Posting to RDA-L
On Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 10:58 AM, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
With catalogs and cataloging, the journey is not the
destination nor its own reward or half the fun, as Confucian thinking may have it, but there’s no desire for a journey, or no interest in a catalog as such, nor in its use.
I hesitate to give up on catalogs so easily. Yes, I have spent a good deal of my life with them, but it is not just a matter of nostalgia. I honestly believe that catalogs could provide something vital for the public that the Googles cannot and will not provide. The latest NSA revelations should not be ignored in this regard.
The fact is, it is important to keep in mind that the Googles are not really finding/discovery tools similar to library catalogs and I think it is a mistake to look at them that way: the Googles are advertising agencies and probably the greatest advertising agencies that have ever existed. Why are they the greatest? Because they have more information about the public than any other advertising agency has ever had before. And they use that information to their own advantages, in all sorts of different ways.
The public does not understand this subtle difference, and it’s hard enough for me to keep it straight sometimes.
I am currently reading Edward Bernays’ “Propaganda” (1928) where he discusses what is “public relations”. I found it interesting when he explains what it is:
“His [i.e. the public relations expert’s] work and that of the advertising agency do not conflict with or duplicate each other.
His first efforts are, naturally, devoted to analyzing his client’s problems and making sure that what he has to offer the public is something which the public accepts or can be brought to accept. It is futile to attempt to sell an idea or to prepare the ground for a product that is basically unsound.”
He gives some examples, then continues:
“His next effort is to analyze his public. He studies the groups which must be reached, and the leaders through whom he may approach these groups. Social groups, economic groups, geographical groups, age groups, doctrinal groups, language groups, cultural groups, all these represent the divisions through which, on behalf of his client, he may talk to the public.
Only after this double analysis has been made and the results collated, has the time come for the next step, the formulation of policies governing the general practice, procedure and habits of the client in all those aspects in which he comes in contact with the public.”
In another place, Bernays mentions how the public can be molded to accept what you have to offer (this has obvious political overtones and Bernays worked as a propagandist during WWI), but it is true that if something is basically unsound, any attempts to work with it are futile.
Instead of molding the public to accept catalogs, I would prefer that the library community mold the product (the finding tool for libraries) to the needs of their public. But of course, there has not been the research that Bernays mentioned so that we can if what we are making is basically unsound today, and if so, what can be done to improve it.
It would also be important to get the public to know that that libraries are not in the business of getting gullible people to open their wallets, or trying to convert people to a way of thinking or a religion or something. I submit that such a tool would be strange for many people to even imagine today but if they did understand, I think it would be appreciated.
That is, if it actually worked for people who used it. I just see no real attempts to get the catalog to work in practical ways for the mass of the public.