Monday, April 12, 2010

Re: WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities for the OCLC Cooperative

Posting to Autocat
Brian Briscoe wrote:

Mr. Weinheimer continues:

> Libraries are in the process of losing a lot in this new >world. Electronic journals are quickly making our print versions obsolete, the Google Book project threatens to do the same thing. People ask fewer reference questions ...

I respectfully disagree with your conclusions. Our most recent reference survey here at our library showed that reference questions are increasing as we get out from behind the desk and interact with customers. And those questions being asked involve more specialized information.

I really wish I could agree with you, but the statistical trends say otherwise. See "ARL Statistics 2007-08" http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/arlstat08.pdf where the horrifying stats are shown very clearly on p. 9. People absolutely 100% need reference help, but they are not seeking it out because they don't realize they need it. Studies show that 90% of users think they are "very good" or "expert" searchers(!!). Perhaps the answer is as you have it there, where librarians go out from behind the desk, but what do we do with our online patrons, who will become the vast majority (if they aren't already?).

Certainly Google, Wikipedia and friends have eliminated a large number of our basic questions. (Who was John Adams' wife? How many pallbearers carry a casket, etc.) But we are now getting questions that involve more coordination of information than before.

Our customers probably don't care whether we have an authority file or not (and we don't) until they have difficulty finding information because that lack of a "file" deprives them of consistentency in terms and cross references to alternative terms that they may not be aware of.

The purpose of an authority file is not to provide another searchable file. The purpose is to make already existing data more consistently accessible.

Whether our library resources are electronic, print, digital or what have you, our task is the same and remains the same. Our task is to make that information accessible.


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 longer the same as "making that information accessible." The records must go where our users are.

It's bad enough now, but once the Google Books agreement is agreed to (a decision will be coming soon!), we may lose the vast majority of people who use our collections. People will not use Worldcat, and they won't use our authority files, no matter how much we insist on it and tell them they absolutely have to. I am concerned that once they find the millions of full-text books online in Google Books, they will have more than enough to keep them busy, and they will stop using our local catalogs as well, with a terrible result for our libraries.

This is why I am saying that we must try to use other tools, e.g. dbpedia to incorporate our stuff, where we can learn something new, and where our work can be appreciated--because it would be.

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