Posting to NGC4LIB
Following Eric’s slap-down (just kidding!), I have decided to pose a question that has not been very well addressed, so far as I know: how selection of digital resources, and especially open-access materials on the web, can be achieved.
Here are some of my own observations concerning the issues:
- The non-librarian does not understand traditional library selection;
- Library selection has traditionally meant being responsible for a limited budget and adding materials based on a limited amount of resources, both money and shelf space. In essence, it is a process of *inclusion* of specific materials, based on specific policies and limited resources;
- When it comes to web resources, the public wants selection of another type. They are very concerned about getting “bad” information. Faculty and scholars are just as concerned as students and the regular public. While they like to know what is “recommended by the most people” this is not enough and they still have concerns;
- When we have millions of free materials and no problems with shelf space, library selection becomes something fundamentally different from what it has been; in essence, it becomes (I believe) a process of *exclusion*, i.e. taking the “best” and excluding the “worst”, much as the traditional “bibliographies of best books” have tried to achieve (for examples, search the subject: “Best books” in Worldcat);
- While it no longer makes much sense to catalog the same text over and over and over in each library, I don’t think it makes much more sense to “select” the same thing over and over and over in each library;
- The traditional library selector has had a lot of help from book dealers and library profiles. Without them, it would be pretty much impossible to do the work in any sort of comprehensive manner. Book dealers get paid to do this work through approval plans and other ways when libraries buy the physical books (or other resources). It is naïve to believe that similar organizations will do a comparable amount of work for materials that are available for free;
- Selecting materials on the web is being done now to a limited extent through heroic efforts in cooperative projects such as Intute, Infomine and other projects (to see the tool I created for my own “selection of web materials” see: http://www.galileo.aur.it/opac-tmpl/npl/en/pages/news/latestwebsites.html). If you look at these sites, you will see many items selected that are not in our library catalogs, plus there is metadata work done twice on these sites and in our catalogs. The resources found through these projects are not nearly all of the worthwhile digital sites however;
- In the everyday practice of library selection, many people feel ignored and/or left out since you cannot make everyone happy. Now, since there is not the concerns of a limited budget, or of shelf space, each faculty member, teacher, whoever, could equally be a selector. This has obvious advantages as well as drawbacks.
This does not at all exhaust all the concerns, but I think they represent a good beginning. Perhaps others are discussing these matters as well, and if so, could others point me in the right directions. I can envision a cooperative tool that could solve these concerns technically at least, but getting agreement on the huge number of issues would be the challenge, not the least being the explosive question: who will select?
What do others think? And yes, in such scenarios the “catalog” will change, but I think will still be the key to it all.