Sunday, June 21, 2009

Re: e-book readers, Was:RE: In praise of lazy catalogers (Was: self-moderation) (AUTOCAT)

On Wed, 17 Jun 2009 13:00:19 -0500,
wrote:>James Weinheimer wrote:
>
>> Please understand: I am not a fan. In many ways, I don't like what is happening. Yes, I want access to all the books that I can't see now, but in my opinion this should not be done through private corporations that can change policies in two minutes or sell to another company at any time. Google is getting far too much power. But more important to me: I want to be on the winning side. Right now, Google looks like a winner to me.
>
>So is it more important to be on the winning side, whatever that side happens to be? Regardless of the values, philosophies, etc. of the library? (Or of a society as a whole?)
How about a real example that could take place in a matter of months? Let's say that the Google Book-Publisher agreement takes place within the next 18 to 24 months. Users are now demanding it, your library decides to subscribe and the job of the catalog department is to get it under control.

Suddenly you're looking at a 10 million book backlog. I've seen big backlogs before, but nothing close to that! If you have 100 catalogers (yeah, sure!) each one would be responsible for 100,000 books. That would take several lifetimes, and remember, I am sure that the number of books will grow.

To get control of these things, you may determine that it makes no sense for each cataloging department to catalog literally the same things over and over again so you cooperate. In fact, there are a lot of records available for copy in WorldCat. I do not think that everything in Google books is also in Worldcat, though.

So, you decide to opt for some new, networked method that doesn't exist as yet. But it needs to be built and no matter what, it will take time. People are demanding access now, so they are using the tools supplied by Google. Very soon, they are going directly to Google and bypassing anything you do completely. Now, you have the toughest task of all: once your new, networked site is built, which will take quite a bit of time, you have to win back your users, who are now accessing their materials remotely, not seeing a human being, and asking fewer and fewer questions of reference. You must convince them to use your tools and not Google's.

Tough. Does RDA help in this scenario, or hinder? Is this scenario pure fantasy, or just so far down the pike that it doesn't matter right now? I don't think so, and others don't think so either.

Looked at this way, it seems hopeless, but this is a completely realistic scenario, and we should be preparing for something like it. As I repeat over and over, I feel that librarians and catalogers are needed more than ever, but we must reconceptualize who we are and what we do. For one thing, Google Books doesn't have everything and there are lots of other scanned books all over the web, by the Germans, the French, there is Europeana, there is the Making of America project, lots more. Of course, that only makes the backlog bigger!

It should be obvious that doing things in the same old way will be tantamount to ignominious failure. The catalog will be absolutely forced to change and to become something quite different from what it has been in the past if it is not to disappear altogether, aside from being an inventory tool for the physical materials in the library. What will the new catalog be? I don't know. We need new methods and we need help from other quarters.

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