Re: A Day Made of Glass

Posting to NGCLIB

On 18/08/2011 08:49, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:

And this brings us to your remark:

For instance, everyone will agree that they want “reliable” results (who would prefer “unreliable results”?)

I should have made that clearer. “Reliable search” means that one can always know exactly *how* to search in order to get a definite “yes” or “no” for an answer. The card catalog had that quality, but the *how* of searching was just much too restricted and arcane. You may say that’s a librarian’s demand, but known item searches are quite common and need to be supported in better ways than just ISBN access, now that we have megatons of old material and other stuff without such numbers. Web services that start from something else, found somewhere on the web, to find some library connection, depend exclusively on ISBN/ISBN now, and that must change.

Maybe I should have said “bull’s-eye” searching or something. The human searcher, the naturally intelligent one, can do highly successful known-items on GBS, making use of phrases and “intitle:” and “inauthor:” and so on and so further, depending on the situation.

But the artificially intelligent web service cannot do this because it cannot analyse the situation in the same way. In the absence of more and better machine-actionable and machine-analysable data.

Completely correct. While this level of reliability is extremely important, I think that the public may consider it less seriously than it should be. This is why I keep mentioning standards when applied to our everyday commerce, e.g. that the corn that we buy was grown properly, stored properly, and canned properly or that on a television set, the electrical plug won’t melt and start a fire. These are the sorts of things that we don’t think about when picking up the can of corn or considering buying a television set, but instead, we take it all for granted. It doesn’t mean that it is not vitally important since if we eat bad corn or the walls catch fire in our homes, we could die!

When someone buys the can of corn or the television set, they are thinking about how the corn will go into a salad, or otherwise fit into a meal they are planning. When buying a television set, people are concentrating on the programs they can watch, or the special functions that it has. They are not thinking about these more basic levels.

I think what you mention falls into these basic levels, e.g. that the title *really does* reflect the title of the item; that you *really can* find what items are in the catalog that a particular author has written, etc. Our rules allow for this right now, so long as catalogers follow the standards that exist. (I won’t discuss yet again the directions of how I think the standards need to change, only mention that the solution for this is much more a matter of training, and primarily *enforcement*, instead of coming up with a new set of rules that will be ignored as much as our current rules) The problem is: from the discussions in the Language Log blog, and other comments I have seen on the web, I suspect these are the sorts of things the public tends to take for granted, much as we assume that the can of corn does not contain a death sentence.

From the patron’s point of view, they are focusing on what they can do with the information after they have found it: how they can include it in one of their writings, how they can discuss it intelligently with their friends, or however they want to use it; in other words, they consider it like the person with the can of corn who is concentrating on how the salad will look and taste, or the person buying the television set is imagining how complete their lives will be when they can finally watch their sports games in split-screen or 3D.

I believe that if libraries want to appeal to the public, they must consider matters from the viewpoint *of the public* much more than we have, which FRBR purports to do but does not. Providing the basic levels will *not* furnish our patrons with what *they* want. So, we can furnish a catalog that supplies what you have laid out and it won’t make much, if any, difference to the public. They don’t want to think about melting electrical plugs–they want to experience 3D, surround-sound extravaganzas of Tyrannosaurus Rex tearing up Jurassic Park! This is the equivalent of what we should be supplying to the public, if we want to make a real impression on them.

But both aspects are equally important.