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 22:34, David Iversen wrote:

What, specifically, are these “cooperative and innovative ways” of which you speak that do not involve individual libraries doing things in the traditional ways?

The first task is to look at the situation dispassionately: the number of catalogers is going down–at the most optimistic estimates, we can decide that the numbers will remain the same, but there is no way they are going up substantially. Second, if we are to include free materials on the web, which I think will and must be done sooner or later because the public wants those materials, the number of items for cataloging will go up, possibly exponentially. Third, the new cataloging rules are not simpler in any way for creating or maintaining records or training new catalogers. I tried to show some of this in my paper at ALA, and to demonstrate what some of the problems are, plus showing what the public wants.

Lacking a deus ex machina, I do not see how the numbers can add up. It seems clear that if we continue the traditional ways, what hope is there? It must lead to eventual collapse. Catalogs will become less and less useful to the public. Some, even on this list, are saying that the catalog will not exist only ten years from now. In the present trajectory, that seems fully possible to me. Already, I have gotten many private emails, and have read quite a bit, how cataloging departments are being gutted, people moving on to other tasks, outsourcing everything, or just “making do”.

Therefore, if cataloging and anything resembling a traditional catalog is to survive, it is imperative to find “cooperative and innovative ways” to create something that the public will want. It could be that the catalog will turn into just a local inventory tool that librarians will use to access or order a specific item that the public found using other discovery tools. Many want this now. You only need clerks for that kind of work.

If such a situation is accepted, it becomes a serious matter and many possibilities that had been seen as impossible suddenly become possible. RDA and FRBR and even linked data become irrelevant to fixing it. To change this overall situation however, will involve fundamental changes in the entire library, from selection to cataloging to reference to IT.

I have already made several suggestions for making the catalog more useful to the public, but the main problem in my view is to increase access to selected materials in a substantial way, especially for online materials. It seems to me that such a tool must be made cooperatively and used cooperatively. A very good beginning is Infomine Unfortunately, the wonderful UK Intute was closed down due to budget cuts. Neither tool seems to be very well known however and they are only part of the solution.

But even then, new answers must be found. Some questions: does the solution have to be 1 record = 1 resource, or can there be sufficient access in some alternative ways? How can our records and full-text work together? My suspicion is that catalogers and reference could create specific, highly complex queries and make those queries findable in a catalog. I’ll be discussing some of these ideas in my next podcast.

But continuing the current methods seems hopeless.