RE: LJ article on discovery layer services at Sydney Jones Library, University of Liverpool

Posting to Autocat Concerning the article “Liverpool’s Discovery” 

At the risk of blatant self-promotion, this is what I have attempted to do with my Extend Search tool in my catalog. Here is an example how it works using “Alfred Hitchcock”:

I have also created a Two-Minute Tutorial on it:

Once you change your definition of the “library’s collection” from “that which is held by my institution, and/or what my institution pays for” to a definition: “the information that is *really* available to my patrons”, the entire universe changes and becomes frightening both for the librarian as well as the searcher: the librarian has to “control” it somehow, while the searcher has to deal with it all.

Still, in one sense, I don’t know if the real “information universe” has really changed all that much from what it was before the world wide web, since there were always lots of resources out there held by publishers, educational institutions, international organizations, learned societies, and everybody else, but before the Web, it was very difficult just to know about this information, much less use it. The web has made that part immeasurably easier. So, for example, I can go into Google News, search “Barack Obama” and retrieve (as of now):

“Apple’s Steve Jobs attends Obama’s meeting with tech honchos
‎International Business Times – 18 minutes ago
US President Barack Obama greets well-wishers upon his arrival in San Francisco February 17, 2011. Obama is visiting nearby Woodside to meet with business …
Apple’s Steve Jobs at tech CEO meeting with Obama‎ – Straits Times
Obama talks jobs with Jobs, other tech leaders‎ – The Hindu
Obama meets tech leaders, including Apple’s boss‎ – Monsters and
Business Review USA – The Canadian Press
all 761 news articles » AAPL – GOOG”

I can click a button and get into “The Hindu” of India, or “The Straits Times” of Singapore! The possibilities for cultural exchange are obvious. More important, these resources have been around for a long time, but now I know about them and they are easier to get than ever. Plus 761 other articles. And free besides! Amazing!

From the point of the average search (I hesitate to say “search*er*” but “search” since even the most discriminating scholars need incredibly focused searches for only a small percentage of their total information needs), then WEMI is normally not what the public wants. Certainly they want to be able to retrieve Hobbes’ translation of Thucydides, but today this is easier to achieve than ever: just type into any OPAC Hobbes and Thucydides and it will come up. And if you look in the Internet Archive:, or in Google Books, you can even download your own copies of some rare editions. But there are other sites as well, and this is what I have tried to allow in my Extend Search, which increases searchers’ possibilities, at least to a point: which searches specific databases I have chosen for my students to search. For specific reasons, I have not chosen some excellent ones, for example, Gallica.

But this certainly doesn’t end it. If you go to “Other database groups” and choose “General Search Engines”, you can find in regular Google several copies. And if you go back to the “Other database groups”, select “Articles and Open Archives” you really begin to find a wealth of information, primarily about Hobbes and Thucydides. Even if you go to “Government & Policy Documents” you will find a huge amount of information, primarily from different Think tanks. I realize this does not end it.

While I am not trying to toot my own horn (well, maybe a little bit!), what I want to point out is that none of this is all that *new*. These materials have always existed, more or less; it’s just that now they are much easier to get to, and in fact, they are so much easier to get to, that we are looking at a change in the fundamental structure of information. The materials on the World Wide Web are now an integral part of our local collections because our patrons use them at least as much as the materials in our traditional “local collections”, and the World Wide Web is fast becoming one of the great research libraries in the world.

But we must admit that our traditional methods of bibliographic control completely break down in such an environment. The tools I have made are very crude, I understand, and could be improved at every juncture, but they do provide some level of help, while even a small amount of “cooperation” could improve matters significantly; for example, how about some level of authority control in each of the databases for the different types of names and at least some subjects?

My Extend Search betrays my library/cataloger background as well: it was only after I made it that I realized I have split them by *format* (reminiscent of AACR2) and not by *subject* (which my patrons would prefer). So, I have books, moving images, still images, government documents, etc. I thought this was pretty funny when I realized it! Finally, this cost my institution nothing at all except some of my creativity and elbow grease, plus a small server.

How can librarians deal with such an enormous amount of work when it seems as if our numbers will not be growing at an appropriate rate? Does RDA help or hinder? My opinion shouldn’t be surprising: it posits an information universe of WEMI, which is based on managment practices within a world of physical materials. That no longer holds true and we should be looking for new, and sustainable, methods.