Tuesday, December 21, 2010

RE: New "Cataloging Matters" podcast

Posting to NGC4LIB

Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
<snip>
catalogs into disregard and obsolescence, but full-text search, by its nature, has no way to do WEMI and FRBR. But it has some ways to find stuff that leave catalogs hopelessly behind.
</snip>
and Jonathan Rochkind wrote:
<snip>
There is no reason you can't have a system that indexes full text and supports full text search, AND has structured metadata ala FRBR. Supporting fielded searching as well as full text searching, or supporting searching that boosts hits in the result set when they match in certain fields over body text matches. And grouping or otherwise displaying items that belong to the same work in the result set. Etc.
</snip>
I think librarians will be able to get all this to work together more or less, but I still question if that is what our patrons want. Do people want more links (no, that's not right; it's not even *more* links with FRBR/RDA since the number will remain the same, but somehow "different" links); do people want links that lead *into* our traditional "library universe"? Or do they want links from our materials that go *out* into the greater informational universe in some way? In my opinion, it's not even a question: people want the latter.

We really need to accept that people right now, if they want to, can find all the WEMI they want in a library catalog. Yes, maybe it's a little clunky, but no worse than it's ever been. It can be done now and can be improved using automated means. So catalogers and the entire library world should move on and put our ever-diminishing resources toward the needs that a modern "information-hungry" public wants.

I like Bernhard's "grounded Dreamliner, screwdrivers in hand". I've been doing some research and, among other things, just discovered an article from LJ, March 1905, p. 141+: "The Future of the Catalog" by William Fletcher. I'll quote his opening paragraph:
"Several years ago I wrote a paper for one of the meetings of the American Library Association on "Library superstitions." I am now inclined to add to those I then named, another--the Dictionary Catalog. I do not intend by this expression to intimate that the dictionary catalog is a thing to be disbelieved in and rejected, but rather to suggest that it has the character of a superstition in so far as it is accepted and religiously carried out on grounds that are traditional, rather than on any intelligent conviction that it meets present needs and is good for the future needs for which we must make provision."
I don't agree with everything Fletcher says, after all, he wrote this over 100 years ago, but his basic premise is still highly provocative: to reconsider the very purposes and traditions of a library catalog--and we are still creating what is basically a dictionary catalog. The purpose of the library catalog is closely connected with the purpose of the library itself. Certainly, I believe the library catalog is still needed today, but our public relates to it differently. As they do to libraries as a whole.

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