Sunday, June 26, 2011

Re: nice step toward what a catalog can become

Posting to Autocat

On 25/06/2011 18:44, MULLEN Allen wrote:
<snip>
In short, while the opinions of the "rank and file" may not matter to you, Jim, the ability of library virtual bibliographic presence to support and be enriched by the users beyond the cataloging community, is a keystone to transcending Googleization. The answer does not lie in the cataloging community, nor the programmers, nor library decision makers - it lies in incorporating and unleashing our users.
</snip>
Whether I like the opinions of the rank and file doesn't matter--my concern is to create tools that make "nice steps toward what a catalog can become", as you so put it so well. Some may believe that the opinions of the rank and file are far more relevant to their own needs than the paid, and sometimes "bought and paid for" opinions of the so-called experts, while others concentrate on accepted "scholarly" opinion. I like to think that I am in the middle.

But as librarians, we make tools that *help* the public find relevant information that *they* want, not that *we* want--tools that are more useful than what they find today. These tools do not need to be perfect, just as getting the opinion only of the rank and file, or only of the "upper class" is also not perfect, but making it all easier to find is a nice step forward. To do substantially more we will need cooperation from all kinds of players, plus more powerful tools for searching.

Still, what I wanted to show is that there is a lot we can do right now just by using the technology we have and we don't have to kill ourselves with the despairing, Sisyphean task of manually making links to materials that we know will break eventually. Tools can be made to do a lot of the more distasteful tasks, although it may mean that we lose some control over the final product. And if those tools are seen as useful, we can continue to improve them. Or to not improve them if people don't like them. If they prove not to be useful, they can be retired far more easily because there is much less lost than if catalogers would start putting in gobs and gobs of links into individual records by hand. That is not the kind of road to go down--at least, not any longer.

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