RE: Justifying cataloging

Posting to Autocat

On Sun, 1 Aug 2010 08:59:18 -0400, Karen Weaver wrote:

>I think that you are talking about how U.S. catalogs were 10 , 20 years ago…..
> many U.S. library catalogs if not most, do not require a librarian leaning over the shoulder of users pointing a finger at them on how to find something…that is the ongoing stereotype of the past. It’s really time to put that old image to rest, esp from certain stakeholders in the conversations

It certainly seems to me that the catalogs such as Voyager, Innovative, Sirsi and others, haven’t changed substantially over the previous OPACs. Searchers are still expected to browse heading strings if they are going tobe able to use controlled vocabulary in a coherent way. One advance in at least some OPACs is that in the multiple display, the headings can be extracted from all of the related records, so that searchers can burrow down into them more efficiently, e.g. the Koha catalog where you can just click and limit to different libraries, topics, places, etc.:

There is also Aquabrowser which looks really cool, but I don’t like it personally, e.g. Still, the basic idea is the same: in the multiple display, to extract information from the retrieved records and present it to the user in a manner more useful for further searching. My personal feelings aside, I would really like to see any research concerning Aquabrowser: a) do people like it? b) does it really provide better results?

Other than this, I have yet to see any advances in subject heading displays. It seems as if catalogs are still locked into browsing headings using left-anchored text strings. People just don’t do that any longer. For example, if I were interested in finding some English soldier’s memoirs of fighting against Rommel in WWII, it can be done in the catalog, but finding the group of records with the headings:

World War, 1939-1945 –Personal narratives, British.
World War, 1939-1945 –Tank warfare.

takes a trained person. No non-cataloger would ever come up with these words. We cannot expect that people will be trained to do this, so somehow the catalog must be able to translate normal, everyday words into controlled vocabulary. Also, to use the controlled vocabulary even more effectively, it should let people know that there could be memoirs other than British. Or different types of warfare. Or all kinds of other related headings.

In a card catalog, in conjunction with the LCSH red books, this was possible to a certain point even without a lot of training on the part of the searcher, but I haven’t seen anything comparable in a library catalog–yet. I think it can be done, and much better than in the card catalog but at
least personally, I haven’t seen it yet.