Posting to NGC4LIB
B.G. Sloan wrote:
Jim Weinheimer said:
“What do others think? And yes, in such scenarios the ‘catalog’ will change, but I think will still be the key to it all.”
I’m not so sure I agree that, in some future world, the catalog “will still be the key to it all.” I’m not even sure that the catalog is “the key to it all” now. I know it’s not “the key to it all” for me. It’s more like an inventory tool for me. I discover a book or journal article using some other discovery method. Quite a few times I can locate the item without even using the library. When I can’t, then maybe I’ll go to the catalog and ask “Is the item available through my library?” I can’t believe I’m the only person who does this.
I remember reading a couple of studies about the discovery methods used by academics. I can’t recall a lot of details, but I do remember that the library catalog wasn’t “the key to it all” when it came to their information seeking behavior.
I guess I didn’t make clear in my original post what I think of Google. In my opinion, Google is very much a “catalog”. It is a way to find materials added to the “Google collection” using a type of arrangement, only Google does everything automatically and secretly: automatic selection, automatic “metadata” creation, automatic arrangement. I would like to emphasize the secrecy aspect here. Google’s algorithm for page rank is completely a business secret. We also don’t know exactly what Google contains. My own, very incomplete researches showed around 75% of the open web is in Google and there is also a limit on how deep Google goes into the file structure. Back when I was working on it, Google seemed to go about five levels deep. Naturally, the page rank algorithm is completely secret as well.
So, I agree that the “library catalog” as we know it today will definitely not be the key, but a “catalog” of some sort must be. The question is: are the controls that are available through a traditional catalog no longer needed? Do people no longer want to find materials within a collection by their titles, authors and subjects in a reliable way? I think they actually do want this, but there is an incredible amount of misunderstanding, misinformation, and just plain poor thinking in these areas. A lot needs to be sorted out before we can begin to answer a question like this. If it turns out that people genuinely *do not want* to find resources by their authors, titles and subjects, then I will agree that it is time to throw it all overboard, but I have seen nothing that shows this, although I have seen huge areas that display a lack of understanding. I am not saying that people are ignorant or stupid–what we are dealing with is genuinely complex and we are experts.
One of the main problems that people have with the web (which in the popular mind, equals Google) is that they want to be able to trust the information they get. From a superficial point of view, this means “evaluation of web pages” as we get in the Information Literacy workshops, but there is a lot more to this concept of trust than mere “evaluation of web pages,” and this includes trusting the search result.