6 thoughts on “Cataloging in the age of discovery systems

  1. Pingback: Cataloging Futures

  2. Musa

    Find the opinion very interesting.Currently researching into cataloguer mentoring in Nigeria academic libraries. The observations has added credence to further justify the need for cataloguer both present and for the future, despite lib. digitalisation, automation and ICT innovations to lib operations

  3. jrochkind

    I tend to create an “Unspecified” or “Unknown” value in my facets which include lots of missing data, so at least the extent of the problem is clear to the user. If you’re using some kind of topic/subject facet, and there’s a large “unknown”, category, at least you KNOW what you’re missing if you don’t go there, and can choose to try and look through the ‘unknown’ ones (filtering on something other than the missing facet) if you want to.

    But if, in this example, the LCSH was simply applied horribly incorrectly, then there isn’t much to be done. You don’t see this too much with LCSH (although you do see ‘split files’ from headings not updated for LCSH changes, which can also become more apparent in a modern system). But you DO see it with other fields, especially fields not traditionally used by our OPACs, like 00x fixed fields.

    I think you get it exactly right “Fill in fields correctly or not at all, but not carelessly” — manually creating good metadata is expensive, we can’t neccesarily afford to put everything in, we need to prioritize. But if you can’t justify the resources to do it right, just leave it blank — either in the entire corpus, or even on a per-record basis. Either one is better than filling it in wrong. (And to be sure, there will be some mistake sno matter what, the question is the magnitude of the mistakes, 1% of the corpus, or 20% of the corpus or 50% of the corpus!).

    Also, hear hear on catalogers and software engineers working together on such implementations — as you mention, this is important both so the cataloging knowledge informs the implementation, AND so catalogers (and cataloging dept heads) can develop an understanding of how the choices they make can constrain or expand the choices available at the point of software implementation.

    1. Saskia Post author

      Jonathan, I really like the idea of the “unknown” category as a subject facet, because it prevents users from getting the false impression that all the hits are covered by subject facets. It makes libraries and catalogers more “human” instead of pretending we (and our tools) are perfect (and I think there’s the danger that these discovery tools, exactly because they look so much like Google, might mislead some users into thinking that searching and finding is much easier now, when in fact it only appears to be). As for prioritizing, I agree, but catalogers need to know *what* to prioritize, they need to know which fields to pay special attention to, which to make sure to fill (and correctly, of course ;)).

  4. Jonathan Rochkind

    Heh, misleading users into thinking we’re perfect like Google? Of course we all know that neither we nor Google are perfect, but I think we CAN do a lot better than we have done.

    I’m getting more excited about the new ‘discovery tool’ I’m working on where I am, I think it’s going to turn out pretty good. When it’s getting a little bit closer to done i’ll try to announce it far and wide, and will be curious for thoughts from catalogers.


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