Posting to Autocat and NGC4LIB
Apologies for cross-posting but this report probably is of interest to both lists.
A paper has recently come out at: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/reports/2010/digitalinformationseekers.aspx titled: “Digital Information Seekers: How Academic Libraries Can Support the Use of Digital Resources” and its conclusions seem pertinent to catalogers. There is a two-page summary as well. Among the conclusions, are:
- Library systems must do better at providing seamless access to resources such as full-text e-journals, online foreign-language materials, e-books, a variety of electronic publishers’ platforms and virtual reference desk services
- Library catalogues need to include more direct links to resources and more online content
- High-quality metadata is becoming more important for discovery of appropriate resources
While I fully agree with all of these conclusions, I think that they reflect the underlying fact that the definition of the “library’s collection” is changing in a very fundamental way. Our public wants to be able to search everything available to them in one, easy interface and they should not have to search the library’s catalog separately. This is understandable since it is the same as librarians always wanted from their integrated library management system; and yet, this “seamless access” inevitably blurs the boundaries of the library, itself, just as the ILMS blurred the boundaries within technical services. In the case of the “seamless access” some of the things that get blurred are: what is held locally as opposed to what requires an ILL? What online books re paid for by my library, vs. those available for free in e.g. the Internet Archive or Hathitrust? How will this change when the really substantial number of books still under copyright in Google go live? When merging the search of not only journal indexes, but full-text article databases with information on books, both full-text and metadata; what journals does the library pay for vs. open access?
Of course, the public doesn’t care about these matters: they simply want the stuff they want, but it’s clear that allowing for “seamless access”–although I agree with it-will blur the boundaries between the resources the local library supplies and what it is responsible for and may be able to modify, vs. non-library resources that must be taken as is.
This seems similar to how the ILMS blurred the distinctions between different departments of technical services: where the ILMS merged areas of processing and as a result, cataloging and acquisitions departments tended to merge. To those outside technical services departments, they saw no problem, just much better access, but it caused major restructuring to technical services for quite some time with a lot of trauma in some cases. In the “seamless” environment, what will be the purpose of a separate library catalog? While I continue to believe there will be a major purpose, it will have to be reconsidered.
The report notes that “high-quality metadata is becoming more important” but precisely what it is that makes metadata “high-quality” is not discussed, especially what it means to be high-quality in this seamless environment. It seems to me that something has to change somewhere at some very basic levels. The only part I found (p. 19) where it was discussed in some depth, there was more focus on analysis than anything else, i.e. providing metadata at the chapter level, and: “Catalogues probably would better serve users with better delivery, more links, and more online content. This is indicative that access to resources, not necessarily discovery, is the major issue in the current information-seeking environment.” Of course, these are not the areas that I would consider to be the determinants of “high-quality” metadata, but what I think may turn out to be completely irrelevant.
The parts about “power searching” and “power browsing” are especially important, and actually mirror my own observations on how students-and even how I-use these electronic tools. This “power searching” must be studied more deeply and utilized somehow in the new systems.
Anyway, this is an excellent report, and I think gives a strong blow to the FRBR user tasks.