Thursday, December 23, 2010

RE: New "Cataloging Matters" podcast

Posting to NGC4LIB
Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
22.12.2010 17:40, Ross Singer:
>> No technical or theoretical reason, yes. GBS is doing it, with structured metadata provided by you know who. One of the reasons for us is that we don't have the full text and won't get it.
> Although we have only ourselves to blame. It's not as though the internet archive or Open Content Alliance haven't been trying to find libraries to work with them - libraries just can't be bothered.
Only ourselves to blame? I don't think blame is the right term, and how much would blame help anyway.
I think Google Books represents the best of the "entrepreneurial spirit" the neo-conservatives are always applauding. Libraries are highly bureaucratized, and they are subservient to higher agencies; they could never have done what Google has done. It takes a highly dynamic, bold, and even somewhat crazy idea to achieve something like what Google has with Google Books. Before they started (and many thought they were crazy, since they were threatened with law suits, the enormity of the task, and so on), accepted thought was that it would take a few hundred years to scan everything in the libraries, but Google has proven otherwise, and now everybody wants to get on board with their own projects.

Of course it's not perfect; of course parts will have to be redone, but Google has achieved what in essence is the impossible; it is not ever going to disappear, and now, everything is changing in ways that are completely unpredictable. Everybody having anything to do with this incredible amount of information, will find almost everything they do changed. This includes above all, libraries.

I may not like much of this, but Google's achievement is incredible and a public entity such as libraries could never have accomplished it. It's also happened before and the changes were fairly well documented: the introduction of the printing press and its profound changes for society (and libraries). Many of those changes had horrible consequences, such as the Counter-Reformation and the Index of Forbidden Books, but we survived and became stronger.

I hope history will repeat itself, but minus the nasty parts! I do think that, for better or worse, it's going to be a wild ride.

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