Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Re: A sad Friday

Posting to Autocat

On 05/04/2011 08:47 PM, MULLEN Allen wrote:
I respond: Is it possible that some of us are taking this as if catalogers were the target with insufficient evidence? Despite some brief quoted words attributed to "powerful members of the information society", the skeptic and critical thinker in me would really like to be able to read and evaluate the evidence that these "members of the information society" or, indeed, the "wealthy domestic terrorists" that John Marr refers to are involved and successful in targeting traditional cataloging by taking expert metadata creators out of the equation. ... However, what is happening that affects Scott's place of work, my place of work, etc. has little to do directly with the restructuring of discovery vis-à-vis RDA, or with the targeting of public institutions by wealthy interests seeking to control public discourse and opinion. These are secondary.
I don't believe that catalogers are necessarily "targets" but instead, that we are considered to be "expensive, human--and therefore, inefficient--creators of metadata" and additionally, that we create a type of metadata considered to be obsolete in this new age of information. Consequently, we must demonstrate and prove the utility of our products to the public. This is where I believe we have failed.

The real change I think, is that in the days of the card catalog and when everything was physical, the complexity of what we made was obvious to anyone who tried to use it, and coming up with a viable alternative was almost impossible. Today, that same complexity is killing us. People (including faculty that I have debated) insist that it is easy to find useful and valid materials in libraries and on the web! After all, look at the online databases like JSTOR and Lexis-Nexis. Very powerful. It is my suspicion that the idea of the "reliable result", that is, where authority control more or less guarantees finding "everything" by a specific name or subject, is being lost and as a consequence, considered less important than ever. I believe it is just as important now as it was 300 years ago. We need to build something, useful to today's public, that demonstrates and proves the power of those kinds of searches.

What we create must stop having any relationship with card catalogs, this includes left-anchored browses (which is the only way to understand subjects, and lots of name headings too). It is really and truly time for the card catalog to die. Too bad, I liked them a lot, but their time has passed and it's killing us.

If you want actual evidence of people thinking this, perhaps this paper and its references will suffice The Changing Landscape of Contemporary Cataloging  / Sue Ann Gardner. 2008. (Faculty Publications, UNL Libraries)

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