Re: [NGC4LIB] Authority in an Age of Open Access (an analysis)

On 07/11/2012 22:33, Dobbs, Aaron wrote:

I see it more as a realistic assessment of where the world of information is right now:
“Not every cataloger can catalog everything.”

Or, in other words:
“There aren’t enough catalogers available to be able to catalog everything.”

Or maybe:
“There aren’t enough catalogers available with specific domain knowledge to be able to adequately catalog everything.”

That’s the problem with soundbytes: reductio ad absurdum.

Perhaps, but such a statement is a chimera. Libraries have never “cataloged everything”, not even when you include the entire bibliographic apparatus of the world. The only possible exception was the Library of Alexandria, although even there researchers have apparently found desiderata lists of materials that were wanted but not available.

At the same time, all layers of the public from children to the greatest researchers desperately want selection, or as Clay Shirkey himself put it effectively: better filters. Cataloging, if everyone’s work were coordinated, could be vastly more efficient than today, that is, if everybody really and truly followed normal, genuine standards. Today (miraculously!) such efficiency is actually in the realm of the possible, although it would not be simple. I can’t think of any agency–other than libraries–that is in a better position to begin to provide what the public wants so much.

Instead of positing a task that has always been impossible (cataloging everything) we should begin to ponder the limits of what is both achievable and what is desired. If we could focus on that and provide a semi-realistic plan, I believe that the funding would follow, even in restricted times.