Re: In praise of lazy catalogers (Was: self-moderation) (AUTOCAT)

On Thu, 11 Jun 2009 10:53:27 -0400, … wrote:
>Are you referring to only college students or to faculty members and other
>scholars in the research community? THere is more
> than a “few genuine
>researchers” as you should know using libraries…outside of
>undergraduates. These are the users I’m referring to, do they
>also just
>want one little search box for their research needs ? Ebooks are
>but searching is another matter for access, we are all using ebooks
>already. Researchers need more than one search box for their
>work, they
>look for the content, the best information they can locate, rather than the

Much of this flies in the face of the research as to what users want and do. Do we really believe that someone searching and seeing the *full-text* in Google Books is really going to come to the library for even more materials?

I suggest you read an article by Tony Grafton “Apocalypse in the stacks? The research library in the age of Google” in the Winter 2009 issue of Daedalus (not available for free online unfortunately. I hope Princeton follows the other universities soon in having their faculty load everything into an open archive!) He goes into some depth about how libraries first lost scientists, then many of the social scientists, and how this was a natural reaction to the various stages of computerization. Do we really think the humanities are immune from these same trends?

And when you say that people look for the “best information they can locate rather than the convenience,” it’s a nice idea but again, it flies in the face of many, many studies. I think it is best summed up by Marcia Bates’ “Research and Design Review” at Look especially at p. 4

“2A. General information seeking behavior
Principle of least effort.
Probably the single most frequently discovered finding on information seeking behavior is that people use the principle of least effort in their information seeking. This may seem reasonable and obvious, but the full significance of this finding must be understood. People do not just use information that is easy to find; they even use information they know to be of poor quality and less reliable–so long as it requires little effort to find–rather than using information they know to be of high quality and reliable, though harder to find. Research on this behavior dates at least as far back as the 1960’s, when a major study demonstrated that physicians tended to rely on drug company salesmen for drug information, rather than consulting the research literature. (Coleman, Katz, & Menzel, 1967). Poole reviewed dozens of these studies in 1985 (Poole, 1985); Mann has a more recent review (Mann, 1992).”

This only makes sense and as she says, “the full significance of this finding must be understood.” I think it is especially important to understand and accept this as the Google Books deal will come about sooner or later. One will be very, very easy. We can’t ignore that.

James Weinheimer
Director of Library and Information Services
The American University of Rome
Rome, Italy



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