RE: New “Cataloging Matters” podcast

Posting to NGC4LIB

Karen Coyle wrote:

Do people know this about us, though? If we are to fight the battle on our ethics, we need to make sure that people know what they are. In fact, we might need a good slogan.

People don’t know this, and what’s more, they don’t even think about it.

I am really concerned that if we decide to fight the battle by declaring that our information is “better” or more “reliable”, or that we “own” better information, we are doomed to ignominious failure. “Better” is difficult to prove, especially in these days: “Better” information leads down a very difficult path, riddled with booby-traps where “better” tends to mean “sanctioned by approved authorities”, and pretty much ignores open-access projects which are definitely very good, and other open resources, which is precisely where all the dynamism and excitement lies.

Maintaining that libraries provide “better” access, I think if we stay the course the library world is currently on (in the sense of FRBR/RDA types of access), we risk turning ourselves into laughing stocks, and in the other sense of access, i.e. actually providing authorization to view copyrighted materials, librarians need to remember that it in 90% of the cases, it is not the *libraries* that “own” the books and resources, but our respective universities, institutions, organizations, and so on. In this kind of hierarchical sense, a library is nothing more than a hierarchical unit that can be downgraded and merged with any other unit. As one rather drastic example, our British colleagues are seeing their “bureaucratic organizing” changing from the Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA), to Arts Council England (ACE).

Also, when it comes to providing “access” to remotely owned databases, such as Ebsco and Elsevier, these are simply links made available from the library’s website, and those links can be anywhere else the powers that be decide to place them: they could go on the Student Services page, or individual academic departments, or “information services”.

Once again, it would make sense to focus on what the library world provides that is unique, and to let others know, and a slogan is essential. If anybody reads my postings, it is clear that I am really bad at coming up with short, pithy statements! I realize that this is a failing of mine. But others are very good at it. One pitfall to avoid though, is that when I have brought this up in my classes, people are automatically *very protective* of Google and these other services, and are very quick to assume that this “filthy librarian” is dissing Google and I am saying that while librarians follow ethics, Google, etc. are unethical.

No, not at all. It’s just that ethics don’t even enter into the entire discussion with Google. So, it’s not that Google is *un*-ethical, it’s just that ethics can’t even enter into the discussion when we talk about Google. People at least appear to accept this, although even then I am not sure. So, any slogan would have to be gentle, and fun.