Re: Cataloging Matters Podcast #12

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 10/08/2011 17:52, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:

While humorous, the podcast was irrelevant, as it did not reflect how reference interviews are conducted, how patrons behave, and to what use the data is actually put. The reference staff (and I am also a front-line librarian) I’ve found don’t need a lot of training on FRBR — FRBR only delineates what’s already intended in our data, and the staff already know the common kinds of questions and the appropriate kinds of responses– all of this is amiably handled in the FRBR model without using any of the FRBR language. And the staff does appreciate the FRBR-like add-ons when they come– the most common staff request I get is to combine expressions together in a single record to facilitate holds (something which I can’t and shouldn’t do, but there is now a “joint-hold” function that allows holds to be placed across multiple records– often for reasons based upon the commonality of expressions or works). We did a user survey recently for a library branch, and found the number one request was a book drop. At first this didn’t seem related to the catalog, but there is a larger phenomenon occurring. Patrons are using branches as pick up/drop off locations more and more, and there is a correlation with the increased transactional statistics from the catalog. The catalog is a major driver of library usage, even of e-books, and that is because of the nature of the transactions that can happen– people can specify increasing number of relationships and custom settings to get what they want. The relationships are not just the FRBR ones– relationships can be established between any kind of entity (which is why one still needs a database model to cut across the data– fuzzy searching, full-text searching is great (we have it in spades), but that does little for accurate transactions — and the public can and do complain loudly over any small aspect of the catalog and the accuracy of its data).

Well, there’s a lot to discuss here, but I shall just point out that my podcast was not supposed to be a conversation between a patron and a reference librarian but the library catalog. Reference questions are  declining precipitously and people are interacting more and more directly and remotely with the catalog without the knowledgeable, friendly reference librarian to help them. Yet people need reference services as much or more than ever. Somehow, I think there needs to be a reference component built in as an inherent part of the library catalog, but considering what the library *as a whole* needs to provide, and not the current, rather artificial, organizational library hierarchies (what should cataloging do? what should reference do?), is a different topic.

And I agree that there is little for librarians to learn with FRBR: it’s basically the same structure that we have always had. I remember how relieved I was when I figured that out. (I have to mention my 1st podcast on my personal journey with FRBR here. I have no shame in these things!) This is why I say that when libraries finally implement FRBR (I assume here that it will be implemented eventually), nobody will really notice any difference because there are no substantial changes for patrons; the changes are in cataloging and they are not positive. And when we consider it will take, let’s say, 10 years minimum? and imagine how far the rest of the information industry will have advanced, taking the general public with them, where will that leave libraries?

Instead of following dogma, I still opt for being ready to adapt to any situation and taking advantage of any opportunity using our ingenuity!