Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fwd: Re: Blog post: Library Catalogues are no longer an inventory but a place, and a community by Laurel Tarulli

On Mon, 29 Jun 2009 16:04:57 -0400, ... wrote:

>I never knew libraries were in the business of *"controlling"* library
> users...?
>
>What does this mean exactly... just wondering.... interesting perspective
>I don't think I have ever heard that in over 20 years in libraries.

I tried to illustrate this in my post, but I have maintained this in many
other posts on this list and others. *In the past,* libraries were extremely
controlled environments compared to today. As just a few examples:
If you wanted to get reliable information, you had to go to the library,
*and* you had to go there physically. It would not go to you. Once there, if
you wanted to find out the height of Mr. Everest or get the address of your
Congressman, you had *no choice* but to walk into the reference room and use
the materials there. While you could enter the stacks immediately, stacks
are obviously much more difficult to use and anyway, the latest editions of
those types of materials (almanacs, directories, etc.) will be in the
reference room. While there, you would be under the watchful eye of the
reference librarian who would offer you help if you looked to be in trouble.

While you were free to go into the stacks and wander around, if you wanted
to do anything serious, you *had* to use the catalog (not from your office
or home, of course) and you *had* to search it correctly. So, if you wanted
something by Mark Twain, you could not look under "M" but under "T" where,
if you were lucky, you would find a cross-reference card that said to look
under "Clemens, Samuel" (pre-AACR2 practice). If you didn't do it, you found
nothing.

I remember the first OPACs that I used and they worked exactly like the card
catalog, except that you had to type in the entire string! You didn't get
the list of headings, just records, and nothing was clickable. When keyword
was introduced, I remember how I was aghast because suddenly, people didn't
have to use our headings anymore! The former utility of the zero search
(i.e. the zero search was a clear indication to users that they were
searching incorrectly and had to revise their search) became almost useless
since keyword found *something* almost every time. Consequently, people did
not realize that they should search, e.g. not "WWI" but "World War,
1914-1918." For those clients who remembered how the card catalog worked,
they realized they could continue on to search the tracings, but this was
remembered less and less. On the other hand, our users were *very happy* not
to be forced to use controlled vocabulary.

There were set library hours, many things couldn't be checked out, you
couldn't eat or drink in the stacks, I could go on. Now, everybody expects
24/7 access to the physical library, immediate access from home to the
texts, full-text keyword searching for everything, and people actually come
to the library for a cup of coffee and a doughnut!!

I am certainly not the first person in the history of librarianship to point
this out. For an excellent and provocative discussion of this in relation to
bibliographic standards, see the lecture available at the Library of
Congress, No Longer Under Our Control: The Nature and Role of Standards in
the 21st Century Library by William Moen.
http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=3373

All I am saying is that those days of control are gone. Our users don't want
or need to wait for libraries to do their work, they have other methods and
tools. This is a difficult reality for many librarians to grasp, but once
you do and you realize that the task is to go where our users do their work,
the task at once becomes more achievable, plus it turns into a far more
interesting challenge than it has ever been.

James Weinheimer j.weinheimer@aur.edu
Director of Library and Information Services
The American University of Rome
Rome, Italy

Monday, June 29, 2009

To the Editor:

The executive summary of the Chronicle's research report, "The College of 2020" (available at: http://research.chronicle.com/asset/TheCollegeof2020ExecutiveSummary.pdf?utm_source=at&utm_medium=en). discusses various changes in colleges. On page 2 they write:
"Colleges must be ready to offer all those options. The challenge will be to provide them simultaneously and be flexible enough to change the methods as the market changes. Faculty members must be flexible, too. The Internet has made most information available to everyone, and faculty members must take that into consideration when teaching. There is very little that students cannot find on their own if they are inspired to do so. And many of them will be surfing the Net in class. The faculty member, therefore, may become less an oracle and more an organizer and guide, someone who adds perspective and context, finds the best articles and research, and sweeps away misconceptions and bad information."

There is quite a bit that is noteworthy in this statement, but as a librarian, I find especially interesting, "There is very little that students cannot find on their own if they are inspired to do so," something that is certainly outside the experience of many librarians. While students may be highly adept at entertaining themselves by killing Orcs in World of Warcraft or downloading music, they often face severe problems when they use the web to do their real work When they discover that their reliance on Google's "relevance ranking" can be simply insufficient, they often are completely helpless and don't have any idea how to continue. Librarians realize that the use of digital tools has made many tasks in research much simpler, but other tasks are perhaps far more difficult than ever, especially when new tools with new idiosyncracies pop-up almost every other week.

Linking "inspiration" to "finding" seems a bit out of place as well. While inspiration is a wonderful personal and emotional experience, it can't help anyone when they are finding information. Instead, people need knowledge and skills: they need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the tools at their disposal and how to use those tools effectively. These are areas that have not been the responsibility of the faculty, but have traditionally belonged to the librarian, whose job it is to keep up with innovations in "information access and retrieval," an area of almost unbelievable development today when compared to 25 years ago. In fact, in the scenario made by the Chronicle's report, there seems to be no place at all for the librarian. Faculty normally know the collection and resources within their areas of specialization quite well, but it is the librarian who specializes in maintaining and searching materials in the collection as a whole.

I admit that it may not be fair to criticize a report only through the executive summary (although that is all most people will read anyway, especially when you have to pay $75 or more for the full report), so I am sure I am missing some vital information.

James L. Weinheimer
Director of Library and Information Services
The American University of Rome
Rome, Italy
j.weinheimer@aur.edu

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Re: [NGC4LIB] Finding through Inspiration

Mark Huppert wrote:
> I hope I don't upset my colleagues by saying this, but librarians
> are not qualified to 'find the best articles and research'. I mean
> no disrespect. Say you're looking for the best in molecular genetics
> and you're a typical librarian who majored in English poetry or art
> history.
> What chance do you have?

> Generally, librarians are experts in the resources, not the content.
> Even with the academic background, unless you are an active researcher
> at the cutting edge, you are out of touch.

