinds

4) What are the HEFCs needs? (Derek Law)

The Funding Councils' Strategy

- Requirements

Access to collections

Cooperation in description of these collections

Resource sharing

- Mechanism

Anderson Report recommendations

Non-Formula Funding

CURL (Consortium of University Research Libraries)

e-Lib Docdel Projects set up with Follett money

- Outcome

A Distributed National Collection for the HE sector

Assured access to research materials

Assured delivery to the remote user

The Library and Information Commission budget is limited; its brief is to define and envision the library world of the 21st century. For the HE sector cooperation is vital for its 212 institutions, and for delivery of material to remote users; there is no new money, and institutions volunteer for the good of the community. There is some funding when collections are transferred to an HE body. Funding decisions to select which libraries may be supported are at least as likely to be measured by the research standing of the institution as by the inherent nature of the collections. Under Non-Formula Funding (NFF) for specialised collections some £50,000,000 will be made available over five years, but there will be no new money and funds are non-transferable between expenditure heads; however, there may be some provision for a'roll forward' under the specific head! The terms of grant include a requirement that access is available to other bona fide users i.e.users employed in HEIs funded by the Funding Councils and DENI, and there is now a move to make matching funding a condition of grant. The need to match the grants received raises other priorities in librarians' thinking e.g. the importance of retroconversion compared with money for buildings. There is a view that because money is short there will have to be a measure of 'cherry picking', that is, prioritisation of the material for which retroconversion of records should be undertaken.

Delivery to users might be best achieved by regional arrangements. The backbone of an HE regional library consortium for research is emerging and document delivery could well be offered by the sector. The CURL Database might serve as the basis for a national bibliographic resource. A major problem is expertise - cataloguing is no longer considered a core skill. (There is also a lack of trained archivists). Some projects have not been started for lack of suitable personnel. There is a clear view that we should not attempt to catalogue everything.

There is likely to be an increased burden of use for institutions who make their collections available over the Internet. There is talk of funding for a national digitisation centre*. The view is held that the aim should be to populate the Internet with 'content' rather than guides to guides. There is also the question of providing data about 'collections' rather than 'individual items'.Collections themselves need to be more accessible as well as librarians' records of items within the collections.

* This has now been set up at the University of Hertfordshire

5) Possible models for a 'National Programme' (Ray Templeton)

Special collections, by their very nature, have diverse characteristics and diverse operating and funding environments. This makes a national programme more desirable, but at the same time, more difficult. Many will be small, with less visibility than general collections; consequently lower profile; consequently more difficult to attract funding. There is, therefore, considerable potential for them to benefit from a national programme. This should help to encourage participation, but at the same time funding available should be conditional on their ability to meet certain criteria - guaranteed standards, timescales, etc.

Characteristics of a national programme:

: exert influence outside programme

: raise funds and otherwise champion the intitiative

: raise profile

: ensure maximum coverage

: link with other national programmes

: cross library sectors

: ensure maximum exploitation

: exert influence within programme

: set priorities and allocate funding

: establishing quality standards, and monitor implementation

: ensure coordination

: ensure minimum duplication of effort

: increase cooperation

: facilitate monitoring

: disseminate information

Other considerations are: political positioning - high profile - authority - high-level influence

- administrative machinery

Is there a body in existence that can provide the basis for such organisational requirements?

Is there an appropriate organisational model?

Is the body that would put a national programme in place, the same as the one that would

implement it?

6) Additional sources of funding (Graham Jefcoate)

As institutional budgets become ever tighter, libraries and archives, and especially those with

historic buildings and collections, are increasingly required by governing bodies to justify

their costs. There is an obvious need to identify additional or alternative sources of funding

or revenue if standards of service are not to decline and the integrity of collections is to be


There is a clear need for librarians and archivists to take a more proactive and imaginative

approach to funding issues. In collaboration with the Society of Archivists, the Library

Association Library History Group proposes to publish a Guide to additional sources of

funding for libraries and archives. This guide will help applicants identify funding sources

and exploit them effectively and imaginatively. It will also serve as a guide to best practice,

aiming to identify solutions that are effective both in terms of time and costs. It will be aimed

primarily at smaller libraries and archives with historic buildings and collections, but will also

be of practical use to all in the field with a responsibility for budgets or an interest in fund-

raising. The Guide will be based on a survey of current practice and will be published by the

British Library Research and Innovation Centre, which has also supported the project with a


7) What libraries require from a 'national programme' and what are the

priorities? (Chris Koster)

Any library becoming involved in a proposed 'national programme' will firstly need to

consider whether or not to participate. Assuming they can justify participation a number of

practical issues concerned with their involvement will follow. It is intended to concentrate on

these as follows:


Do we need or want to become involved?

