Monday, July 2, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Currency of subject headings & Bibliographic conservatives

Posting to Autocat

On 29/06/2012 21:53, john g marr wrote:
<snip>
On Fri, 29 Jun 2012, Audrey Driscoll wrote:
Yes, but many ILSs and "discovery layers" bypass our earnestly created "see" references.
That's the whole point. We have to develop skills to become the designers of those ILSs rather passing the buck.</snip>
Designers of what? Computer coding? Or computer-human interaction? Or information architecture? Or graphic design?

I just cannot see this as an answer. Catalogers already have their own work to do. The situation of OPACs is not, in my opinion, that catalogers need to take charge of their development, but rather that catalogers who genuinely understand the catalog have been bypassed by those who are in charge. Catalogers need to be deeply involved to ensure certain types of functionality, but designing a catalog for the *public* is primarily a job for public services, who have a better understanding of what the public wants.

The problem as I see it is that when OPACs were first introduced, they were not powerful enough to include the cross references/authority files and people slowly forgot the power of the card catalogs and the need for them. This is shown by the fact that the very idea of searching for "concepts" instead of "text" is totally weird for people today, when it was the only possible way of searching card and printed catalogs. (At least those using controlled vocabulary) When the authority files were finally introduced, it was done by just reinstituting the left-anchored browse, thereby simulating the functioning of the card catalog although the public had abandoned those methods long before. Such a decision could have come from a cataloger but probably not from public services.

The problem is to--somehow!--bring together computer specialists, catalogers and public services people, who all respect one another (very important!), to create a new tool to give searchers the power of the old tools updated into the environment they inhabit today. Creativity, along with some confidence and fortitude will be needed by all concerned, plus a bit of charity from those outside. It is only reasonable to expect a number of relative failures to occur before the successes can begin.

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