Discovery and disclosure again

I have a short article about the catalog(ue) in the current issue of Ariadne:

I think that this shift poses major questions for the future of the catalogue, and this shift is bound up with the difference between discovery (identifying resources of interest) and location (identifying where those resources of interest are actually available). There may be many discovery environments, which then need to locate resources in particular collections. While the catalogue may be a part of the latter process, its role in the former needs to be worked through. [Main Articles: 'The Library Catalogue in the New Discovery Environment: Some Thoughts', Ariadne Issue 48]
Because I was coming at it in a different direction, I did not discuss disclosure much, although it is behind much of what I am saying.

The library needs to disclose the availability of resources in those places where they will be found by users, and the article discusses some of those ways.

One interesting issue I had in writing it was that I found myself tripping over the word catalog(ue). The catalog(ue) we know is a particular bundle of functionality. If we take apart that functionality and redeploy it in different ways, it becomes difficult to know how and whether to use catalogue as a word. For example, if I have an API which other discovery environments can talk to to discover if an item is available in my collection, is that a catalogue?

Related entry:Discovery and disclosure

Comments: 0

Aug 28, 2006
Larry Campbell

I liked your article itself, but I was particularly interested in your final paragraph above. I think your difficulty with the word "catalogue" reflects only a portion of the difficulty that our users are having with it. The apparently naive question, "what is 'the catalogue' anyway?" (with or without the "ue") seems surprisingly difficult to answer -- and saying that it's the database for, or index into, our "collection" may only worsen the problem, since it opens up the question of what exactly "our collection" is supposed to be any longer (e.g., does or should "our collection" include anything to which we have access? But clearly "our catalogue" doesn't and can't include all that. Etc.)


One route toward an answer might be to break the somewhat nostalgic link between "catalogue" and "library" that has kept us all tied to a very specialized type of database as the centrepiece of our services. If we could finally move beyond the catalogue, we might be able to restore the MARC database to what it was originally designed for -- as a finding aid for physical items that we actually do collect. And that in turn might free us to move more naturally toward a general and integrated discovery and service interface, no longer limited by the constraints imposed by a single kind of tool.