Condition and state of material

Availability of material

Access policy

Funding and resources

Level of commitment


What are the operational factors affecting involvement?

Staffing resources and expertise


Equipment and plant

In-house computer situation

Networking, communication


What are the pre-requisites for success?

Clear explanation of purpose

Identification of collections

Standards and operations

Logistical support

Co-ordination and control

Funding and commitment

Network planning

3.0 Discussion

The discussion at the seminar has been used, together with the results of the FIGIT Focused

Consultation Group and the views expressed at both studies' advisory groups, to inform

Section 1 of this report.

The following two comments were typical of the support of those at the meeting for a

coordinated approach to the task of completing the retrospective conversion of the

nation's catalogues:

'We must be ready to cooperate. We need to know the size of the problem and how it could be tackled . . . Everyone needs to be involved and there should be no HE/non-HE split'.

(Librarian of a major university)

'There should be a momentum to include retrospective conversion in the national information policy arena. We do have to create an access policy'. (Chief Librarian of a major public library)

4.0 Attendance List

Nicolas Barker, Libraries Adviser, National Trust

Alan Bell, Librarian, The London Library

Barry Bloomfield, Chair, Project's Advisory Group

Philip Bryant, Project Leader, University of Bath

David Buckle, Managing Director, OCLC Europe

Dr.P.A.Bulloch, Librarian, Balliol College, University of Oxford

Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey, Bart, Chadwyck-Healey Ltd

Ann Chapman, Research Officer, UKOLN, The Library, University of Bath

Gillian Cornelius, Bibliographic Resources Librarian, Natural History Museum

Margaret Croucher, British Library R & D Department

Michael Crump, Head, British Library Early Collections Service

Sandra Cumming, Fellowship and Information Services, The Royal Society,

Sarah Dodgson, Librarian, The Athenaeum, LONDON

Gina Douglas, Librarian and Archivist, Linnean Society of London

Robert Duckett, Senior Librarian, Reference Services, Central Library, BRADFORD

Leo Favret, Library Operations Manager, Central Library, BROMLEY

Geoffrey Forster, Librarian, The Leeds Library

Pam Garbett, Quality Coordinator, Bibliographic Services, Central Library, BIRMINGHAM

Dr.Rhidian Griffiths, Keeper of Printed Books, National Library of Wales

Geoffrey Hare, County Librarian, Essex County Library HQ

Henry Heaney OBE, University Librarian, Glasgow University Library

Dr.Lotte Hellinga FBA, Secretary, Consortium of European Research Libraries

Frances Hendrix JP, Director, LASER

Peter Hoare, Chair, Historic Libraries Forum

Peter Hoey, Librarian, Royal Society of Chemistry

Benita Horder, Librarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

Margaret Hoyes, The Library, Royal Society of Medicine

Richard Hudson, Chief Executive, SLS (Information Systems) Ltd

Professor Peter Isaac, The Bibliographical Society

Graham Jefcoate, Programme Manager, Network Services, The British Library

Ruth Kamen, Director, British Architectural Library, Royal Institute of British Architects

Ed King, Cathedrals Library Project, c/o The British Library

Chris Koster, Director of Libraries and Arts, Kensington and Chelsea Central Library,

Derek Law, Director of Information Services and Systems, King's College London Library

Tony McSean, Librarian, British Medical Association

Simon Malpas, Stock Edit Librarian, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Heather Moore, Senior Executive, Saztec Europe

Bernard Naylor, The Hartley Library, University of Southampton

Ann Newport, Systems Librarian, The Library, Inner Temple

Howard Nicholson, Librarian, University of Bath

Pat Oddy, Head of Cataloguing, British Library ACP

Dr.Richard Palmer, Lambeth Palace Library

Michael Perkin

Michael Pollock, Librarian, Royal Asiatic Society

Bill Posnett, Librarian, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex

Dr.Seamus Ross, The British Academy

Dick Sargent, Royal Commission on HistoricalManuscripts,

Alan Seal, Head of Records, Victoria and Albert Museum

Dr.David Shaw, Department of French, University of Kent at Canterbury

Andrew Stevens, Library Strategy Manager, Westminster City Libraries

Ray Templeton, Library Association

Mary Wilkinson, Head, Acquisitions and Cataloguing, Imperial War Museum