Posting to NGC4LIB
I have done some thinking about your findings that a small percentage of the German books were available in Google Books. It seems that there are two completely different conclusions one could draw from this:
a) physical libraries need to be nurtured, protected, and expanded;
b) it’s a national emergency that cannot be tolerated and must be fixed as soon as possible.
It all depends on how people continue to understand “access.” Will it mean simple availability to the text after traveling to a library and/or waiting for ILL? Or, will the “laziness factor” become just too strong and the traditional idea of libraries as a place to go for information and knowledge simply becomes an intolerable hindrance?
My own guess is that once the Google Books agreement is implemented in the English-speaking countries, we will hear glowing testimonies of all the resources they would never have been aware of before, because of the power of “modern searching” and the new possibilities of working with texts that were unknown before. Different nations will react in different ways, but most probably will react with option b), although I would guess some may react with option a). My own opinion is that not having immediate, online access to library materials will be seen as a serious defect that must be corrected. Google’s incredible example has shown that scanning massive numbers of books can be done in just a few years, and relatively cheaply. Hundreds of millions of dollars doesn’t sound so bad today after these incredible bailouts and the huge personal fortunes of some of the world’s richest people. To put it in perspective, the price of a single B-2 Bomber is between one and two billion dollars!
As I wrote in my previous, poorly-written posting (sorry about that. I clarified it on my blog. That’s why I entitled it “First Thus”!) the essence of the catalog was always based on *inclusion*–that adding a resource meant that I was giving it access to the world, and otherwise this resource would have been ignored. In the new world, I think the catalog must follow a completely different idea of *exclusion*–that is, people will go to it for well-selected, worthwhile materials. In other words, for a “seal of approval”
I realize that this would have huge consequences for librarianship as a whole and the very nature of the catalog, but it would provide a service that people really want, and it would distinguish us from “being an inferior subset of Google Books” which I think will be inevitable if we do not change our focus.
And oh yes! We should keep cataloging, and doing it better than we are now! (I have been doing some cataloging lately, and the quality leaves a lot to be desired. If we expect people to want our metadata, it had better be pretty good!)