Posting to Autocat
Karen Weaver wrote:
But from the same newsletter issue, everyone should read this entire article also, to get the full picture, not just something out of context. the word “useful” metadata is key.
NEXT SPACE : the OCLC Newsletter
“The catalog is out of the box” By Andy Havens and Tom Storey
I agree: “useful” is the key term here. And in determining this, the focus primarily should be on the patron and less on technical/librarian needs. So, we should admit that what is “useful” for us does not necessarily transfer into what is “useful” for the patrons. What does this mean today?
I honestly believe that people will not sit still long enough to listen to librarians lecture them on how to search a traditional library catalog. My own experience has shown that relatively few people could use a catalog competently in the past; it has gotten progressively worse, and in the future everything must be quite different. So, I submit that our current OPACs are not useful for most people out there. The catalogs *could* be useful if they knew how they work and how best to use controlled vocabulary, but they don’t want to learn. Today’s users expect the computers to do all of this for them. After all, that’s what *I expect* and I don’t think I am unique at all.
When I get a new program for my computer, I will not sit down to read a big fat book about how to use it, or take a 5 hour tutorial, or sit in some class where someone drones on and on at me. That’s not how I have learned Firefox or Chrome or Skype or any of those programs. I just open it and push buttons, exploring how it works following trial and error. I may sometimes look at a very small page of what something has. I’m not an expert on any of these, but I can use them competently. The only time I really go to the help pages is when I have a serious problem, and then I only want to solve my problem, not learn everything about the program. For example, if I want to do something in Excel, I’ll search the help pages, and if the answer is: “Take an online tutorial for 45 minutes” I won’t do it, and I’ll try to figure out something else.
I don’t think I’m different from most people today. So, “useful” means something quite different from what it meant 25 years ago since people have all of these other options. As a result, while Information Literacy classes are helpful, where people are taught how to use our tools (more or less successfully, I may add), the IA classes cannot be seen as any kind of solution. The solution is to make our catalogs much easier for an untrained person both to access, and to search correctly. In my own opinion, this entails first, letting the records out into the world for people to experiment with (I don’t know how many people we can expect will search our tools separately), and second, to get much more deeply involved in Web3.0, the Semantic Web, which seems made-to-order for the cataloger. The Semantic Web is our backyard. With simply a change in focus, I think catalogers understand it better than anyone.