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

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 07/11/2012 16:58, Karen Coyle wrote:

Just tweeted:

“Shirky: The only group that can catalog everything is everybody. #edu12”

That’s Educause 2012. Being webcast but unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall.

The video of Clay Shirkey is available here now: He starts about 18 or so minutes in. At 34 minutes in, he makes the above statement.

This talk is pretty much the same as the other one I mentioned, and is very good. Watching it this time around, he *seems* to assume that these materials will be cataloged by professional catalogers, but his understanding is pretty spotty. For instance, in his discussion of cyanotype, he mentions how there is a “basic tension” between the topic of an item and its physical form. He says that this project discovered that “You don’t have to pick between the two–you can create both kinds of value for both kinds of communities.” Of course, that is no kind of discovery. Catalogs have allowed that for a long time so long as the catalogers are trained to enter that information in the 655 fields. If you go to and type in “cyanotypes” you get a choice delineated by dates as well. Very nice. This record here shows everything he is saying about this “tension”

I am not finding fault. This is specialist knowledge and he can’t be expected to know it. For me, a catalog is a highly specific tool made by catalogers. Non-catalogers can create lists for their own personal needs, but they are not catalogs. Still, I agree with him that catalogers cannot imagine all possibilities for how someone will look for a resource, but that has never been the purpose of the catalog. It is to provide a guaranteed level of access, and it seems to me that this Smithsonian project shows how necessary that guaranteed level still is today.

His basic theme is the need for “openness” however and I completely agree with him, although I will point out that there are minimal advantages to those who just make their information open. In normal business thought, the people at the top would say, “If we go through the expense of making our information open, or in other words, giving our information away, where is the quid pro quo? What do we get in return?” Normally, these scions of industry would say that they could get rid of x, y and z processes along with their accompanying staffs.

With “open” there are other benefits: to the public and the goodwill they (apparently) will have toward your organization, which is demonstrating its beneficence and wisdom. But a more important consideration I think is a belief that if we don’t enter this “open” movement, our agency will be marooned on a forgotten island of the internet.