When library catalogs are described as being difficult to search (WAS: [ACAT] Fair Use Dejà Vu)

Posting to Autocat

On 06/08/2012 21:14, Robert Mead-Donaldson wrote:

You really don’t need to be a librarian. All you need to do is find one book, go there and browse them all… To confess, I probably didn’t pay much attention to the call numbers, once  I found the area, used to hang out in the public library a lot

That is what has led so many people to genuinely believe that they know how to use a library. I believed I knew how to use a library, too: somehow find one book and everything is “magically” there. When I discovered how wrong I was in my first week of library school, I was completely humiliated, although I never told anybody!

“Browsing them all” has not been true since the library of Alexandria. A physical item may have more than one work in it, an item may easily be about more than one area in the classification, and so on. I discussed problems with browsing in more depth in my Open Reply to Thomas Mann that I announced a few years ago https://blog.jweinheimer.net/2009/12/fw-open-reply-to-thomas-mann-3.html.

Still, problems of browsing shelves are especially delicate now, since there is so much available, not only in the electronic databases, but also on the web there are tremendous resources. For instance, I have been interested in this book by Frances Saunders http://www.amazon.com/The-Cultural-Cold-War-Letters/dp/156584596X which was published 12 years ago and is out of print, but she gave a talk on the book, available at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/TheCultura, and she also participated in this panel discussion of the same topic that took place at the University of London in January of this year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9Bi6dtUPNA

From this, I get to see that this video is part of The School of Advanced Study’s Youtube site, where there are 245 videos available.

Browsing the shelves of a library, although I found it a great and liberating experience for me in earlier years, I later discovered is a poor substitute for the catalog, while today, browsing shelves and using a local catalog are both too limiting today if people want to find out what is really available to them. When I was younger, I would have absolutely loved to be able to access these materials, and may have decided it was worth some effort. But all it takes is a click of a button.

These materials have to be included sooner or later, and a reconsideration of what the local catalog should provide. I agree that local catalogs are still needed, but they must be reimagined.