Re: The Process of Cataloging in the Future

Posting to RadCat

On 31/05/2013 11:11, Michael Gorman wrote:

“Our users are on the Internet and use Google or Google-like discovery tools. They find the content they need ….” Oh really?

As I wrote before, it’s an age of lowered expectations. Those expectations driven by vast, amoral, global businesses with a 100% interest in money and 0% interest in learning on the onward transmission of knowledge.

I completely agree with you, but this is what the librarians at Utrecht University Library found. I would amend their statement to: “They think they find the content they need …” but that comes off as extremely supercilious and paternalistic. It is a proposition that is very difficult to disprove: How do you prove that people are not finding the “content they need”? That would be a lot of work and would potentially enrage many, and they would insist that “I am the one who knows the content I need–not you!” (I’ve been on the receiving end of such rants and it is not pleasant) It becomes especially difficult to disprove when you have members of your own profession coming to the same–I think, incorrect–conclusions.

Library catalogers must demonstrate, somehow, that their catalogs do something better than the other search engines. I think it can be done, but it would require a complete re-evaluation of the catalog and its purposes. It would have to work differently from the way it has always done, as I have tried to show in some of my papers and podcasts. FRBR is simply an academic flight of fantasy, while sadly, RDA is putting massive cataloging resources on the wrong track.

I don’t know if this necessarily is an age of lowered expectations. People expect a lot more today than they did 20 years ago: full-text, downloadable immediately onto my computer/mobile device from anywhere in the world, and it should be compatible with Office, or Open Office, or Mendeley or whatever programs I happen to have on my own machine. What I think has happened is that people are becoming increasingly lazy–they don’t want to drive to the library and walk through the stacks, check out a book or DVD or whatever and have to take it back in a couple of weeks. They sure do not want to work hard searching for something. People may go to a library for social purposes–to see Uncle Jack or Aunt Minnie and share a cup of coffee, or to pass the time and browse the books, etc. But to go to “get current” on a topic or to learn something, the library is becoming a diminishing resource.

By the way, the Charlie Rose – Shane Smith interview is available now at He has a fascinating view of the “information world” and how people are reacting to it. Also, I did not have to register.