Friday, October 19, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Un/Trained patrons (Was: Re: New Bibliographic Framework)

Posting to Autocat

On 16/10/2012 03:37, Anne Bruli wrote:
As search engine technology evolves, it seems that less and less thought will be required from the user. In the future, it is possible that the "Googlization" of the existing catalog structure will provide users access to an intelligent search engine through a simple user interface.

Exactly. And the big $64,000 question is: how will library records react when dumped into that metadata jumble, along with all of the records, searched with the "single search box"? I am sure that at least some of our standards will become useless or irrelevant--I wonder which ones and how many? For instance, there has been a big discussion on RDA-L about "color/colour(ed) illustrations" and how it should best be handled. It's interesting to consider these subtle distinctions when the public will see those records alongside other records created in all kinds of ways: by other cataloging agencies that don't follow the same cataloging policies, by untrained "creators" who follow no policies except their own momentary compulsions, or records that are created automatically by computers. What will the kinds of distinctions with "ill. (some col.)" mean as everything is mashed together?

Many of our practices make sense only in relation to the other records in the catalog. Once you take records out of the catalog, they make a lot less sense, if any at all. So, for example the heading "World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, Italian" makes sense in relation to the other records in the catalog, but *nobody* would ever think to search those terms. Outside of the catalog, that heading is much less useful. I have already mentioned how the "catalog aids" i.e. the authority files, are vital in order to use the catalog effectively. If you searched "IBM" and got hundreds of records authored by subbodies and conferences that have "IBM" in their heading, it may take quite awhile to figure out that you should really be looking for "International Business Machines Corporation". A simple cross-reference can avoid all of that, so long as people can know about that cross-reference without too much pain.

How someone can a "simple user interface" of all of that, I don't know--although everything can definitely be made far more functional for the public than how it works today. Still, there may be a solution that I can't imagine, as the Apple Corporation has demonstrated over and over again, making computers easier and easier for people to use--and without training!--when they have came out with such innovations as the Mac, the Iphone and the Ipad.

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