Re: [ACAT] What users want

Posting to Autocat

On 16/07/2012 15:21, William Anderson wrote:

Two minor notes/summations that occured to me from ongoing discussion that may be useful distinctions What the users want chopped into two questions:

  1. What the users want to accomplish (result) 
  2. What the users will accept in terms of process effort to get the result. 

Sliding scale between the two.
Satisficing being the balance point of an acceptable if not maximized result, with an acceptable expenditure of time and effort.  

I think that it’s even more basic than this: are catalogers trying to “perfect the irrelevant”? What is the relevance of the library catalog to the users? What I mean is, aside from the fact that it is the only way to keep track of the materials on the shelves, should the catalog should be a tool that allows someone to search the intellectual contents of a collection? Does a library catalog allow that today in a keyword environment, when an untrained person in a remote location approaches the catalog just as they would approach any other tool they use, such as Google, Yahoo and other full-text materials? I think it’s a fair question.

Even then, when faced with real life examples, it becomes tough. What about records such as this: (record for ITunes U) with subjects of:

  • Mobile communication systems in education.
  • Internet in education.
  • Teaching — Aids and devices. 
For the TEDTalks, there is this record with these subjects:

  • Technology and the arts.
  • Technology — Social aspects. 

These records help no one since most people want individual talks and if they want the overall TEDTalks site, they’ll just look it up in Google, but to be honest, I can’t blame the cataloger. How can the poor cataloger deal with massive sites such as ITunes U or TEDTalks in a *single record*, and at the same time make that record *useful*? I would guess that there probably are a few videos in there that are about those subjects, but each video is much more specific than any of those and most are on completely different subjects.

With the TEDTalks, someone has added a few hundred of them, but they seem to all go through link resolvers and going into proprietary databases instead of going directly to the videos that are actually all available for free, see e.g. vs. the items found under this record Interesting that I discovered that the names of the people who actually give the talks are not findable as authors and after some looking around, I found out they are added only as subjects(!). In this example, Clay Shirky is not talking about himself! Therefore, probably real catalogers are not making these records. Still, at least the individual talks are findable to a point through some kind of controls and are a step forward from the collective records above.

But continuing, how many people would like to know that when they look at this record for a famous Russian movie: (Solaris directed by Andrei Tarkovsky), you are looking at lots of versions in Worldcat, but you can watch it for free online and on this great site, where there are scads of Russian movies–with English subtitles:

Or, something in English: Meet John Doe (one of my absolute favorite films), which can be found in Worldcat with many versions available through libraries, and there is even one online going into a proprietary Overdrive version but it is actually in the public domain now and available here and in the Internet Archive.

Yes, to add these kinds of materials would demand a lot of work but I think it would be something that people would appreciate far more than adding death dates and spelling out abbreviations. To me, that is a real “no-brainer”. I mean, once somebody knows that “Meet John Doe” is online for free at the click of a button, how many would want the DVD? Perhaps the quality is better and perhaps not, and perhaps somebody wouldn’t care. But they should be made aware of its existence.