Posting to Autocat
Hal Cain wrote:
<snip>This seems to be wise counsel. It is important to look at what we have now and come up with new ways how it can be best utilized for the public, instead of saying, "Well, if everybody had been adding gender all along, then people could search for various genders, so let's just add the information".
This kind of correlation is extremely difficult to perform in current systems, and unless some clever system design, backed by enhancement of existing authorities and bibliographic data, is done, the usefulness of library systems to library users will be, in terms of comparison with other ways of correlating data, overtaken. At that point the trickle of questions asking about the value of what cataloguers do will become a torrent.
Questions that look difficult from inside the systems of bibliographic control we inhabit are precisely the ones we have to create good, useful, straightforward answers to; and the data has to be there to make it possible, or people will stop expecting us to be useful.
When we say, "People would like to find women writers from the Italian Renaissance," I sympathize, but since we have not been putting that kind of information into the records, we would have to start from scratch. When people do a search, they should expect some kind of meaningful coverage, so if the search works only on the records created after 2013, the search misses 99.9999% of everything since the information isn't there. If someone found the money for a special project to add this information, or they decided to crowdsource it, those attempts could be interesting, but I ask again: is that the best use of library resources? If someone wants that kind of information, why not use the catalog to find a book (or other resource that is in the collection) that might have that information already? So, how about trying a search such as subject keyword "women authors dictionaries" and similar searches, where they may find a resource that will provide them with a better and clearer answer than the library catalog ever could.
Sounds to me that if someone has this kind of question, they should go to a reference librarian for help because there is probably a resource in a library somewhere! Plus, there is a nice scope note under "Women authors".
So this leads me to ask: what can we realistically expect from the catalog without going into every record and updating it? It is not there to answer every single question, but there is a lot that the catalog can do.