Friday, December 17, 2010

RE: New "Cataloging Matters" podcast

Posting to NGC4LIB

Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
<snip>
On this vast background, catalog search is a very narrow field. RDA's vision amounts to little more than making it an electrified and enhanced version of 19th century cataloging ambitions. Other players, like Amazon, LibraryThing, GoogleBooksearch, have already added many more features to their Search products while partly re-inventing our age-old ideas but only as much as required for their business model. This raises the vexing question again: What is our business model? Only after we answer this can we set out to define what our Search model ought to be. And then, what our code of cataloging rules should focus on and include. A much bigger project, I'm afraid, than what can be taken on by our "powers that be" in the ways they go about their business.
</snip>
Yes, we need a business model, but in order to find it, I think we need to reconsider what we do in relation to the entire library endeavor. Apologies for referring to myself, but I have had what I think is an excellent exchange with John Vosmek on Autocat. His message brings up some really good points and I think he speaks for a lot of people, including me: http://permalink.gmane.org/gmane.education.libraries.autocat/35949. My reply is on my blog at: http://catalogingmatters.blogspot.com/2010/12/re-future-of-ils-and-other-tangential.html.

I really believe that, "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". Libraries provide a service, summarized in providing a level of trust over information, that people can find nowhere else. That trust is exemplified in our code of ethics. Everything we do (or almost) reflects that: selection decisions, how to organize materials for retrieval, granting access to those materials, and so on. There is, and should be, at least some level of trust when someone enters a library, and while people trust Google, it is entirely different since Google is a for-profit organization, (and Google does change results based on political or societal pressure) and we have our ethics that we--at least--*should* be following.

I think an emphasis on ethics will make more of an impression on the public than librarians may think. When I have told my info-lit classes that I will suggest databases for them to use, BUT if it turned out I was making 5 or 10 euros from every person I could get to access, e.g. Lexis-Nexis, they might be more skeptical of my suggestions, but they don't have to worry about that because I am a librarian. I compare that to Google's "Don't be evil", or McDonald's "We do it all for you", then wonder if anybody out there really believes any of that, and we all wind up having a good laugh. This is something that people have no trouble understanding and, I think, appreciating.

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