RE: Copernicus, Cataloging, and the Chairs on the Titanic, Part 1 [Long Post]

Posting to NGC4LIB

Bernhard Eversberg wrote:

Would libraries not be marginalized very quickly if all materials that exist in digital formats were to be set free? In that unlikely
event, local collections lose most, if not all, of their appeal, except as repositories of physical objects some people might want
to inspect as such and physically.


And as soon as everything is open and accessible, the need for selection goes away. Rather, it becomes a “user task”, as FRBR
in its sublime wisdom has already pinned down.

That’s an interesting subtlety on the FRBR task of “select” that I hadn’t considered. I don’t know if that’s what the originators intended(!), but…

I don’t know if it’s really correct that the need for selection goes away when everything is open and accessible. Definitely, it changes dramatically, but as I read in a recent report of the Research Information Network “If you build it, will they come? How researchers perceive and use web 2.0” (still reading it) at, there is a quote on pdf p. 7 under Barriers and constraints:

“But a second major set of barriers revolve around perceptions of quality and trust. Both as producers and consumers of information, researchers seek assurances of quality; and many of them are discouraged from making use of new forms of scholarly communications because they do not trust what has not been subject to formal peer review. A significant minority of researchers believe that peer review in its current forms will become increasingly unsustainable over the next five years, and nearly half (47%) expect that it will be complemented by citation and usage statistics, and user ratings and comments. But at present they do not see such measures as an adequate substitute for peer review. “

This is no surprise, and I don’t think I need to prove that when they have the choice, people will opt for “quality” information over “no-quality” information (i.e. no one will choose information that is considered to be lousy over information that is considered to be good–if both are equally accessible). This issue of “quality” is a major obstacle for many using the web today. I have found that often researchers are reluctant to place their materials into an open archive, even though they make no money at all publishing through a traditional publisher, because they are worried that people will label their work “inferior”. Scientists and physicists have pretty much gotten beyond this concern.

While the definition of “quality” will change, probably as alternatives to traditional peer review prove themselves, I think people will always want it. In some shape or form this will be one of the tasks of “selection” in the future. Another aspect of selection that I predict will probably arise will be “appropriateness” e.g. the search for “Michelangelo frescos” should have filters for texts appropriate for children, novices, adults, experts, and so on. This would probably come the closest to traditional library selection, since you would be doing this with your “user community” in mind.