> Since each institution will have a different set of resources and
> constraints, librarians will be continue to be needed to give advice in
> this area.

The normal area for librarians to be involved in, in the "Information Literacy" stream (and is one of the major purposes of today's education), librarians are responsible for some of the parts. The entire process is :
1. Framing the Research Question
2. Accessing Sources
3. Evaluating Sources
4. Evaluating Content
5. Using Information for a Specific Purpose
6. Understanding Issues Affecting the Use of Information;
7. Observing Laws, Regulations, and Institutional Policies
(from the Middle States site http://www.msche.org/publications/devskill050208135642.pdf)

Librarians have been especially involved in 2, 3, 6, 7.

An obvious question is: are faculty/instructors great searchers for information? Do they know what is in each of the databases your institution subscribes to? Do they know how to search each one effectively? Do they know how to search internet resources effectively? If so, how did they learn? Did they take a formal class, read a book, get help from other faculty members or librarians, or just get it by osmosis?

Librarians are experts at searching and finding information. This needs to be stated very clearly. I haven't yet met a faculty member who understood what was in all of the databases at any institution where I worked. They have their favorites (e.g. JSTOR, Lexis, Proquest) but don't--and can't--spend their time discovering what is in these other databases. Still, they probably know their favorites very well. The job of librarians is to know their different databases, their relative weaknesses and strengths, the intricacies of searching each one, and so on Librarians understand authority control, how to find it and how to use it.

Your question of: "Say you're looking for the best in molecular genetics and you're a typical librarian who majored in English poetry or art history. What chance do you have?" is answered by: You are a librarian and know how the tools work. Use the tools to their full power. That doesn't mean that you can do the person's research for them (but that's not what librarians do anyway) but you are the expert in how the tools work. Naturally, you may have to seek out other experts who are librarians who can help you too, but this is no different from a physician asking a specialist for help and advice.

One of the problems today is that research shows consistently that the great majority (80%+) of people--even beginning undergraduates and people in high school--believe they are either "very good"  or "expert" searchers. Why they believe this is a mystery to me, but it seems to be a fact and is borne out in my own experience as well. This is truly a difficult hurdle for librarians to leap.

Jim Weinheimer

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fwd: [NGC4LIB] Finding through Inspiration

> There is a very interesting summary of a research report by the Chronicle of
> Higher Education, "The College of 2020" (available at:
http://research.chronicle.com/asset/TheCollegeof2020ExecutiveSummary.pdf?utm_source=at&utm_medium=en).

> They discuss the various changes in colleges and on page 2 they write:
> "Colleges must be ready to offer all those options. The challenge will be
> to
> provide them simultaneously and be flexible enough to change the methods as
> the market changes. Faculty members must be flexible, too. The Internet has
> made most information available to everyone, and faculty members must take
> that into consideration when teaching. There is very little that students
> cannot find on their own if they are inspired to do so. And many of them
> will be surfing the Net in class. The faculty member, therefore, may become
> less an oracle and more an organizer and guide, someone who adds perspective
> and context, finds the best articles and research, and sweeps away
> misconceptions and bad information."
>
> It is very interesting how they predict that it will be the faculty member
> and not the librarian who will "find the best articles and research and
> sweeps away misconceptions and bad information."
>
> How do they propose that faculty members can discover the best articles and
> research? What tools will they use? Will it only be through Google searches,
> blogs and email lists?
>
> Also noteworthy is the statement, "There is very little that students
> cannot
> find on their own if they are inspired to do so" which is certainly
> anything
> but my own experience. Using the term "inspiration" seems a bit out
> of place
> as well. What I have seen is that students take very little interest in
> these matters until they are quite literally forced into it. Some may take a
> genuine, if temporary, interest in their classes, and I believe I have even
> "inspired" some students myself. Still, I find it a very strange use
> of the
> term. Someone's "inspiration" can't help them much when they are
> "finding.."
> Instead, people have to know how to use the tools at their disposal.
>
> I admit that it may not be fair to criticize a report only through the
> executive summary (although that is all most people will read anyway,
> especially when you have to pay $75 or more for the full report), so I am
> sure I am missing some vital information.
>
> Still, I am sure it will be a major report and provides an insight into some
> of the modern views of information retrieval held by non-librarians.
>
> Jim Weinheimer

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.

Friday, June 12, 2009

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
>ebooks,
>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
>convenience.

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
http://www.loc.gov/catdir/bibcontrol/2.3BatesReport6-03.doc.pdf. 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 j.weinheimer@aur.edu
Director of Library and Information Services
The American University of Rome
Rome, Italy

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Re: In praise of lazy catalogers (AUTOCAT)

On Wed, 10 Jun 2009 09:05:16 -0400, ... wrote:

>Yes, there have been many studies on researcher needs, and as you know, not everything is in a catalog, nor everything is indexed in a database either, even though we have thousands of them. Databases are not the same thing as *our collections* either, which are subscriptions usually.
>
>Humanities scholars have different needs than a biomedical engineer or neurosurgeon in terms of research. Many researchers work with original materials that are not going to be found in World Cat or Scopus or GoogleScholar.
>
>Its not so black and white with the goal of just one single search box which many have already had and used, which still does not provide comprehensive access to library collections. Also, a little search box can lead a user to only so far as well, and then there is a question of actually "access" to the item. OCLC's recent report on "What users want" addressed this as well from a general user perspective rather than researcher perspective.
While I won't argue with most of this, I think the point is rather irrelevant. While we as librarians all know that "everything" is not digitized and won't be anytime soon, most students, and most users, won't realize that. They will search Google Books and see much more than they
could ever deal with. Studies have shown, and I confess that I do the same thing, that people tend to start their researching with Google.

When the Google Books-Publishers agreement takes effect eventually in one way or another where people will be able to see 100% of the books (and this could happen in just matter of months), there will be intense pressure for libraries to buy in. At that point, the entire equation will change and I ask: why will anyone come to our catalogs? Again, you and I know that there are many things not digitized, but our users won't know. Or want to know.

