Monday, July 2, 2012

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

Posting to Autocat

On 02/07/2012 14:46, William Anderson wrote:
<snip>
So to follow up on James reply on our roles: 

Public services -- approaching the question from direction of the user, as to research questions of the user and what they need to do with the information found. This drives both any systems we might design or adopt. Like I've mentioned before, I think there is a whole range of types of users with needs ranging from the casual (perhaps best handled by Google, et al.) to varying depths of research all the way to sophisticated users with their on ideas on leveraging data to create specific applications of their own. I wonder if some studies of an ontology of user types, even though of necessarily crude, might be more sophisticated than the RDA users task. Also identification of blocks in the discovery process. 

Metadata -- creation, curation and manipulation of data (often large sets in various forms) to meet needs identified by public service folks. Being on the lookout for useful data outside the usual suspects, and show interest in metadata projects outside the library to see what one may offer. Full understanding of functionality and information architecture of systems (not necessarily buiding and programming of such, but enough to sit down with programmers/systems experts to present use cases, etc. gleaned from public services.

Computer experts -- implementers of functionality. Work with public/metadata folks in the iterative development cycle to tweak systems. Maintain infrastructure to support systems, </snip>
I agree; as you note, it is idealistic, but almost all things start from some sort of idealism. One of the strange observations I have noted is that to a non-librarian, there is this vague, monolithic concept of "libraries", but of course when you are inside the library field, as with almost all fields, you see how stratified it is and how it is cordoned off in all kinds of ways. So, there are different kinds of librarians: selectors, reference, catalogers, conservation, etc. often with only the slightest understanding of what the others do, but there are also all kinds of libraries: public, research, special, school, with all kinds of specialties within each strata, e.g. large public library vs. small public library.

Strangely enough, I think the people who get the best idea of libraries as a whole are in the smaller libraries, where people have to "wear the most hats" and why I think a lot of the developments in these areas may come from smaller libraries, who will be unable to pay for proprietary systems and are literally forced to develop their own. It is possible to do so today with the rise of open-source software, in many cases, that are more powerful than many proprietary programs and the technical knowledge needed now is not so demanding as it once was. It's a big decision however.

And as you mention, in FRBR there is a concept, just as monolithic that the public has of "libraries", FRBR has the similar monolithic concept of "the user" when anyone with just a bit of reference experience knows such a creature does not exist. The closest you can come to "the user" perhaps is in a special library that serves a closely circumscribed group, e.g. a librarian at a law firm specializing in copyright, or something like that. But that may be incorrect, too.

Creating one tool for all (the catalog) made sense in the pre-computer world, but not any longer, when there can be multiple interfaces for any computer system.

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