Re: RIP Yahoo

On 18/07/2013 20:02, john g marr wrote:

The idea is not to teach people how to use a particular machine or to adapt a particular machine to certain people– the idea is to make people more basically more competent at and interested in using their brains, rather than accepting being spoon-fed and blindly-obedient as necessities. That’s not a criticism of libraries, it’s a way of stating the potentialities of libraries in raising social competence.

You’re overemphasizing “the catalog” as the be-all and end-all of library accomplishment. Even “the collection” is less important than teaching people how to critically examine the information they receive. No one is doing that now, but libraries could take up the slack. In the process we might even learn how to rhetorically defend ourselves against predatory elimination of library funding.

If we accept that the problem lies not so much with everyone in the world, but with us

The “problem” does lie with “everyone in the world” (not thinking) but the *solution[s]* could lie with us: teaching critical thinking in order to have diverse, contradictory and manipulative human utterances interpreted constructively.

First, this is an email list devotied to cataloging and catalogs. I am interested that the catalog will be important for society in the future NOT because I am a dinosaur stuck in the swamp and I just want catalogs to exist as they always have, but because I feel that libraries and their catalogs are linked. If a catalog fails, that means the library fails. Why? Because the catalog is the way into the collection–otherwise, the only way to discover what is in the collection is through random browsing (either physical browsing or virtual browsing). A physical library without a catalog is useless. A virtual library (as I believe libraries will become) will also need something to allow for consistent and accurate retrieval of the materials in the collection. I call this a “catalog”. There will always be a “collection” even if it is all digital. After all, already the free web is quickly becoming one of the greatest research libraries in the world. There is just no selected listing of its contents that provides for consistent and accurate retrieval (aka, a catalog).

To continue, you seem to suggest that it is up to librarians to teach people the correct ways to think, in your opinion, this means “critical thinking.” Personally, I find that rather ominous but I shall accept it for the moment. Taking that on as a basic task would be something radically different from the traditional tasks of librarians. For the moment I am not saying whether teaching the right way to think is right or wrong, but it does beg the question: if librarians are busy teaching people how to think, who is going to do the traditional jobs the librarians have always done? I.e. selecting, acquiring, describing, arranging, and helping people find the materials they want. It seems that the only choices are: other people will do it, such as publishers who will do the selecting and cataloging themselves (which happens now when libraries buy batches of ebooks) or maybe through some kind of crowdsourcing, or perhaps the traditional library tasks can be done automatically by computers (once everything is digitized). Of course, this assumes that computers will be able to do our traditional tasks–a huge assumption that I am not prepared to accept. I haven’t seen it yet.

What I find interesting is it seems to be easier to teach everyone in the world to think(!) rather than to make our catalogs relevant and useful for the modern world.

Are catalogs really that hard to change?