And even for those few genuine researchers who have listened to what they are taught in the Information Literacy classes and realize that there is lots of materials out there that they need but are not available digitally, are they going to conclude that what they really need is a traditional library catalog? I think not.

I will take issue with one point though, that:
> Databases are not the same thing as *our collections* either, which are subscriptions usually.
Yes, they are part of our collections. They just have not been part of the normal traditional catalog since the work of indexing articles was outsourced back in the 19th century. (Originally, articles were indexed but libraries groaned under the strain and that's when Poole and his like arose). So, everybody had to look in at least two places for "complete" research of a collection: the traditional catalog and journal indexes. People have always had problems with this.

The definition of the "collection" is one of the main conceptual changes we face. And as far as I am concerned, the wonderful materials available for free on the web should be part of our "collection" as well. As only one example, see: The complete works of Caravaggio : an impossible exhibition at http://www.caravaggio.rai.it/index_en.htm. Is this a worthwhile site? Yes. Do my users need it? Yes. Is it only my users who want this? No, many others need it as well. This is part of the job of the selector. [NOTE: Naturally, this site no longer exists. Yet people still wanted that site at the time I wrote it. Today, there are many other sites, most notably, The Google Art Project--JW]

Some of today's tasks are: how do we work out meaningful, efficient, and sustainable workflows for these kinds of materials, from notification to selection to description to description and organization to access to retention/preservation?

I don't know, but the catalog should be a focal point of it all. Returning back to the laziness aspect: we need new ideas and methods, not simply hard work.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

In praise of lazy catalogers (Autocat)

It is my own belief that laziness is not always a vice. It is certainly a vice when someone uses it to foist off their work on others, but it is a virtue when it spurs someone to find other, faster, easier ways of getting a job done.

In this sense, I confess that I am lazy. For example, back when the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe collapsed, the changes that took place in cataloging were truly breathtaking, from serials, to subjects, to name headings. Almost everything changed. Since I was so "lazy," I wanted to save myself the need to look everything up over and over in a multiplicity of tools (because I never trusted my memory with such complex practices), so I wrote them down in a manual, printed it out and placed it on my desk where I could share it with other catalogers in my unit. When WWW browsers appeared, I transferred this to the web because it was easier for everybody to just click into it (we were all too "lazy") instead of walking over to my desk. Even for me, I confess that it was easier to click than to physically reach my hand out to leaf through the book.

But as my manual became more complex and used by others even outside our library and our university, I discovered that it was too difficult to use online, even though it had been pretty simple to use in paper. This is when I got into "information architecture" to make it easier and simpler to find things on websites. This continued into other parts of the cataloging documentation, into help pages for users on the web and I went on from there. So, I learned how to use javascript and different programming languages, to build macros and so on, all to make my work-life easier.

Therefore, I think that this idea of "laziness," so long as it is connected with ethical considerations of keeping high standards and a certain level of personal integrity, is a spur to improvement and progress. Especially at this time, it is important that the emphasis should *not* be on working harder, but we must work much, much smarter, and I think "laziness" is one of the very important keys to finding a solution. Without it, we are stuck in the present, but through laziness, we imagine future possibilities for improvement.

Related to the issue of asking questions on AUTOCAT. While I believe that people should be able and encouraged to ask their questions on AUTOCAT, it is terribly difficult and time consuming to find an answer to a question that was asked and answered several years ago. Sometimes it just takes too long to discover the answer. While Autocat is a great place to ask
questions, it seems to me that there could be a better tool to find questions that have already been answered. I'm sure all the tools to fix this situation exist right now.

A few philosophical musings.

James Weinheimer

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Use of Relator Codes (NGC4LIB)

>�William Shakespeare on The Art of Love: The Illustrated Edition of the
>�Most Beautiful Love Passages in Shakespeare's Plays and Poetry
>�(Hardcover)
>�by William Shakespeare (Author), Michael Best (Editor)
>�No customer reviews yet. Be the first.

I'll put on my management hat:
So, now the catalogers are supposed to do *more* work by separately coding each name according to that incredible list of codes? Why isn't transcribing the statement of responsibility enough? Do we really believe that people need to search, e.g. Michael Best as an author separately from an editor, separately as a censor, separately as a Writer of accompanying material, separately as a storyteller ....? See: http://www.loc.gov/marc/relators/relaterm.html

If the purpose is not so that people can search all these bibliographic identities separately, why do it? What is the justification for a manager to commit resources to it, and making all previous records semi-obsolete, not to mention the incredible complexity of determining the correct relator code for terms not found on the list, the endless debates, and we can't forget the multiplier effect for each foreign language, when the statement of responsibility is still there?

If it's just a matter of aesthetics, there may be more important areas to place our ever-shrinking resources. If we think people want to search by multiplicities of responsibilities, it needs to be shown that it's worth the effort. Anything that cuts into productivity (our number one problem) must be considered very skeptically, especially in this age of decreasing resources.

Jim Weinheimer

Tim Spalding's Criticism of a Catalog Display

Tim,

Thanks so much for a long and thoughtful critique of a library catalog. You have a lot of good insights, but it shouldn't be a surprise to you or to anybody else, that I have a few points in reply.

First, a lot of what you point out is based on the decisions of how a single library implemented their own catalog, which may be successful or unsuccessful. Some of the points of BPL (which I hadn't seen before) I like, and other parts I don't like. In any case, these are implementation issues, such as your commentary on the section labelled "Holdings" which I agree is not very successful. These parts however, are extremely easy to change.

More importantly, it seems to me that a lot of what you, and others, find fault with in our catalogs is actually our standards for bibliographic description and retrieval. We have standards in punctuation, arrangement, and terminology among lots of other things. When there are standards shared with many others, including internationally, there are normally disagreements. You see it here in Europe especially, now with the introduction of the European Union where lots of businesses must follow new EU standards, such as cheese needing pasteurized milk, or the way ham is made. Often, there is such an outcry that a standard is cancelled, such as when they were saying that Italy couldn't have wood fires in urban areas, and that meant that Italian pizzas could no longer be made the traditional way! Italy rebelled, and our pizzas can still be made over wood flame (thankfully!).

