Re: [NGC4LIB] User tasks–outdated? Why?

While Karen and Eric brought up some good points (with which I agree) I am unable to shed my “historian” hat and prefer to discuss when Cutter’s rules first came out. In his first edition (to see my saga of finding this item, see my post
The link to the book doesn’t work any more, but let’s try this
. If all
else fails:

United States. Bureau of Education / Public libraries in the United States of America; their history, condition, and management. Special report, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education. Part I (1876). Cutter, C. A.Chapter XXVII. Library catalogues, pp. 527) ,
Cutter prefaced his “Objects” and “Means” by discussing the questions people ask in the library.

I think this is what we need to do again. I do not presume to know how others are using the web, but there are some excellent people doing a lot of research in this area of “Scholarly Communication.” This research is only being done now, and it is changing daily. For example, I discovered Diigo, which lets you mark up web pages. This is potentially really powerful, and my students *absolutely love it* when I show these things to them. How will tools like this fit into the tools of the future? How can the catalog records fit in?
What else will be out there tomorrow?

Also, when discussing the FRBR user tasks, I believe you cannot separate them from WEMI, that is: I can find, identify, select and obtain…. what? The two must go together, otherwise, it makes no sense–all the verbs are transitive. And then we are stuck with having to shoe-horn everything into an outmoded model, e.g. how do you fit one of those popular mashup pages into WEMI? It is just mind-blowing, and while it may be an interesting intellectual exercise, I think, it is practically useless.

Therefore, I believe the only valid conclusion concerning user tasks is: we don’t know what they are. That is the only, truly honest conclusion that I can reach. So, we are at the same point as Cutter’s 1876 edition, where he begins with the questions people ask. Only then can we begin to figure out what the real user tasks are and begin to change what we do in the directions that are a) possible and b) useful for everyone concerned.

This is why I think it’s too early to spend extremely rare library budget dollars (or euros over here) on projects that are demonstrably obsolete or highly speculative.


> Jim–I’m a bit stuck on why the FRBR user tasks are “outdated”–I
> think that is how you described them. In just looking at the overall
> “picture” of how we’ve observed people interacting with information
> systems, what do you envison as more appropriate user tasks?
> For example, at the most fundamental level, don’t people look for (find,
> locate) information that they need? They identify what is relevant and what
> isn’t, tag (select) the relevant and then obtain or acquire the
> actual resources. This is very oversimplified, but it is how we
> approach teaching the user tasks in our basic information organization course
> —the students create their own information system, based on a study of
> users of the system and study of the types and attributes of resources in
> system. We ask them to explain how specific attributes from the resources
> help users to accomplish the four tasks, etc.
> Svenonius (Intellectual Foundation of Information Organizatin, 2000)
> the objectives of a “full-feature bibliographic system” –redefining
> the “find” task to “locate” in order to better emphasize
> both the finding objective and collocating objective as discussed in Cutter,
> Lubetzky, and such. (this is my oversimplified quicky explanation of
> what she discusses in her Chapter 2) –her “tasks” include
> :
> (these may
not format properly–apologies in advance)
> — to locate entities in a file or database
> as the result of a search using attributes or relationships of the entities:
> 1a. To find a singular entity-that is, a
> document (finding objective)
> 1b. To locate sets of entities representing
> All documents belonging to the same work
> All documents belonging to the same edition
> All documents by a given author
> All documents on a given subject
> All documents defined by “other”
> criteria;
> — to identify an entity (that is, to
> confirm that the entity described in a record corresponds to the entity
> or to distinguish between two or more entities with similar characteristics);
> — to select an entity that is appropriate
> to the user’s needs (that is, to choose an entity that meets the user’s
> requirements with respect to content, physical format, and so on or to reject
> an entity as being inappropriate to the user’s needs);
> — to acquire or obtain access to the
> entity described (that is, to acquire an entity through purchase, loan, and so
> on or to access an entity electronically through an online connection to a
> remote computer;
> — to navigate a bibliographic database
> (that is, to find works related to a given work by generalization, association,
> and aggregation; to find attributes related by equivalence, association, and
> hierarchy.
> It strikes me, too, that we talk of user tasks, but perhaps it would be more
> appropriate to speak of them as “objectives” ? I’m just
> trying to get a sense of what you would rather see in place of what FRBR
> currently defines.
> thanks,
> S.