A continuation of the private discussion. My further comments in green.
Jim Weinheimer wrote:
> How about online reference assistance …
> 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 …
How is that different from pre-digital world days? Library users have always shown a varying degree of indendependence and self-confidence in their search for information and materials. But at least with online references, they wouldn’t have to go face-to-face with another person.
In pre-digital days, people had absolutely no choice except to use the materials in the library or do without. Today, they have the tremendous options found on the Internet, and when the millions of materials on Google are widely available as full-text, it will represent even a greater choice for our users where they won’t need the library.
> It matches my experience and I’ve thought a lot about >this …
This is a telling statement. As humans, we all have our own experiences and it is by those experiences that our opinions are often formed. However, as professional librarians with a responsiblity to provide information to all people (or as many as will come to us) it is out duty to make our decisions based upon solid study and evidence.
If you refer back to my previous statement, I was saying that the Educause report matched my experience, so I wasn’t just making it up. “Look at: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ers0808/rs/ers0808w.pdf p. 54, where it shows that 80% of the students believe they are either “very skilled” or “experts” at finding information on the internet.”
>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.
When a user searches on a traditional catalog, a zero search is still very possible. And in a traditional catalog with a proper authority file, the user would be shown “Better” search options. But “progressive” librarians have now added automatic keyword searching and other automated directional processes to avoid those zero searches because they felt that was what users wanted.
It seems to me that those “progressive” libraries may not have made decisions based upon their own perceptions, not fully studying what the future result of those decisons might be.
On this we agree, but steps taken at these “progressive” libraries should be seen as experiments, and since they are experiments, many things will fail or must be completely rethought. This may be one area for reconsideration. By the way, the “Better” search options I have seen are labelled, “Did you mean” and you normally see spelling variants. Variants based on an actual authority file I have personally not seen, although I am sure some exist, but now with Zebra-type indexing and displays, much more can happen.
> 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….
Is that a new phenomenon in this digital world or did we just do a study to make it more evident?
Not completely new, but as I stated above: in a pre-digital library when you had problems you either asked questions, browsed the shelves endlessly or did completely without. Many just browsed the shelves endlessly.
>> I don’t know that anyone, certainly not me, believes that sending it
>> off to OCLC is enough. … </snip>
> 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?
We seem to be missing eachother here somewhere. I send my records to OCLC because that is part of my contractual agreement with them. Sure they put it in WorldCat and they consider WorldCat the best way to make all records available to everyone. But that does not make my
collection much more useful.
I want users to contact my library to access my holdings. I want them to go to my website, not OCLC’s website. And that is the resource sharing that needs to take place.
Here are a few major points of contention. First, I maintain that “my holdings” includes the Internet. No one can tell me that my patrons do not want or need the multiple free copies of Huckleberry Finn, scanned beautifully at the Internet Archive, or anything else there. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of some of the greatest books ever written there, plus recordings, videos and on and on, available to all for free. How do I include them into my catalog efficiently? I conclude I cannot create or copy catalog all of those items there. I cannot even select them because there are too many. Still, my users need to know that when they are looking at a copy of Huck Finn in my own catalog, there are scads of others available for free all over the web at the click of a button, and I say that ignoring these materials simply because they are different borders on the unethical. What do I do? I have no choice except to experiment with entirely new methods and see what works and what fails. But I cannot ignore them.
Second, insisting that people must use any website, including your catalog, in the way you want and corresponds to what you think “best,” and people should not come from other sites such as OCLC, or Google, or someone’s personal site, or through a host of other ways, I believe ignores the new methods becoming so popular today. These are the very foundations of the popularity of the World Wide Web, which allows links from one site anywhere in the world to another site anywhere in the world.
These facts, taken together, constitute a new reality for every institution, not just libraries, who are asking similar questions: exactly who are my patrons today? Potentially, they come from all over the world. Exactly what is my collection? I don’t claim to have the answers, but it’s changing by the minute.
Some may view this with complete and hopeless dismay, but others see tremendous opportunities.
>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 fundamentally disagree with your analysis of future information seekers. A recent study of academic users (wish I noted where it was) showed that academic library users use Wikipedia, Google, etc. for basic informational searches and baseline material for their studies. But they use library materials (books, subscribed electronic databases, etc.) to gain deeper understanding and do serious research on a topic.
I believe that users will continue to visit libraries for better, more reliable information. And, in the future, that will be more likely through our websites than through our doors.
I agree, and therein lies the infernal conundrum: people come to our libraries for the physical books on our shelves and the journals that are not scanned yet; they use the library’s website (but they don’t want to have to come to the library itself) to get to the subscribed electronic databases. There is a recent report from Ithaka that analyses how faculty view the library, and the majority view libraries’ most important part as purchasing agents for the institution. The authors consider: “The declining visibility and importance of traditional roles for the library and the librarian may lead to faculty primarily perceiving the library as a budget line, rather than as an active intellectual partner.” (p. 13)
While I know they do much more than this, libraries must actively demonstrate that they do more than just buy access to some databases (and soon, Google Books) and give a few links on the library’s page which could just as easily appear on the page for Human Resources or Finance or Departmental pages. That is being a budget line. What do we do? The only way to find out is to accept the situation and start experimenting.
>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 Amazon.com, LibraryThing, Google Books and who knows what else?
You are right. But is there any proof to show what our users determine to be “quality?” My personal criteria depends upon the situation of my search at the time. But it usually comes down to weather a search engine (or catalog) can give me a selection of sources for me to choose from succinctly and precisely. I want to know that I am getting all of the novels at a given location by Alexander McCall-Smith in one listing with a high degree of certainty. The library authority file provides that. I don’t have to ferret through varying forms of the name, misspellings by another user in his search, or any other false hit brought about by catch-all search engines.
> Take a look at this record:
> LC: http://lccn.loc.gov/2003053220
> Then in LibraryThing: http://www.librarything.com/search_works.php?q=0521823277
> Then in Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Oratory-Political-Power-Roman-Republic/dp/0521823277/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271170846&sr=1-1
> Then in Google Books metadata: http://books.google.com/books?id=ZwkJh1cZb1YC&source=gbs_navlinks_s
> Which would you pick if you didn’t know anything at >all about cataloging?
Another point where we are missing each other. I don’t search for authority records. I don’t search for biographical information about an author in a catalog unless I am searchng for a biography. The LC authority file you show above is meant to work behind the scenes to direct all of my searches to one form of name. And my experience tells me that it does it quite well.
What I would care about is the end search result. If I search for materials by Alexander McCall-Smith and LibraryThing or GoogleBooks gave me a more concise display of available materials, then I would be less cautious about the abolishment of our MARC-based data. But I have seen that LT and GB are not as precise. And so I advocate a more measured approach that preserves our current data and formats while we experiment with others.
I certainly never said that we abolish MARC format, although it should be changed to become more flexible. We must enact other ways to exchange those MARC records instead of the outmoded ISO2709 Z39.50 method. Because of those restrictions, we can’t change MARC in many ways. Once we abandon that and go to, e.g. MARC-XML, things begin to open up.
Also, I say that the reason people don’t search for authority records is because they are mostly boring but they don’t have to be. If we changed our world view of what an authority record is, the authority record for Mark Twain could very easily become the page in Wikipedia. We would just use it as our URI. Certainly things would have to be retooled a bit; this is why I have suggested dbpedia. A lot of work would have to be done in dbpedia to make it more useful, but that’s never stopped us before!
Once we open ourselves to sharing information and collaborating on the web in new and innovative ways, the possibilities are almost endless!