Just because the library world decides to follow the international standards of ISBD and AACR2 doesn't mean that everybody agrees with all of the rules. One rule that I think is very bad is the rule of "bibliographic identities," that is, each bibliographic identity of a modern author gets a separate heading. Therefore, if you want to look up everything by Samuel Clemens, you must look up each of his pseudonyms. This can become highly complex for searchers (first of all, they have to know about it!), and the authority files become more complex too. But I am well aware that other catalogers will strongly disagree with me and say that keeping separate bibliographic identities is critical. In either case it doesn't matter what our own opinions are, or what the general public believes, because the standards require that we keep bibliographic identities separate and there is no compromise. I must do it even though I disagree. Such standards govern each part of the catalog record,!
even the
tiniest. You questioned capitalization of titles, and double-dashes in contents notes. That's fine, but the answer for all of these questions is: we are following the standards. And the standards are available for everyone to see if they want.

Now the question becomes: do we want standards for the description and access of the physical and virtual products of human creativity (i.e. what the library deals with) or do we say that the time for such standards is past? I repeat: when you accept a standard, it does *not* mean that everyone agrees with it, or that the general public is expected to understand them. There are a lot of things I see on my television set, my DVD player, my plumbing, my car and so on that I don't understand. Do I need to? I don't think so--I just assume that these things follow the requirements of the experts, and that satisfies me. Now, does it really satisfy the requirements of every expert? Is there a major argument going on about it, or is there grumbling, such as in the bibliographic identities example I gave above? As a member of the general public, I don't care. I just want some sort of reliability and assurance. These sorts of discussions take place in another dimension, and I simply i!
gnore wha
t I don't understand, although if I wanted to badly enough, I could discover and understand it all.

Still, I'm glad that there are experts following standards out there even though I may be completely ignorant of everything: so companies cannot put chalk into our bread, or throw toxic waste into our water,
or use unsafe materials and haphazard methods in our electronic products. As a consumer, I want people to follow standards even when I don't know about them or understand them at all. Only in this way can I be assured of quality in the materials I consume.

If asked, would people say that they want standards for bibliography? I would venture that they would say yes, but this is the overarching, most important point that I made before and will do so again. When people say that they prefer Google over library catalogs, they are actually saying that they prefer no standards over standards. There is no "standard" in a Google search or record display, there is no yardstick, and everything happens in a black box. We don't know what it searches and what it does not, how it arranges results, who is manipulating it (because people can and do). We don't know anything at all. I don't believe the general public realizes this is really what they are saying, but it is up to us "experts" to let them know.

So, if someone asks, "Why do I see the title entered in this way in a catalog?" there is an answer that we can point to in our standards (cataloging rules). Each rule was agreed to after a lot of debate and argument, but it doesn't mean that everyone necessarily agreed. Still, if there are going to be standards, this is what must be followed.

In contrast, if the same person asks similar questions about Google, there is no answer because most of Google's searching is proprietary information, or the answer is simply, there are no standards, so the question itself is nonsensical. I still maintain that the reason people like Google so much is not because they understand what it can and cannot do, its strengths and weaknesses, what it misses and finds, but simply because it is so easy and it hides its weaknesses very cleverly.

Obviously, I think there is no question that libraries and their finding tools must change and become far simpler to use. Fortunately, there is a lot of room for improvement! But I don't know if it is correct to conclude that machines must do all the work and all the thinking because "people cannot be trained." That still needs to be proved. While people quickly forget what they learned in an information literacy class, I personally think that before giving up completely we could consider working with reference services to provide alternate methods of providing very quick, highly focussed tutorials delivered to patrons when they need it, and perhaps other methods. Providing basic tutorials and other forms of help may come to be seen as one of the inherent functions of the catalog, along with description and access, something that has been needed from the beginning and should no longer be considered an afterthought.

I genuinely feel that getting rid of standards means getting rid of libraries themselves since all reliability and assuredness go out the window. No librarians could do their jobs. All we have to offeer are our standards, and if we want to throw these out and create non-standardized junk, there's already plenty of junk out there and it costs a lot less then we ever could.

But, if we rather decide we want new, "improved" standards, that is a huge, exhausting undertaking doomed to failure, since it would bring lots of disagreement along with it, as any standards do. (Do you really think RDA is the answer to any of your criticisms?)

Thanks again for your critique. I'll look at it some more.

Jim Weinheimer

________________________________________________________________

It seems to me that we go round and round on various issues. A lot of
it resembles a "religious debate"--a term of art in software and
design.

One way to break religious debates is to talk about something
concrete. So, I'm going to plop something on the collective "table,"
offer a brief critique. Won't you join me?

I've chosen the "detail" page of a book, the first "Obama" book that
came up in the BPL[1]. I propose to critique it as follows:

*I'm going to critique the page, not the whole system; I wan
t to keep
things focused. As such, I'm not going to critique the top part of the
page, but just the part "below the chrome."
*I'm going to list everything I think is wrong with the page, and
offer brief commentart on it.
*They use the HIP OPAC, one of the most common, but not the worst.
*I punch because I love. I picked BPL because it is my favorite public
library. I love them to pieces, and indeed I think their catalog is
better than many.
*This email is very long--10 typewritten pages. That's because the
catalog has a lot of problems!

Here's the page: http://www.librarything.com/pics/blog/ngc4lib2.png

### LEFT SIDE

My criticisms:

1. The page is session-based. That means we have to discuss it by
screenshot, it can't be spidered, it can't be bookmarked, it can't be
sent to a friend and so forth. In my opinion, this is a catastrophe
for libraries.[2]

2. No permalink. Despite #1, there are tricks to link to many (but not
most) HIP pages, and other tricks that can link to all. The page COULD
include a permalink, with icon--a familiar feature of sites like
Google Maps. It does not.

3. The "Holdings" section on the left is misleading. The divet and
other structure implies that the things underneath it are subheadings.
I'm frankly uncertain if that's the intent. Maybe the list is of
"holdings" related to the item. If so, "Holdings" is a very weird
word. It's a weird word even in a librarian context--a link to a
review is not a "holding." And it's weirder in a non-librarian
context, where "holdings" doesn't mean anything at all.

