ASSOCIATES (vol. 3, no. 2, November 1996) -

Table of contents

                             *Working For A Vendor*

                                  Patti Russell
                               Cataloging Assistant
                             Technical Processing Dept.

In November of 1995, I started working for a vendor, OCLC Online
Computer Library Center, Inc., after five years of employment
with private academic libraries.  I have found the mission of a
college library dramatically different from a vendor's.  The
academic library and library vendor both serve a customer or
patron, but the vendor is a business with a focus on

My present position as Cataloging Assistant is with OCLC's newly
established c.i.p. (cataloging in publication) upgrade unit.
This project supports PromptCat by upgrading Library of Congress
c.i.p. records, so libraries who use the PromptCat service will
not need to do as much in-house editing of bibliographic records.
Our unit is located in the warehouse of Academic Book Center in
Portland, Oregon.  This vendor supplies us with copies of
newly published books.  We locate the appropriate bibliographic
record in the OCLC Online Union Catalog, complete missing
information, such as paging, and make needed corrections.  The
c.i.p. unit consists of two full-time employees, one part-time,
and a temporary employee who scans the table of contents for an
upcoming OCLC Book Table of Contents database on-line.

In 1991, I started working in library technical services after
completing a certificate in library science at a local community
college.  I have a bachelor's degree in Communications, but
wanted to pursue employment in a different field.  For two years,
I worked in library acquisitions, then moved to the cataloging
department after completing a graduate level course in cataloging
and classification.  In this department I worked on a
retrospective conversion project identifying and editing Marc
records.  For the next two years, I was employed as a copy
cataloger and occasionally did original cataloging.  As with
other paraprofessionals, my position became threatened by
down-sizing.  I was looking for work when OCLC advertised for
technicians for their new c.i.p. upgrade unit.

I was eager to be part of a company with vision for the future of
library services.  Working for OCLC has not been a
disappointment.  Their pay is good compared to private academic
libraries.  The benefits are good if you work full-time and they
are very supportive of their employees continuing their
education.  In my position, our supervisor has been open to flex
hours as much as the academic institutions for which I have
worked.  The computer equipment and software is also much better
than what I've worked with before.   Also, the OCLC staff I have
met are competent, professional, and dedicated.

It has been an adjustment to work for a business after being with
academic institutions. In a smaller college library, my job tasks
were varied, where now I am mostly confined to working in front
of a computer doing a sophisticated form of data entry.   After
six months, the repetitive tasks began wearing physically and I
requested being changed from full-time to part-time status.  My
supervisor was very open to this change and I have found
part-time employment much more workable.

I also miss the association with professors and students that
comes with working on a college campus.  The college library is
an interesting and stimulating setting, with a focus for service
through getting materials into the stacks with adequate access.
Productivity was important, but it was never calculated in
percentages with our statistics as it is with working for a
vendor.  Also, the physical surroundings of the college campus
was more aesthetically appealing and generally with an adequate
heating/cooling system, as compare to working in a cement

In the college library, the cataloger who was obsessed with
periods and AACR2 rules was considered undesirable.  The
"perfect" Marc record was far from the goal of the college
library cataloger.  In contrast, our work at OCLC is viewed on a
national level and subject to criticism by library employees
whose employment may be threatened by the development of
outsourcing.  So, there is a lot more stress in working for a
vendor whose focus is on producing a product acceptable to many
libraries for the purpose of creating revenue.

I believe outsourcing is here to stay and will continue to
expand.  There are going to be fewer technical services positions
in libraries, as they subscribe to outsourcing.  If one wants to
continue working as a paraprofessional in library technical
services, it may well be essential to adjust to the mind set and
working conditions of working for a vendor.