Re: [ACAT] Cataloging Websites and Alphabetical Browsing (Was: LJ online article: Catalog by Design | The User Experience by Aaron Schmidt)

Posting to Autocat

On 07/02/2013 19:46, David Iversen wrote:

As a one-person cataloging operation I have been cataloging relevant websites, which either support our current curriculum and/or are requested by faculty members or pertain to current and/or historically important subjects or events, for quite some time now. Just last month a history professor sent back 25 CHOICE cards with positive reviews of websites, all of which I added to our catalog. As for alphabetical browsing, I use every opportunity when I am at the desk to show students and faculty how browsing alphabetically by author, title, subject or call number can actually be more effective and efficient and time-saving than keyword searching. I use it all the time in my work in the back room. Granted, the historical concept of alphabetical browsing is perhaps not the same as it once was, but one can still browse the shelves (a time-honored method of serendipitous discovery advocated enthusiastically by my major professor in college) in our collections at any rate, in person, alphabetically. Libraries that add call numbers to websites could also be considered to be of the belief that alphabetical browsing is still relevant and useful. I would hate to see this feature go away entirely. We need to incorporate the “best” practices of past, current “and” future methods of information and knowledge collecting, storing, dispensing and retrieval in order to “best” meet the needs “and” wants of current “and” future library users, by using our own expertise as librarians as well as finding out, by asking and communicating with our patrons, what they feel they need, want, and would like.

As a one-person cataloging operation (I have been in precisely the same situation) you probably realize better than anyone else the hopelessness of trying to catalog the websites that are relevant to your patrons that exist on the web. These are the sorts of tasks that absolutely must be handled both in cooperative and in innovative ways and not as individual libraries doing things in the traditional ways. Doing everything individually, in the same old way, is very clearly the road to eventual oblivion.

About alphabetical browsing, I agree: IF people search the catalog correctly, and the catalog has the cross-references so that it works more or less like the card catalog of old, (which means browsing alphabetically) people will see a lot. The catalog really can and will help them.

The problem is: absolutely nobody searches that way any more and expecting them to is like expecting people to begin to start their car engines with a hand crank. Even online dictionaries are searched today by typing in a word that you want–nobody starts from the beginning of “S” to look up “scrumpdillyicious”. They just type in the word as they think it is spelled. So long as catalogers think that the world must change to suit the catalog and not that the catalog must change to suit the world, there can be no moving forward.

In the end though, I agree that the very first task is to find out what the patrons want–instead of assuming that they want the FRBR user tasks, or that someone who is interested in the musical scores of Vivaldi, or whatever topic you prefer, wants to be able to manipulate the information in our catalog records such as the number of pages, the titles, the notes, or any parts of the rest of the records, even though it may be associated with “Linked Data” [heavenly chorus]. Sooner or later, somebody will have to provide at least some kind of evidence that people want to do those things, instead of merely assuming.