On further investigation I see that "Holdings" referred to the fact
that, along with all the other info, the page I was on had the
holdings info. The design is confusing.

4. The "Fiction and Biography" functions strangely. First, it's
meaningless--what am I to expect that it does?

My first guess would be that it would take me to other examples of
Fiction and Biography. It does not. Instead, it takes me to a list of
headings, "Genre" and "Topics." Both have subheadings, like
"NonFiction" and "Politician." On Safari the headings--although
black--turn into links when you roll over them. On Firefox they don't.
In neither do the links go anywhere.

The problem is probably technical. Whatever.

5. "Library Journal Review" works. Mostly. I searched for the review
elsewhere, and Barnes and Noble has it. Barnes and Noble preserves the
paragraph structure of the original, as well as italics and other
formatting. The BPL has it as one giant text lump.

6. "Summary" is somewhat confusing insofar as there is a "Summary"
field on the right, in the "book information area." The two are
different. The summary works, but it's also somewhat "undigested." It
ends with the non-sentence "a website where updates and comments may
be posted as the campaign progresses: http://obamapolitics.com Book
jacket."

Why do libraries, which, if it stands for anything here, stands for
sophistication and exactitude of metadata, allow thesse unformatted,
half-gramattical text-blobs.

7. "Table of Contents" works pretty well. It's a bit odd, though,
insofar as the same content is presented in the "Contents" field of
the book-info-field.

It took me a while to untagle the relationship between the two fields,
though. It's non-obvious. Eventually I figured out that certain data
(eg., the introduction, page numbers) were stripped out and returns
replaced with "--". (See later for my rant against that idiotic
typographical device.)

8. "More by this author" works as you'd think, but there are still problems:

*Clicking on it takes you to other works by the author. In this case
there are some. In many other cases, there aren't. When there isn't,
it takes you to the record you are on! (Most users will record that as
"I clicked on the link and nothing happened. So I did it again.
Nothing. So I left and went to Amazon where the website works.)
*The Last-First format is a fossil of the "dictionary catalog." In
other book contexts--book covers, spines, bookst
ore displays, Amazon,
B&N, LibraryThing, publisher websites, etc.--authors are First-Last.
Only bibliographies still use last-first, precisely because
bibliographies require "dictionary order." No such order is needed
here. It looks fussy.
*It's unclear to me why the author's first name needs to be followed
by "1969-." Not even bibliographies do that. It's probable that
libraries are in the pocket of the gravestone industry.

9. Subjects. Some problems:

*Subjects are in Last-First format (eg., Obama, Barack). This is
unusual--elsewhere I see his name as First-Last. There must be a good
reason. Surely it is because it's an alphabetical list. Whoops, it's
not. There is no reason for it.

*The links *look* hierarchical, but they aren't. Given "United States
-- Race relations -- Political aspects" you'd think you could click on
any step of the hierarchy. You'd think wrong.

*The links take you to a dictionary list of subjects, including the
one you clicked on. You have to click it again to get something. That
is, the link doesn't take you where you want to go, it takes you to a
list of thinks, including a link to where you want to go. Did humans
design this?

*The use of "--" to indicate hierarchy is non-standard. The rest of
the information work uses ">." It's unclear why libraries think the
most basic web conventions must be ignored.

*Whoever decided on using "--" in a web-product should spent five
minutes with the Chicago Manual or Words into Type. "--" is what
typewriters used for the em-dash. It didn't exist before typewriters,
and it has no reason to exist now, when every computer and most
cellphones are capable of the em-dash.

*Since we're being persnickety, it's unclear why subjects end in
periods. They aren't sentences. Punctuation, like "--" and "." have
meanings. Misuse isn't a big deal, but it decreases confidence and
tires the eye.

*2001- should be an en-dash. Okay, I'll stop.

10. "Browse catalog by name" works okay, but it's unclear why it gets
only one entry, and that's the author--who already got a link. Given
the term "browse" I'd think that the link would put me in the middle
of a millions-long list of books sorted by author. No. It does the
same thing as the "More by this author" link.

11. "MARC Display" is weird. But at least it's small. Now, onto the
main part of the page!

### MAIN PART

12. "Barack Obama : this improbable quest / John K. Wilson." Is weird
in at least four ways. Together they reinforce the impression that the
library catalog is arcane and fiddly.

*The string "Title [slash] Author" is a library convention. In other
situations, title and author are distinguished either typographically
(as on a cover) or with the words "by."

*In real life (except in France), book titles employ capital letters.
As I've said before on this list, when LibraryThing started showing
library titles, users complained that the site was "broken." Something
was causing book titles to lose their capitals. Funny? Alas, the jokes
on libraries.

*In real life, colons don't have spaces before them.

*In real life, author-title lists don't end in periods.

13. All text from this point goes underlined when rolled over. But
it's not clickable. This makes no sense at all. If LibraryThing did
this, I'd have ten bug-reports inside of a minute. I wonder if people
report this, or if the general atmosphere of brokeness prevents it.

14. "Publisher," "Boulder, CO : Paradigm Publishers, c2008." What a
peculiar string. The publisher is "Paradigm Publishers" but their
location is listed first? And why call it "Publisher" when it includes
publisher-town, publisher-state, publisher name, copyright symbol (in
case you thought it might be public domain?), and publication year.

Order implies importance. On what planet is the publisher's location
the second-most important fact about this book?

15. "ISBN: 1594514763." Is this really the second-most important fact
about the book? To whom? I know it's shocking, but most readers don't
know what an
ISBN is. The rest don't care.

And ISBN *might* be a useful way for a knowledgeable user to jump from
Amazon to a libray catalog. But they'd have to get the right edition.
The rest of the time, the ISBN is trivia for stockboys.

16. "Description: vi, 210 p. : ill. ; 24 cm." As others have said,
this is a meaningless jumble. It doesn't merit the title
"description." It's junk.

