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Cataloging: Looking Back to Move Forward

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A brief history of library cataloging and its current concerns for the future of online catalogs as more people turn to search engines such as Google for information retrieval.

A brief history of library cataloging and its current concerns for the future of online catalogs as more people turn to search engines such as Google for information retrieval.

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  • Pre-1980s, Libraries, education, and information were critical elements in achieving the social improvement of the “Great Society”. To achieve this goal “getting it done right” was superior to “getting it done fast”.
  • With the 1980s, came the online catalog, which became the jewel in the library’s crown as people eagerly searched for information written by world experts. Cataloging was no longer “one size fits most” within one facility.
  • By the early 2000s, with the increasing amount of “virtual things” being collected and catalogued, bibliographic control was becoming messier and more convoluted. The Library of Congress issued a report on the future of bibliographic control to help adapt to the future.
  • Serious discourse and related studies have taken place within the past ten years concerning the future of cataloging. With respect to designs and development, reports written, and studies conducted, the future is now.
  • Mann (2008) and Wade (2008) have both responded to the L.C. report with reservation—pointing out, for example, the differing research needs of different users and the chaos that could result from moving away from “controlled keyword searching”.
  • Because more time has been spent on descriptive cataloging rather than” authority control, subject analysis, [and] resource identification” (Marcum, 2006, p. 8), online cataloging is now drowning in the wake of the mass digitization projects underway.
  • LOC’s, Karen Calhoun, expressed concern that the catalog’s existing “market position has eroded to the point where there is real concern for its ability to weather the competition for information seekers’ attention” (Calhoun, 2006, p. 10).
  • Many consider the greatest challenge in moving forward is librarians’ own narrow views and lack of vision. Many librarians want to stay in the past and not think outside the box and welcome new views and technology. All librarians need to get onboard to achieve new goals.
  • The Associate Librarian for the Library of Congress, Deanna Marcum, notes that [people] are favoring other tools of discovery now, the major tool being Google, because these digital resources are available at any time and from anywhere (Marcum, 2006).
  • For information seekers, Google now wears the crown. They have money, high-level technical talent, and a proven track-record on delivering the goods. In general, people prefer using Google as a starting point. Why?
  • Many researchers really do not know how to put into words what their information needs are, which is why information seekers usually query with just a few words. However, they do recognize relevant information within the search results.
  • How do online library catalogs compete with this? The LOC Working Group encourages recognition of the “World Wide Web as both our technology platforms and the appropriate platform for delivery of our standards”.
  • No longer is a single guideline or discovery tool sufficient. Additionally, libraries must begin to accept cataloging contributions from outside institutions. The key to all of this is Interdependence.
  • Everything matters now. In every medium: it is all mainstream, it must all be cataloged and accessible by everyone. This especially refers to rare/unique/special items that were previously neglected or unavailable.
  • The cost-effectiveness of cataloging tradition and practice is under fire. The typical research library catalog’s strongest suit is its support for inventory control and as “last mile” technology to enable delivery of the library’s assets into the hands of local users (10 Calhoun).
  • This is done by LEADING – Make them available to all. By EXPANDING - Make library and learning systems interact. By EXTENDING - Explore how to carry legacy MARC data forward (Calhoun, 2006).  
  • Marketing is the key to introduce new functions, new concepts and new services and products. Make the new functions and services available in different locations, not just the library. Promote the library catalog with new and appealing interfaces. Senthilkumaran, & Muruganantham, P. P. (2012). Marking Approaches for Library and Information Products and Services.  SRELS Journal Of Information Management ,  49 (4), 399-404.
  • The library catalog should be very user-friendly. It needs to be as easy to use as other search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The easier it is to use, the more likely you are to have more users.
  • There is time to recover the set back: revisit the past, reconsider missed opportunities, reassess their merits, combine them with new directions, make bold decisions and act decisively on them. We look back to move forward.  
  • From the beginning to the end of the day, it is all about the user. If we, the libraries, have what the user needs, then what they need should appear within the relevant search results retrieved from their queries.
  • Transcript

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    • 21. References Annoyedlibrarian. (2008, March 19). The Future of cataloging? [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://annoyedlibrarian.blogspot.com/2008/03/future-of-cataloging.htmlCalhoun, K. (2006, March 17). The Changing nature of the catalog and its integration with other discovery tools. Prepared for the Library of Congress [PDF document]. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/catdir/calhoun-report-final.pdfMann, T. (2006, April 6). The Changing nature of the catalog and its integration with other discovery tools. Final report. March 17, 2006. Prepared for the Library of Congress by Karen Calhoun. A Critical review [PDF document] . Retrieved from http://guild2910.org/AFSCMECalhounReviewREV.pdfMann, T. (2008, March 14). “On the record but off the track.” A Review of the report of the Library of Congress Working Group on the future of bibliographic control, with a further examination of Library of Congress cataloging tendencies [PDF document]. Retrieved from http://www.guild2910.org/WorkingGrpResponse2008.pdfMarcum, D. (2004, January 16). The future of cataloging: address to the Ebsco leadership seminar. Boston, Massachusetts. Retrieved from http://www.guild2910.org/marcum.htmMarcum, D. B. (2006). The Future of cataloging.  Library resources & technical services, 50 (1), 5-9. Marcum, D.B. (2008, June 1). Response to On the record: report of the Library of Congress Working Group on the future of bibliographic control [PDF document]. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/bibliographic-future/news/LCWGResponse-Marcum-Final-061008.pdfSenthilkumaran, & Muruganantham, P. P. (2012). Marking approaches for library and information products and services. SRELS Journal of Information Management , 49(4), 399-404.Wade, W. (2008, November 8). Libraries in the alternate universe [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://wadeatmac.wordpress.com/2008/11/08/libraries-in-the-alternate-universe/Weinheimer, J. (20133, January 16). Re: [ACAT] The future of cataloging data and the future of the library catalog (WAS: [ACAT] 1xx qualifications) [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.jweinheimer.net/2013/01/re-acat-future-of-cataloging-data-and.html  21