Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Future of Cataloging

Part one. Part two is here.

On Sunday I participated in the ALA panel Creating the Future of the Catalog and Cataloging. My panel-mates were Diane Hillmann, Jennifer Bowen, Roy Tennant and Martha Yee. Robert Wolven moderated.

The whole panel was four hours long, with brief presentations by each of us and a lot of conversation. I recorded almost all of it, but the quality is very poor and I’d need everyone’s permission—including the questioners—to put it up. I can, however, put up my presentation. I had do re-record the screencasting part, which therefore isn’t click-perfect.

The second part is here:

Reading the Book. As usual, I neglected to underline just what all my evidence demonstrated, expecting the evidence to speak for itself. Thus my point in mentioning my wife’s book’s wrong LCSH’s was to point out that, while expert training is certainly valuable, the untrained taggers on LibraryThing often exceed the trained expert in having actually read the book. I should add that I say this to emphasize one way in which tagging is good, not to attack catalogers who have insisted, quite rightly, that they don’t have time to read the book, and aren’t being lazy or slapdash.

As you can imagine, this observation of mine has got me into some hot water. But I think it deserves saying, particularly as, despite all the discussions of cataloging vs. tagging out there, I have never seen this point mentioned.

To press my luck a bit, I’d also like to note that it sets the professional classification-vs.-tagging argument apart from similar arguments in related fields, e.g., real journalists vs. citizen journalists, real dentists vs. your dad with some string and a doorknob, etc.

But there’s an easy retort here too. Once cataloging is fully distributed—with librarians around the country able to take part—we can certainly imagine a future where, in addition to everyone else, at least one qualified, degreed library professional has also read the book and classified it. Wouldn’t that be the best of both worlds?

If I get some time—in short supply after letting emails pile up for a week!—I’ll blog about the panel in general. Despite its topic and length, it was very well attended—the police actually removed people from the room for overcrowding! And it spurred a lot of people to come by the LibraryThing booth to congratulate me or take me up on some point or another.

Incidentally, I forgot to name Jeremy Dibbell, who heads up Legacy Libraries now, and I referred to him as an archivist, not a librarian. I do my talks ad lib and make such mistakes. Mea Culpa!

Update: Diane Hillmann posted here slides here.

Labels: ala 2008, ala2008, future of cataloging


Comments are closed.