Re: [RDA-L] Re: Our goal

Posting to RDA-L

On 1/24/2014 2:07 AM, J. McRee Elrod wrote:

Lisa posted:

With RDA is our goal for these descriptive fields to record information that will accurately reflect the appearance of the item

Our goal as cataloguers, it seems to me, is to create surrogates which assist patrons in finding desired resources.

I think Lisa asked a great question and it is one that should be the primary question today. While I agree with Mac, I think this must be reconsidered to reflect the totality of the information universe available within the rest of the library, and within the rest of the internet (that is, the information that is available to our users). But this creates a paradox: the more the catalog is set apart and works differently from all other tools, as is the situation today, it becomes increasingly strange and more distant for the vast majority of the users. And yet, if our cataloging information is folded into everything else that exists on the web, as the linked data exponents want, it disappears like a tiny drop into the ocean because our few million records are nothing compared with everything else that exists.

I don’t know the answer to solving this paradox, but the solution will take the entire library community, if not lots of people from outside. For instance, I agree with Mac’s statement about creating “surrogates which assist patrons in finding desired resources” but we should ask: what does that mean in today’s world of full-text, keyword searching? If somebody can’t remember the author or title of a song, today they can just type in some of the lyrics, even something like this and it works! You can even find music by humming!

With images, you can upload a photo or a scan to Google and it will analyse the picture and do a search based on that. Some incredible questions can be answered with such a tool. With texts, I can do a search for “out damned spot” and immediately get connected to Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 1 Anyone from the greatest scholar to the smallest child can do this at any time for free and from anywhere in the world. We are also at the very beginnings of the possibilities and these tools can only improve with time. I am sure that things will be quite different 20 years from now, and probably even 10 years from now. In any case, this is the direction the world is taking.

How should cataloging react to this? This returns to Mac’s statement “… to create surrogates which assist patrons in finding desired resources” but I think we must include “in the information environment that exists today.” That means having what we make work with the full-text, the image searches and so on, and not to pretend as if those things do not exist. This is why many out there believe that what we do is becoming obsolete, see and the comments (one of mine comments is included there)

Once again, I think there are ways to make our records genuinely relevant today, but it will require a vast amount of reconsideration of what the “information universe” means, among all librarians, and how we can deal with it together.