The patron *might* want to know how long a book is--so "210 pages"
migtht be useful. I'd even be fine with "216 pages."

The patron might also want to know that the book had photographs. It
would be better to know how many, or even to get a list of them.

24cm is wrong in about ten ways. First, although "the most European
city in America," Boston is still part of the USA. In the USA we use
inches, not centimeters. There's there's the issue of one measurement.
Is can't be width. Is it height? Width? Maybe it's like TV and
computer monitors. That must be it.

17. "Target audience: Adult." This is useful here. There are a lot of
kids books about Obama. I'm glad this isn't one of them.

18. "Summary." Fine, except for point six, above.

19. "Contents." Fine, except for point seven, above.

20. "Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references and index."
This is marginally useful. For "bibliographical references," I'd use
the plain-jane word "bibliography."

It's funny that this is spelled out in prose but "ill." isn't. There's
probably some good reason.

21. The "Copy/Holdings information" box has some problems:

*I'd love to be able to click on locations to find out where they are.
Although a long-time Boston resident, "O'Bryant School of Mathematics
and Science" means nothing to me. I guess I'll have to ask at the
desk.

*The "Collection: Nonfiction" confuses me. I wasn't aware libraries
were divided that way. In fact, they aren't. But there probably is a
fiction section, that includes *most* of the fiction.

*Capitalization is almost random. "14 day loan" but "In Library"? Why?
Or take the capitalization of the section header, "Copy/Holdings
information." The other place with a similarly-styled heading uses
title case, "Related Information." Small inconsistencies make a site
look sloppy.

22. The form below is literally backward. It's formatted like this:

Format: ( ) HTML ( ) Plain text ( ) Delimited
Subject: __________________
Email to: __________________ [SEND]

When I reach the third line, I gather it's an emailing form. Why
doesn't it look like almost all other email forms on the web--the ones
that START WITH THE EMAIL ADDRESS? Also:

*Whoever designed this form didn't look at how you email things on any
other site! Do I need the subject field? If I do, why can't I write a
note.

*What is "Delimited" anyway? I have no idea.

*The form cuts off the title, into "Barack Obama : this improbable
quest / J". The form field allows only 40 characters, but is visually
larger. This is confusing and completely opposite how most web forms
work. Anyway, why are they only allowing 40 characters--bandwidth
costs?

23. "Next Reads." I gather Next Reads is much liked.[3] But this
"advertisment" feels intrusive and over-prominent. It certainly
doesn't fit in with the design at all. The line "Sign up for email
book suggestions in your favorite genre!" *may* relate to the icon
here, or it may not.

24. "Did you know? Many items held by the BPL are not listed in this
catalog. Find out about all of our catalogs."

*This notice is not visually separated from the line above, about
NextReads. Are they all part of the same notice. All separate?

*The notice is certainly unfortunate. If all their stuff isn't in the
catalog, they need something like this. But it certainly raises
doubts.

### Final Points

25. The design is unappealing and slapdash. Some examples:

*The information architecture of the left-hand side is all weird. I've
mentioned the divet and the "--"s in the subject. But what about the
stray horizontal line in between "Table of Contents" and "More by this
a
uthor"? Is it necessary? Is it attractive? Did somebody's teenager
design this?

*The "Add to My List" and "Hold this for me" buttons, although on the
far right, are somehow creating extra space between the book title and
its information. To an untrained user it's just another tiny mark of
inferior quality. To the trained web developer it's evidence that
someone doesn't understand floats.

25. Font sizes

*The most important information--the book info and the holdings
info--are in the smallest fonts. That's crazy.

*Apart from that, font sizes and styles are slapdash. The title of the
book is less prominent than "Related Information."

26. Accessibility

*The page fails all levels of all accessibility tests. Five years ago,
when I made school software, I paid close attention accessibility.
Governments all require it. How did libraries get to opt out?

*Test aside, nobody has looked at basic accessibility issues--semantic
coding, order of information, tab-order, alt-text, etc.

27. The great bullet problem

Finally, as web developer I have to mention one thing that, when I
found it, made me laugh out loud--and I don't usually do that.

The bullets on the left--the giant, ugly bullets that don't quite
align right--are not an unordered list (
  • ...
, etc.).
They are instead a table, with two columns--someone's attempt to
produce a bulleted list, without using the HTML markup for... a
bulleted list!

To get it, the list was "tableized." The left-hand column is for the
bullets. But instead of printing the unicode for a bullet, using a
graphic or wahtever, the left-hand column is comprised of
single-entry, no-content unordered lists. Apparently someone at
SirsiDynix thought that

  • was a trick to get a bullet.

    [1] The BPL is having some sort of deep problem. Most of my searches
    turn up page after page of blank records. This was the first non-blank
    one.
    [2] Not being "on the web" is, in my opinion, the single most
    important factor that drags libraries down in the internet age, and
    therefore a great threat to library success, library jobs and indeed
    to education and democracy. But hey, what do I know? Maybe the rest of
    the web is wrong and libraries are right!
    [3] I don't know the product very well, but I am a fan of Novelist and
    its people

    What do users understand? (NGC4LIB)

    ... wrote:

    >�Of course no one is saying we shouldn't try to create the best
    >�possible information infrastructure. This must provide easy ways
    >�for easy questions. It must also invite (not "require") users to learn
    >�more to get more out of it. Index browsing, as it appears at the moment,
    >�can be a useful part of the picture. Alas, it doesn't work without a bit
    >�of learning. Out the door with it then?

    The question of requiring/inviting/insisting/requesting users to learn how to use the catalog is completely different from what it was a couple of decades ago. Back then, the library catalog was the only game in town: you either used it or did without. Today, people have several options: Google, Amazon (yes, people really use amazon this way!), blogs and other things. People like and prefer these other things. Because of the existence of these options, the moment we "require" or "invite" people to learn these other ways, we lose them. That is, we lose them *if* we cannot convince them that it is in their interests to devote the time and effort into learning something.

