Friday, September 3, 2010

RE: Time and effort

Posting to RDA

Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
<snip>
Why wouldn't people in a library want to find/identify/select/obtain the resources they want?
</snip>

It is interesting that whenever I question the FRBR user tasks of (here we go one more time!) "find/identify/select/obtain: works/expressions/manifestations/items by their authors/titles/subjects" people tend to believe that I am maintaining that *nobody ever* wants this traditional type of access. This is not at all what I think, but what I do maintain is that it is not the only way to find information as it was in the card catalog (and it was!), and that the traditional way is not even of primary concern with our patrons today; in fact, even the very concepts of the traditional methods are becoming more and more removed from the experience of younger patrons. My evidence for this is that people genuinely like Google-type searching and databases, and it is *impossible* to do anything like the FRBR tasks in those databases. They prefer these methods to ours. Therefore, to maintain that the public wants and needs the FRBR tasks is illogical and untenable.

Also, analysis of the FRBR user tasks often stops after the find/identify/select/obtain part, which really is almost totally speculative since those are the things people do completely on their own, and what they *really and genuinely* do is extremely difficult to know. In any case, what should be of primary concern for catalogers right now are the rest of the tasks, since that is what we are proposing to build and spend our resources on, i.e. creating the "works/expressions/manifestations/items finding them by their authors/titles/subjects".

We need to ensure that what we make is what people want before we spend huge amounts on changes, which could all be pointed in the wrong directions. All this seems very non-controversial and obvious from a managerial point of view, and in fact, even to disagree would be very strange. How in the world could anyone say that something no one wants should be built? Yet, if there is evidence that there is a genuine movement among our patrons that they say they need FRBR displays so badly, to the detriment of productivity and so on, then I would agree that it needs to be implemented.

To me, maintaining that FRBR is what people want and need is obviously indicative of "when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." The error is assuming that the tool we have made for such a long, long, long time; a tool that our patrons have had no choice except to use or go without, is therefore what people want and need. This is not progressive thinking and we need to be humble. The undeniable fact is people flocked to other tools the moment they had a chance. I want to emphasize that while I also believe that people really do *need* the access that the traditional library catalog provides, my experience shows they may not *want* it. There are many reasons for this, along with consequences, which I will not enter into here.

Once again, I shall state that *I do not know* how people search information and how they use it. I have noticed tremendous changes in my own patterns, and what I have witnessed from people I work with, it is also very different. Since I understand how traditional access methods work, I can also see that these new methods are lacking in many ways (e.g. not even any decent author searches??), and in the hands of people less trained, these new patterns can lead to incredible confusion and frustration.

I confess I am not really sure exactly what it is that I do that is different in my patterns of discovery, use and expectations of information from what I did many years ago, but I only know that it's a lot different. I also know that I like these new methods. A lot. These are the attitudes that I think we need.
For a couple of specific points:
<snip>
RDA makes WEMI explict, finally, so we can get started fixing the problems of the past, and start thinking about new catalog designs built on a stronger foundation.
</snip>
Of course, this assumes that our patrons want this so badly that we must retrain, retool, and redo practically everything to achieve it. It also assumes that WEMI displays cannot be created automatically with what we have now. I have seen absolutely no evidence to support any of this.
<snip>
Our circulation and reference desk statistics attest to that shifting dynamic as usage has climbed, and the sheer number and diversity of information sources hinders people as much as it helps them, leaving a tremendous ongoing need for reference service (and now training needs for all the new technology).
</snip>
I guess you are saying that your library statistics, e.g. numbers of reference questions, etc. have climbed. I'm happy for you, but the statistics I have seen out there show completely different trends. Here are just a few that I have noted. The initial ARL statistics are particularly pertinent (still the latest ones), which show that ILL has increased tremendously, while reference questions have gone 'way down. The ITHAKA study is sobering.
http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/arlstat08.pdf
 
http://www.ithaka.org/ithaka-s-r/research/faculty-surveys-2000-2009/Faculty%20Study%202009.pdf

http://galbithink.org/libraries/circulation.htm (an interesting long-term report)

http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/07/if-libraries-ha.html (the comments are also important)

http://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/stories/2010/07/generationY.aspx (discussing trends among younger scholars)

Plus, an interesting article in Wikipedia, of all things(!).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decline_of_library_usage

Sorry for such a long reply.

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