Thursday, July 26, 2012

Re: When 95% digitized, do we still need cataloging?

Posting to Autocat

On 25/07/2012 16:23, Li, Yue wrote:
<snip>
When 95% digitized, do we still need cataloging? 
  • Creator creates information in e-file. 
  • Publishers (individual or companies) will digitize and publish/are digitizing and publishing in e- resources/format.
  • Machine will generate bibliographic information and index almost everything for searching.
  • (Can machine find and build up relationships and generate/construct LinkedData? More or less, I am sure.) 
Like it or not, I see it coming. ProQuest takes away all our ETD. 
I am struggling with this question. I know lot of experts here can provide their insight and expertise. 
Some GA (Graduate Assistants) are working here and I am reluctant to recommend cataloging for their future career.
</snip>
I believe this will become the major question facing the cataloging community; and the topic may become acute fairly soon. My own opinion:

There will be a difference between description of the item and "headings/access points/semantics/linked data/whatever we want to call that part". Based on the talk by John Unsworth I mentioned in my last post, plus how the "born digital" materials are developing, the emphasis on catalogers creating works, expressions, manifestations, items may not be what people will want. (As I have mentioned before, I don't know if the public wanted WEMI so much in the past either, but that is a question for historians) For non-fiction materials, many people often want just bits and pieces of a book, especially for research purposes: the "perfect" 20 pages on the topic out of a 350 page book. People have always wanted bits and pieces, but it used to be that the only way toward the 20 pages was through the WEMI structures found in the catalogs. For instance, do you think that the authors who have a 30 or 40 page bibliography read each and every one of those materials completely? At the same time now and in the future, there will be many other ways to get to those 20 pages.

So, if catalogers continue to describe items in ways that are useful for the patrons, these sorts of issues will have to be considered as the public's expectations and needs change. For non-text materials: music, films, images, especially serials, and so on, description will probably always be needed, although Google Image search is impressive and improving.

For fiction materials, you normally want the entire item, and now works of fiction are often written in series/long installments, but I think that the public's needs for fiction will be pretty much served by current *descriptive* practices.

If descriptive cataloging continues, if resources change to XML to coding, much of it can be taken directly from the resource.

On the other hand, when it comes to assigning headings/access points/etc. I have seen nothing that replaces current library methods for searching concepts but our user interfaces have broken down online. The cataloging community must demonstrate the utility of the headings because it has been forgotten but that will not be easy at all. *If* the library community can demonstrate the value of our conceptual access (subjects, classification, name headings) I think there would be a real demand for those powers, that is, if people really understood what it means to search by author, title, subject and it was easy for the public to do it.

To sum up: conceptual cataloging will always be needed, although it will have to be resold to the public. Also, to return to my old drumbeat--RDA and FRBR are going down a false path. Just going into the Semantic Web is also not a solution.

What does the library catalog provide the search--aside from a bunch of catalog records that are arranged in different ways that allow the FRBR user tasks? What more does it do? A lot, I think.

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