Friday, April 16, 2010

RE: [ACAT] WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities for the OCLC Cooperative

Reply to a private message.

But the ARL survey shows some interesting things that may or may not affect your conclusions. On that same page 9, the study shows an astronomical jump in ILL. That would seem to indicate that people still want books. Where are they getting the information for the ILL items they are requesting if not from the catalog? A study for a 1-year period does not conclusive evidence make.

The problem is, that study was trend analysis from from 1991-2008. That's why I said it is so frightening.

>what do we do with our online patrons, who will >become the vast majority (if they aren't already?).

How about online reference assistance instead of worthless help pages like I see on most webpages?

I think it would be great, but I think the reason people don't ask questions of reference librarians is because they don't think they need it. Look at: p. 54, where it shows that 80% of the students believe they are either "very skilled" or "experts" at finding information on the internet.

It matches my experience and I've thought a lot about this. Perhaps it has to do with the "zero search" that we used to talk about so much a long time ago. The zero result was considered a bad result, but now I'm thinking that it may have been a good result--that a zero search gave a clear result that you were doing something wrong. Today, it's tough to get a zero search since your search query may even be reformatted automatically for you. Trial and error is important, but you must realize your errors and this is much more difficult today than before.

Anyway, if people think they are the experts, it means they figure they wouldn't learn anything from asking anyone, especially not from some librarian who knows only about books. I've worked with quite a few of these kinds of people, and I think there is a *lot* of ego involved--that these people think they are so great and when it turns out that they have to admit they are disasters at searching, it is a tremendous blow to their egos. (Not only with students, but with "expert" faculty, I might add) Many will admit failure only when they are at their wit's end and through gritted teeth! Then they come to you in a complete frenzy with bulging veins on their necks and their eyes on stalks, demanding immediate answers, and the situation can become very difficult since it puts you under a tremendous strain. People certainly need help, but it is difficult in a whole number of ways.

> I agree with you on all of this. But we have to come to >terms with the fact that creating a catalog record in our >own catalog and sending a copy off to OCLC is no l>onger the same as "making that information >accessible." The records must go where our users are.

I don't know that anyone, certainly not me, believes that sending it off to OCLC is enough. That is why libraries are working hard to make their own catalogs more online accessible. The GoogleBooks thing is somewhat of a red herring (deceptive issue).

Google books is digitizing books. They are going to make those books accessible. Libraries can provide links from their catalogs out to the Google books if they prefer. But it will take many years before everything in the world is digitized. The way to compete with Google is to provide a more complete information searching experience. The stores in America who survive when Walmart comes to town, survive because they provide better quality, not because they try to beat
Walmart at its own game.

It seems as if putting limitations on where we can send our records other than OCLC is precisely what this policy is all about. So, I think the underlying belief is that it really is enough to send it off to OCLC. Where else are our records going, except perhaps to Google Books? (And even then, in my research, I have seen precious little of library cataloging data there)

The need to digitize "everything" seems irrelevant to me. The majority of materials in research libraries are consulted maybe once every 50 years, if that, so to serve the public successfully, we don't need everything digitized. Maybe only 25% of everything is what people really use the most often, and this may serve their purposes. I mean, how many people really want to read Galileo's Starry Messenger? If they want to read a book on astronomy, they'll read something more recent and more popular. The Google Book project promises to deliver this to their door. And if you want the Starry Messenger, it's already available for free.

If libraries decide they have to compete with Google, then the libraries have already lost a long time ago, of that I have no doubt. Libraries have shown quite clearly that they don't even know the basics of competition. Our world is changing because the world of our users is changing, and we have to follow them. So, the solution "Libraries can provide links from their catalogs out to the Google books if they prefer," won't work, because this assumes that people will be using our catalogs to find full text in Google. I don't think that makes much sense since people will be using Google right from the start and then we'll be lucky if they ever have the time to get around to our catalogs. I have no doubt that is what I would do if I were a student. And today's students are tomorrow's faculty and tax payers.

Current catalog standards focus on quality of access at the expense, sometimes, of speed. If we decrease the quality of our work in an effort to compete with Google, then our users will indeed stop using our catalogs because they will have no reason to use us.

I have no problem with adopting and working with other formats, but we cannot "dumb down" our catalogs to appeal to them.

With this I agree 100%! But, I think we have to reconsider what "quality" means. It will not be us who will determine if a record is high-quality. It will be our users, who will be comparing our records to things they like better, e.g. in, LibraryThing, Google Books and who knows what else?

Take a look at this record:

Then in LibraryThing:

Then in Amazon:

Then in Google Books metadata:

Which would you pick if you didn't know anything at all about cataloging? Which would you say has "quality" information? While catalogers would choose the LC record, I can't imagine that many non-librarians would choose it. If we want to even stay in the game, I think there is no choice except to try to fold our records into this new environment. We lost the competition a long time ago, and we don't have any idea how to get people back. I don't think anybody will contend that people will come running back to us if we implement RDA! Apart from that we don't even have an idea other than adding Web2.0 capabilities. Big deal. People already have that all over the place.

The world is different. I wish it weren't, but the sooner we admit to ourselves that we have lost the control we once had, the better for us all.

Conversation continued

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