Re: [ACAT] shouldn’t care about contents of what we catalog

Posting to Autocat

On 28/09/2012 21:54, Michael Kovnat wrote:

I will say what I believe I will do at a job, not to imply that you should think this also. Anyway, at least right now, I think cataloging is just a job, and a job is a job, I want a job in cataloging, and in case I were in charge at a library, I would want to be able to dismiss catalogers (or any employee) just in case someone didn’t do their job properly, or according to the library’s mission mission, and so on. I believe I don’t or won’t care about the contents of the items I will catalog, I wouldn’t make judgments about what is true or false, what has a viewpoint I like or don’t, and so on. Its not like I am being forced to read whole items adopt a religion or vote a certain way, and so on. I would just catalog any material that came to me to catalog, and I would want to keep labels as netral as possible, not suggesting to anyone any value judgments about an item’s contents. I would just catalog something that looks quite fales in the same attitude as something that looks quite true, from the viewpoint of the author, and I would be just glad to have a job, since cataloging is just a job and being strictly neutral is the only way I see that is compatible with the profession of librarianship. Its beyone me why I would develop an emotional vested interest in labeling items regarding the supposed truth or falseness of the contents. I would probably just pretend I agree exactly with the authors as I am cataloging, not even caring whether something seems accorate or not.

An interesting insight. But I am discussing the user’s point of view–that is, the person who is interested in that book that Jonah Lehrer wrote that contains the lies. If I am the one reading the book (not the one cataloging it), would it be interesting to me that I what I am reading has definite, factual errors and that these errors were so outrageous that the author was forced to lose his job and it caused the publishers to withdraw the book wherever they could and destroy them? As a user, I reply: Absolutely!!! I would be an utter fool to say no.

This is not a new problem at all. As an example, there was a wonderful book, written by a friend of mine, entitled The Scarith of Scornello by Ingrid Rowland. In it, she tells the story of a book published in the 1600s in Florence discussing an archaeological excavation that was completely made up from beginning to end. Another more pernicious example is “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, which was also a total forgery. The list can go on and on.

The catalog has never furnished this information before (but the catalog also never had user reviews or let people tag records, either). While it should not be the cataloger’s task to determine what is “true” and what is “false” there are options available today that were never there before. As an example, some of the reviews and “tags” in border on the obscene. Here are the tags for Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue Using the Amazon API, these can be brought into the catalog automatically for free and probably some catalogs do.

These tags are not useful (at least I don’t think they are) but knowing that something has been proven false, and the authors admit to it, is a completely different matter.

After telling undergraduates in the information literacy sessions that they should go to the library catalog to get information instead of just going to Google is hard enough, but these issues make it even more difficult for them. Is it good enough for libraries in our current information environment to simply wash their hands of the matter and say that it’s not their business? Are there alternatives? These are the sorts of issues that many believe that entering the Semantic Web will solve, but I can’t agree. We are seeing the problems over the fact-checkers today in the elections, the problems with all kinds of spam crowding out everything else. People are becoming aware of it.

The public would love something–and it would provide people with something they cannot find in Google.