ACAT Amazon dot com as a source of information about the date of publication

Posting to Autocat

On 26/08/2014 14.41, Brian Briscoe wrote:
I do not believe that the popularity of keyword searching is based upon a “preference” for that type of searching. I think it is a matter of the gorilla making it so common that it is now expected and what users have become accustomed to. Of course, my opinion is no more based on research than the supposition that keyword searching is what users really prefer.

Keyword searching and relevance rankings based upon imperfect data assumptions has some very serious flaws. As information professionals, we should be working to provide a solution that provides better accuracy as well as recall.

I don’t want to get into a debate because I agree with you. It is just that I remember very clearly how incredibly happy the public was when keyword was introduced. Even though I would show people the “hidden pitfalls” repeatedly, they just didn’t care. Today, keyword and relevance ranking are default in most catalogs. That didn’t just happen. They are default because the public wants it that way. They have become used to those methods and that means, they are not used to ours. If we don’t do follow along and insist: “Do not use keyword or relevance. The other ways are much better for you.” Of course, the public would completely ignore us.

But I agree that there have not been any real options for people. What does this mean? For a long time (decades?) after the introduction of the OPACs, there were no authority records available to the public at all. I never understood how anybody could find anything. We couldn’t even put in simple guide cards. Now some catalogs include authority records, but that has turned out to be barely a step forward. That is because you don’t get them with the default search of keyword and everybody has to pretend they are back in the 1950s searching a card catalog, i.e. you have to do left-anchored text browsing! We just have to admit that nobody does that anymore, except for weirdos like me. I have gone to pains to show how and why it just doesn’t work in an online environment, and why even I have shown why I hate it. In the card catalog, it wasn’t so bad. Online it just does not work at all and should be abolished, because the public won’t do it and even mentioning it makes us look “soooo 20th century!”

So what do we do? It’s obvious: we must change the catalog so that its traditional powers can be utilized in a 21st-century information environment. But the problem is, with RDA/FRBR, we have been concentrating on the individual records (an overwhelming task!) while the catalogs don’t change at all and the public thinks are are stuck in the pre-20th century. The only new things the public may notice are rather weird things, such as my current favorite:

100 1_ |a Sturrock, John, |c heckler. (

That is a really useful $c.