Current Cites

How Current Cites Came To Be

Roy Tennant

ProposalCurrent Cites was just one initiative of the Library Technology Watch Program that started at the University of California, Berkeley Library in July 1990. At the time I was serving as the Public Services Automated Systems Coordinator. In that role, I assisted the Public Services division in automation and systems related issues. To help fulfill that role in early 1990 I proposed a "Library Technical Expert Program".

The original proposal met with some opposition at a meeting of Public Services Department Heads on 27 March 1990. At that meeting it was requested that the program goals and objectives be identified. These were provided on 9 April 1990. At the Public Services Department Heads meeting on 10 April 1990, there was still opposition but Associate University Library for Public Services Rita Kane "decided that the Library Technical Expert Program should be tried on a one-year experimental basis." It was subsequently named the Library Technology Watch Program, or "Tech Watch" for short.

A call for volunteers went out in the Library staff publication CU News on 17 May 1990. We began with five Library staff members on 3 July 1990: Teri Rinne, Bancroft; David Robison, Collection Development/Reference Services; Vivienne Roumani, Cooperative Services; Mark Mentges, Humanities/Social Sciences; and Lisa Rowlison, Serials. Each participant was assigned one of the following areas in which to become an "expert":

Each participant was also expected to contribute citations from the literature relating to their topic area for our monthly current awareness newsletter Current Cites, the first issue of which we produced in August 1990. Here is page one and page two of the first issue.

There was immediate interest in the publication, with Clifford Lynch of the Division of Library Automation (what eventually became the California Digital Library) of the University of California Office of the President offering to put it online via the MELVYL Catalog the month after our first issue. I don't recall the exact timing, but it's possible it was available online by the end of the year, making it one of the longest continuously available electronic publications on the Internet.

Over the 20 years of its life to this point, Current Cites has had three editors: David F.W. Robison was the first editor, and served until January 1994, when Teri Rinne took over. She edited the publication until she left UC Berkeley in August 2000, and I have been the editor ever since. At some point I programmed an infrastructure for submitting the cites via a web form which are then output in XML. I index the XML files and use XSLT to create the HTML issue I mount on the web. There are now over 1,600 individual citations available for searching.

The Library Technology Watch Program continued until it formed a new unit of the Library Systems Office called Information Systems Instruction and Support (ISIS). ISIS continued many of the Tech Watch programs, including instructional classes and Current Cites. Eventually ISIS was disbanded and I moved to the California Digital Library and eventually to OCLC, while continuing to publish Current Cites. As far as I know, this publication is the only remaining vestige of the Library Technology Watch Program twenty years on.

There is more information on the early history of Current Cites, including an article that appeared in Computers in Libraries.