Posting to Autocat
On Thu, 7 Oct 2010 10:11:43 -0400, Myers, John F. wrote:
>And yet the American University of Rome, of which James is the Director
>of Library and Information Services, perversely maintains a catalog in
>the face of these user behaviors. Why bother, when he readily
>acknowledges that his patrons don’t want the information there (or
>perhaps more accurately don’t seem to want the organization it provides
>for the information it contains)?
>What do his patrons want if they don’t want to use
>authors/titles/subjects? Is he developing an alternative system that
>meets those needs? What is an effective means for describing and, more
>importantly, accessing the atomized snippets that he has previously
>reported as the focus of his students’ interests, for describing and
>accessing the resulting mash-ups?
>How effective are his patrons’ information seeking behaviors actually?
>Is it the case that “what they want” is serving their best interests
>with respect to information retrieval and research? Or would catalog
>structures (based on Cutter and updated in the FRBR model) serve them
>better, if only they could be educated in the use of those structures?
>Perhaps more provocatively than I ought to be, but genuinely curious
>about these questions,
I can only do so much, and I will try to discuss this in more depth in my next podcast. I only have so many computer skills, but one thing I can do, and have done, is to implement my Extend Search, which searches all kinds of things. You can use it yourself in my “perverse catalog” which you can enter by going to any page there, and clicking on “Search other collections”. There are other ways of implementing the Extend Search, and I have tried to implement this by using the information in the catalog record. I have always believed–and still fervently believe–that the individual catalog record, if made according to high-quality standards in various ways (going beyond AACR2 or RDA), could become extremely powerful *if correctly utilized*.
My students (and that includes lots of students studying abroad in Rome from the US) very rarely even understand the concept of searching by author, title, or subject, and I won’t even mention works/expressions/et al. (e.i. WEMI). They search like they search in Google. They have no real idea of controlled vocabulary, or of anything relating to a syndetic structure. Are they stupid? Of course not, but they believe that the system should do this for them, and I think they are right.
The simple fact is that people find the searching capabilities of keyword very useful, and much more useful than traditional cataloging functions. Do they want or need WEMI? In my experience: sometimes, but it is very very rare when they need this kind of information. Why? Well, for one thing, OCLC discovered that less than 20% of the database is even involved with variant editions of any kind. Sometimes they want a specific edition, e.g. Hobbes’ translation of Thucydides, or Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, or “the latest edition”. A simple keyword search with modern sorts handles this far more efficiently and easily than FRBR foresees.
What people do want is other materials on the web that are not being cataloged by catalogers and will not be cataloged, at least in any kind of time from where they will be useful, e.g. think tank publications, public lectures and videos, up to the minute newspaper articles, materials in the hugely growing open archives, and so on and on and on.
And please, I want to make it very, very clear that I think people really do need the information in library catalogs because I think they need to find resources *reliably* by their authors, titles and subjects, but it must be implemented completely differently than how it is done today. First, people need to begin to understand and see how powerful it can be, but currently, it just doesn’t work and is totally unconvincing. Do I know how to do this? I would never be so presumptuous (obviously, people think I am presumptuous for even daring to question the wisdom of FRBR!), but I do have some ideas that could be tested and ultimately proven correct or incorrect. I’m sure lots of others have their own ideas. And I would bet you the baby’s shoes that Google would have some very interesting ideas! I doubt if the Google-guys have much attachment for FRBR.
I do question how seriously patrons need WEMI, and I suspect that perhaps it has always been based more on library inventory control than anything else–and I am *absolutely not* dismissing the absolute need for a library to keep inventory control–but perhaps it is more important for libraries than for users. In any case, while occasionally someone may require this kind of information, certainly, I have seen absolutely no need for anything approaching the FRBR displays, which really are “so 19th-century”!
It’s imperative that catalogers get away from the dead hand of the traditional user tasks, and how the traditional catalog has functioned. The information universe has changed completely, and we have to deal with it or be left behind.
You mention “snippets” and what should we do? Should we catalog “snippets” of information? I certainly hope not, but I have considered it and believe that any solution would be to incorporate keyword results in some way, much as in the print world, people work with tables of contents and indexes thereby bypassing entire items, which they often do not want.