On 06/11/2012 19:15, Dave Caroline wrote:
Having participated in a crowd image identification project I can endorse the idea.
We had a donation of a few thousand negatives from a newspaper archive where only a percentage had any writing on the envelope, we printed some for public display and had people who were at the events inform us to the image content. We also mounted all the pictures in folders with an area for the public to annotate, a lot of information was forth coming.
A statement in this thread “enthusiastic public who are completely untrained” shows me a the holier than thou attitude, try learning what they know about the image subject rather than denigrate.
Of course, this argument of “holier than thou” can be turned around and someone can say that the person who is trained is no better than the one who has no training at all. Strangely enough, in my experience it is precisely catalogers, and to a lesser degree librarians in general, who “get no respect”. Nobody would ever say anything like that about IT people, about mechanics, about lawyers, about doctors, builders, or about almost any other field at all. It is beyond question that we all want only trained people to do those jobs. Very few understand what professional catalogers do; what it is that makes their records different (and supposedly higher quality) than the records made by “untrained people.”
To start down a path that claims untrained people are as good as trained catalogers will lead to the eventual extinction of the professional cataloger–of this I have no doubt. Especially in this economic climate. Catalogers must make very clear why the metadata they make is “better” than what anybody else makes. There is nothing at all wrong with defending your own profession and is not being “holier than thou”. After all, doctors would not hesitate to argue such a case, or mechanics, or IT staff. We would expect them to do so. To do so with the cataloging profession would end up re-arguing the case that Antonio Panizzi made so long ago at the British Museum. Maybe it needs to be done for the 21st century.
One of the problems with cataloging is that mistakes are not so obvious as the errors of others. The errors of an IT person are obvious when the database returns an SQL error, or when a lawyer loses a case through incompetence and you are sent to jail for a crime you didn’t commit or are fined an outrageous amount of money for nothing, or when a doctor completely misdiagnoses your illness and you wind up in the hospital for emergency surgery. Do you want the person checking out your groceries and taking your money to not know anything about the job? Or do we want to find their mistakes only after they have shortchanged us, or when they count out their till at the end of the day and the business discovers they are $500 short? When a mistake is made with cataloging, it is not so clear: you don’t see anything, just like I showed when you click on the tag “Brazil” and see only two items from the set of 15, when you should have seen nine. Simply to realize there is such an error is extremely difficult–far more difficult than when your car doesn’t start. To proceed onward from there to understand why you do not see all nine records that are on Brazil is also anything but simple.
So, when Joe Montibello mentioned that tagging should not replace the work of the trained cataloger, that was fine but I fear it will not end there. Since so few people understand what professional catalogers really do, it may turn out that if catalogers are not forthright in the need for their work, they will be thrown overboard in favor of these kinds of services. In the Clay Shirkey talk, he mentions the Smithsonian project as an example of a “scholarly use” and I don’t believe he understands the consequences.
That is why it is up to the real experts, the catalogers, to point out these problems that we can see rather easily–not to dismiss them as unimportant or obsolete–and not to say that we are being “holier than thou.” We are being experts in our field, doing our jobs.