Posting to Autocat
[Concerning his post http://permalink.gmane.org/gmane.education.libraries.autocat/35949]
Thanks so much for the “rambling” message; it is highly thought-provoking. I’ll ramble back!
I share a lot of the same concerns, but I need to emphasize that I think there is every reason for hope in the current environment. I agree with just about everything you mention, but there are some simple facts that catalogers must face up to. There are still other facts that other departments of the library must face up to as well, e.g. reference librarians must accept the fact that the number of reference questions is going down and will continue to; budgets will definitely not go up for a long time, if ever, and probably will go in the opposite direction for awhile; scholars and researchers are not forced to use the library like they did 20 years ago but have all kinds of other avenues, and these avenues will continue to expand.
[By the way, when I mention Google, what I mostly mean are all the Googley-type tools out there now and how they will develop. Google could easily disappear in a year if something else came out that people liked better. The folks at Google know this very well and realize that they must work like the devil to create tools that, no. 1, people like, and no. 2, that people find a little bit fun. This is something the library cataloging community would do well to accept.]
Traditional cataloging is facing the greatest challenge it has faced in, perhaps, its entire history. In spite of this, I still deeply believe that the people want what librarianship (as a whole) provides–and this includes the catalog–but understanding precisely what it is that we provide must be completely reconsidered in this new environment. This is why I am against FRBR so strongly: is it true that people want, and is it true that the catalog provides, access according to F/I/S/O W/E/M/I by their A/T/S? (Sorry for the shorthand)
No. For example, keyword is the major way of searching the catalog today, but this is beside the point. I think a library catalog, when looked at relative to the *totality of the goals* of how a library is to serve its community, does more than what FRBR says; thinking in this way, the catalog could potentially do *a lot* more than it does today; and anyway, where is the evidence that FRBR *really is* what people want, and want so much that we have to change everything? I have seen absolutely no evidence, but I have seen contrary evidence that people want other things from information.
The problem with FRBR is that it confused how catalogs have always functioned (i.e. cribbing from Cutter), with what people want and need. The two are not the same at all and is a fallacy that, I think and hope, may not be too late to be corrected.
But this doesn’t mean that people *don’t want* what the library provides so long as we rethink it. Firms such as Google understand this type of thinking and are willing to rethink everything to achieve it. What do people want from libraries? I keep going back to our Code of Ethics which is based on providing a level of trust: while people may or may not like what libraries provide, at least they aren’t worried that librarians are like salespeople just trying to get them to open their wallets; people also are not worried (or should not be worried!) that librarians are trying to influence and control their thoughts and opinions, but are focused on helping people find the information they need.
Nobody else provides this sort of service. Think about that a moment: nobody else provides this sort of service. That is incredibly important. The tools we make should reflect this clearly somehow, including the catalog. I think it can.
Here are some reports on how people are getting information today, plus, my next podcast will discuss this topic, so I’ll stop here.