    This will become absolutely critical once the Google Books agreement is implemented. People will see no reason whatsoever to use a library catalog once they can search the full-text online, except to search it for "inventory purposes," i.e. does my library have a physical copy and is it on the shelf? I have tried to go to some pains to demonstrate that the Google Book searching capability is simply not good enough for users and that library metadata is still needed. Also, that people like searching Google Books *not* because they truly believe they are getting such good results, but because it is so easy to do and the results are not completely off the mark most of the time. Still, they rarely consider what they are genuinely missing in a search such as "wwi" or "gays" or "african-americans" or whatever. That takes an expert to really understand.

    So, do we throw it all out the door? Just give up? We may be fated to lose in the end, but I think we owe it to the profession and society in general to give it the best try that we can to succeed. The fact is, I don't think anybody in the world would say that people no longer want to do reliable searches for names and concepts, e.g. "No, I don't want everything by Leo Tolstoy in this collection, just the random ones that match the text string I happened to enter." or "No, I don't want all the memoirs by German soldiers who fought in WWII in North Africa I prefer a sample based on an algorithm that is secret, on random text strings, and that can be manipulated by unknown powers." I don't think that is what anyone would prefer, *but* this is actually what they are saying when they say the words, "I prefer Google to a library catalog." We must be very plain and clear about this because this is the truth. This is not saying that Google doesn't have its undoubted strengths, but it has weaknesses that must be pointed out since they have been very cleverly hidden.

    But then comes the problem: we must put our money where our mouths are, and it all begins to break down because we are stuck with our 19th century catalogs with keyword searching thrown in.

    I think my ideas on what we need to do are clear enough so I won't restate them. I just don't know if the those in the library world can find it within themselves to change (look at the "unchanges" in FRBR and RDA, which change nothing of any substance).

    This is a pessimistic Friday the 13th for me.

    Jim Weinheimer

    Google's Success (NGC4LIB)

    On Fri, 8 May 2009 11:48:01 -0400, Tim Spalding wrote:

    >Every time libraries talk about the "powers that be" they should
    >remember *they* are the powers that be. Their combined financial and
    >mindshare power is enormous. They don't need to make money, but only
    >provide a service people want. Something else is to blame for Google's
    >success than bad branding.

    I think one of the main reasons for Google's success vis-a-vis libraries is
    that libraries have always operated on "geologic time." By nature they are
    highly cautious. (I still refer to the internet as something new!) Libraries
    have been burned with new technologies in lots of ways, so they want to make
    very sure before actually taking the leap. There is also the idea that
    libraries should not act independently, rather it is through the "community
    of libraries" where they need to respond to any new issues, and this slows
    things down even more, especially when you throw in proprietary computer
    systems. Libraries seem to have an idea that their patrons want the "tried
    and the true," that people will get completely confused and frustrated by
    problems that have only a slight chance of popping up, and so on. Add all
    this up, and you have a field that is highly cautious.

    Google has a completely different ethos: they can experiment, throw out the
    bad, change in a moment, update and so on. It turns out that people don't
    really care that much whether or not something is the same as it was
    yesterday. In fact, for many, if a site doesn't change regularly, they may
    assume that they know it all already and there is no need to look at it
    again. So, Google changes the logo regularly; the search results can be
    quite different almost every day; they allow their staff to experiment
    liberally and to put their experiments out to the general public, where they
    can easily fail. And it's OK if they fail. Compare this to the library type
    of development, which is slow moving, includes the "community of libraries"
    and so on, and it becomes much more difficult to admit that some new project
    is a failure.

    Only now is there a push from libraries to replicate in some way the
    corporate ethos that brought Google success. With open-source software, real
    development is possible for even the smallest institutions. But I think it
    may take a different generation of librarians to get away from the
    stereotypical cautious-library approach. I hope not, though.

    Jim Weinheimer

    Decline of books (NGC4LIB)

    ... wrote:
    >�Interesting Times (UK) article on books, publishing and bookselling in the UK.
    >�http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article6236384.ece
    >�
    >�Two points:
    >�
    >�1. As stated before, I don't think technology will sweep away
    >�bookshops and overturn publishers, and leave libraries standing just
    >�as they are now.
    >�2. It's sad but not uncommon that a long article on the web and the
    >�fate of book culture doesn't mention or reference libraries. I'm
    >�convinced if libraries had a credible online presence, this wouldn't
    >�be the case.

    And it seems to be even worse for scholarly publishers. Still, it's not the end of the "book" so long as a book is not defined as only "physical ink on physical pages, bound together with some kind of a cover." If "book" is defined as a text meant to communicate ideas with others, differentiated somehow from memos and instant messaging, then it's one of the great times in history. To me, it's like the introduction of printing: massive amounts of information become available to the masses of people at a price that many more people can afford. Today in some cases, it is almost free. This easily accessible information can have some strange results. A newspaper in Denmark can publish caricatures of Mohammad and this results in people dying in riots in Central Asia.

    Of course this change in information exchange will create profound changes in the society and the economy. just as everything broke loose in the 16th and 17th centuries. Many, like Rupert Murdoch in the article cited, want to maintain the power that they have always had and "force" people to pay or do without. This reminds me of the old printing guilds that were set up (and eventually failed), and the problem of illegal downloads reminds me of the "Index of Forbidden Books" (which also failed). The groups who argue that we must force people to pay for information, or who maintain that downloads are illegal and we must seriously punish the offenders may have excellent points, but still, it all points to a loss of control among those groups who have had it for a long time. And they are both very unhappy and sincerely frightened of the possibility of losing that power.

    I think there will be lots of opportunities for people to make money in this new world, but I'm not sure how yet. So long as there are free alternatives to Rupert Murdoch's information, I don't know how many will still be willing to pay. But just as the old scriptoria in the monasteries declined after the introduction of printing, and an entire way of life along with it, I think we are in a very similar situation.

    Let's just hope this time the transition is more civilized.

