Monthly Archives: March 2013

Cataloging as a function and its atomization

Talking about the consequences of self-publishing (by individuals and increasingly by entities like Provincetown Public Library) on the traditional publishing industry, Mike Shatzkin says : “Publishing will become a function of many entities, not a capability reserved to a few insiders who can call themselves an industry.” I wonder if this doesn’t apply to cataloging as well. Libraries used to have a monopoly on cataloging, but increasingly lose this status and find themselves relying on third-party records. Cataloging and metadata have become ubiquitous and are not reserved anymore to those with the arcane knowledge (on LibraryThing anyone can catalog with a simple web interface), but the library world still has a tendency to think we own and can prescribe the “perfect” bibliographic description (which after all is part of our identity and how we define ourselves as an “industry”). Another quote from Shatzkin’s article with parallels to cataloging and the library field: “This is the atomization of publishing, the dispersal of publishing decisions and the origination of published material from far and wide. In a pretty short time, we will see an industry with a completely different profile than it has had for the past couple of hundred years.”

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