Dr. Brad Eden
Coordinator, Technical Services
Automated Library Services
North Harris Montgomery Community
This special issue of LIBRES, an electronic, peer-reviewed, scholarly journal in the field of Library and Information Science Research, is devoted to the subject of telecommuting and/or telecomputing in the area of cataloging. The three articles that follow examine this topic from very different perspectives. Leyson and Pelzer provide a historical perspective of telecataloging, and consider the topic in its present emanation as well as some forecasts on its future progression. Browne examines the field of indexing as a subtopic under telecommuting and cataloging, and describes the opportunities this field provides for working at home. Finally, Blosser and Zhang describe their “Interactive Electronic Serials Cataloging Aid,” an attempt to apply new technology to traditional cataloging principles, and t the implications of their online cataloging training tool for telecommuting and telecomputing in the area of technical services. Telecommuting, telecataloging, remote cataloging — all of these terms describe a phenomenon that has just begun to emerge as a work option in the library environment. Telecommuting appeared in the early 1990’s as an experiment in some large multinational corporations, and has so far been a resounding success as a viable workplace alternative for both employers and employees alike. Some interesting statistics to consider:
A person working 1 or 2 days a week at home can save a company $6,000 to $12,000 a year through lower turnover, reduced office space, and hikes in productivity.
In 1994 almost 9 million people telecommuted, a 20% increase over the previous year. By 1998, that number will increase to 13 million.
Over the past three years Ernst & Young, the accounting and consulting firm, has reduced its office space by 2 million feet, resulting in a savings of $25 million a year.
AT&T has 3.5% of its employees telecommuting, and hopes to raise this number to 15% by the year 2000. It saved $80 million in real estate costs last year from its 35,000 telecommuters.
2,500 employees out of 56,000 at Hewlett-Packard telecommute at least part-time as of November 1995.
Savings on lunches, wear and tear on a car, and clothing can amount to $1,000 a year savings for employees, as well as reduced stress and an increased sense of freedom.
Employee productivity increases about 8 to 20%.(1)
A GSA survey, released after the first annual Telecommute America! celebration, asked Fortune 1000 executives who incorporate telecommuting as a workplace alternative what their opinions were on this topic. Sixty-four percent cited savings on office space costs, 58% cited increased productivity, 63% mentioned improved employee retention, 61% cited reduced absenteeism, 63% mentioned reduced employee stress, and 79% cited improved employee morale. An overwhelming 92% of these executives said that telecommuting had produced advantages in savings for their companies.(2)
Such amazing statistics in favor of telecommuting are transforming the way corporate America does business in this era of downsizing. Only recently are libraries exploring the possibilities of telecommuting, especially in the area of technical services. Listed below are some of the many Internet sites related to telecommuting and working at home:
Telecommuting, teleworking, and alternative officing
American Society of Indexing
Telecommuting Advisory Council
Yahoo index on telecommuting
Telecommuting and Telework Resource Page
Telecommute America home page
There is also one listserv devoted to telecommuting, which so far has had only sporadic traffic. Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the message “subscribe remote-work [your e-mail address]” in the body of the message. You will also receive instructions to access a variety of interesting documents on telecommuting in the welcome response. Hopefully, this special issue of LIBRES will encourage discussion among the library community, especially on the AUTOCAT listserv. I personally worked full-time for nine months and currently work part-time as a remote cataloger for Iowa State University from my home in Houston, Texas (see a description of the Synthesis Coalition and the NEEDS database at http://www.needs.org). While cataloging computer files remotely is more feasible than books or other physical objects, libraries need to explore the opportunities that telecommuting can provide. I hope that the following articles will stimulate discussion and experimentation.
(1) Statistics taken from Jim Barlow, “It will pay to do your home work,” _Houston Chronicle_, March 28, 1996; and Jonathan Marshall, “Telecommuting picking up steam,” _San Francisco Chronicle_, [date unknown].
(2) BNA Daily Labor Report, 24 Oct. 95, A4.