    Jim Weinheimer

    Use of Libraries by Users (NGC4LIB)

    ... wrote:
    > > This is about pointing out realities
    > > that's happening right in front of our faces
    >
    > So let's point out some other realities:
    >
    > 1. As Karen and others have mentioned, usage of libraries is *increasing*..
    >
    > And not just at public libraries. I'm looking at our stats right
    > now, and for the umpteenth year in a row our usage numbers have gone
    > up. If library systems -- and by implication libraries themselves --
    > are "becoming more or less irellevant," then how do you explain this
    ...

    This is not what I have been reading in the literature. Here is a recent article in the Journal of Academic Librarianship:
    Charles Martell, The Absent User: Physical Use of Academic Library Collections and Services Continues to Decline 1995-2006, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 34, Issue 5, September 2008, Pages 400-407, ISSN 0099-1333, DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2008.06.003.
    (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6W50-4T4WM01-1/2/199009ea785f39556ba78d48e87f53f1)

    use of the library is down except in the area of gate counts, i.e. people who are using the library physically to get a cup of coffee or perhaps surf the web. Perhaps people are browsing the physical book or periodical collection, we don't know, but in any case, they are checking out fewer books.

    In the ARL Statistics at: http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/arlstat07.pdf, look at pdf p 9, and we can see the trends in library services from 1991-2007. ILL has gone up enormously, Information Literacy sessions have gone up, but total circulation has gone down, and most ominously, reference transactions have gone down 51% (which matches with Martell's results). I don't believe that people find searching the catalog and a library, plus all the online materials, to be any easier than before, so the drop in reference transactions must be linked in some way to increased use of Google and the general belief that each person believes himself or herself to be an expert at searching information (as shown consistently in researches).

    So maybe your library is an anomaly, and a great one at that! but still, the statistics point to downward use of libraries, their physical collections (except for ILL) and its staff. This will be especially worrying when the Google Books project finally resolves itself and people will have even less reason to come to us or even to ask for an ILL, and they will show up only for a cup of coffee or to use our machines to access the electronic resources and scans that are held elsewhere.

    Again, I sincerely believe that libraries are vital to our society--I am not just worried about my own job (although I am sure I am not alone in this)--and we have to deal with fundamental changes in the information seeking patterns and information use of our patrons. I believe there is a major place for us (not the prominent place, but a major one) in this information world, but we haven't found ourselves yet. The catalog, in some form, will have to play a vital role--it's our finding tool--but I suspect the new catalog may not even look like a catalog to an earlier generation. Still, we must adapt ourselves to the world and not expect that everything and everyone will come running to us.

    Jim Weinheimer

    Wolfram Alpha (NGC4LIB)

    First, thanks to Alex for pointing this out. I've been reading a lot about Wolfram Alpha and wondering what it is, and now we can see.

    While I can't class myself as a naysayer, I do see that this project does not really overlap with librarianship (or it doesn't have to, anyway). From what I see of Wolfram Alpha, it is designed to be a giant "answer machine" which will respond to natural language questions to provide someone an answer.

    With libraries and especially library catalogs, they are designed with different purposes in mind. The library catalog is *supposed* to allow users to get an idea of what are the intellectual holdings of a specific collection. Therefore, it should allow someone who doesn't know what is in the local collection, to browse *intellectually* the contents of that collection. The system was designed originally to work with printed book catalogs and then was transferred to cards. Therefore, if someone browses a concept such as, Caesar, Julius, they should see a number of things that they would never have thought of. Here is the search for Caesar, Julius in the Princeton University catalog (I hope this works):
    http://catalog.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?Search_Arg=caesar,+julius&Search_Code=SUBJ_&PID=pBk_3VVdEBBqDUNdxAf9TL_8IsNC&SEQ=20090504031621&CNT=50&HIST=1

    and through the subdivisions, you see concepts such as "Adversaries," "Cult," "Death and burial," "Language" and so on. This is what is I mean by an "intellectual browse:" the user can get an idea of the richness of a specific collection, and become aware of things that he or she would never have thought of independently. This goal is quite different from Wolfram Alpha (an answer machine).

    The traditional library methods can be very powerful (even though it can be done through physical means through the arrangement of cards) and, I suspect, this power is what Bernard has in mind when he asks whether browsing is necessary or not. I have not seen any system that attempts to replicate this automatically anywhere, except possibly Vivisimo, and the results are bizarre (IMHO).

    Now, does the library catalog succeed today? Back in the old days, transferring the original methods from the book catalog to the card catalog resulted in several problems. Then, transferring that same browsing capability onto the web has not succeeded (and probably will not succeed) in my opinion. If it is assumed that we need to retain the power of traditional browsing--which is my hope--different methods must be found.

    There is a more important question though: is the access provided by a library catalog still necessary today? Especially with competition such as Wolfram Alpha out there, where people will tend to start with more and more often (or to Google-type search engines) and they will not continue to seek out our tools, so consequently, ours will remain ignored. Obviously, I think our tools are necessary but those tools, and librarianship as a whole, must be reimagined, repurposed, redesigned, and rethought in all kinds of ways. Essentially, we must find how to fit ourselves into the larger world of information instead of waiting for everyone else to come tp us. For example, we should be thinking how could we work with Wolfram Alpha whether we like it or not?

    But I've been over these points in many other messages.

    Jim

    >�Count me in as a Wolfram Alpha naysayer. A "computable almanac" isn't
    >�that useful, and its not a "step" to anything. Seemingly minor
    >�increases in the intellectual complexity of a question require
    >�astronomically better data, data models and algorithms, if they are
    >�even possible to "compute." The answer, if there is an answer, lies in
    >�Norvig's "unreasonable effectiveness of data,"[1] not in any
    >�combination of "curated" data and "millions of lines of
    >�code."
    >�
    >�Just an opinion!
    >�
    >�Tim
    >�
    >�[1] http:/
    >�/googleresearch.blogspot.com/2009/03/unreasonable-effectiveness-of-data.html
    >�
    >�On Sun, May 3, 2009 at 9:13 PM, Alexander Johannesen
    >� wrote:
    >�> Another nail in the library coffin, especially the academic ones ;
    >�>
    >�> � http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TIOH80Qg7Q
    >�>
    >�> Organisations and people are slowly turning into data producers, not
    >�> book producers