QOTD: the bibliographic archipelago

Our bibliographic systems are like an archipelago. Scattered islands which need to be visited individually. In this context I was interested to read Bob Wolven:

Now, however, more radical change seems both possible and responsible in light of developments taking place outside library cataloging. The balkanized system that has characterized information retrieval to date—in which researchers use one tool to find books and journals, another to find journal articles, a third to track poems, and so forth—has allowed library cataloging practices to be evaluated in isolation. Rules and the data they generate are seen as more or less valuable in relation to their impact on the library OPAC; in turn, OPACs are seen as more or less effective for their ability to use and present cataloging data. Now, this hegemony is being challenged: metasearch tools bridge formerly separate search environments; search engines draw on multiple sources to present alternative interfaces to both popular and scholarly resources; full-text aggregations, Google Book Search, and Microsoft's Live Academic Search extend the reach of discovery into the content itself. [In Search of a New Model - 1/15/2008 - netConnect]

I sometimes puzzle over the emphasis on next generation catalogs. Of course, it is easy to understand, given the local control. But it is only one island, an important one, but one destination among several. What about all the other databases?

What questions about the value of the controlled data in our catalog records (names, subjects, etc) will we ask as it begins to be merged more with data created in different regimes? We can already see this happening in the environments that Bob mentions, and in new integrated discovery environments like Primo, Encore and Worldcat Local.

Comments: 3

Jan 19, 2008
Robert D.

I agree. I see no reason why my patrons' search for information on, say, Stalin should be separated into individual searches of the catalog and the databases. Just aggregate everything and let them choose what they want. Information has reached a point where people see little or no difference between

Jan 24, 2008
Larry Campbell

Re: I sometimes puzzle over the emphasis on next generation catalogs. Of course, it is easy to understand, given the local control. But it is only one island, an important one, but one destination among several. What about all the other databases?


I too agree with the general point here, but I wonder if the reference to a "catalog" isn't just a matter of legacy terminology? What we're really looking at in the next generation seems more like a general purpose metadata repository and index, able to ingest or otherwise include all those "other databases", at least in principle. The advantages of such a database, however it's technically implemented, has more to do with speed, flexibility, and richness of service than with local control in the narrow sense. And while this might, for a time, continue to be referred to as the library's "catalog", the classic MARC-based database would be only one component of it.

Jan 25, 2008
Lorcan Dempsey

Larry - a sensible perspective, but I wonder how widely shared? What you call the 'legacy' catalog is still the dominant sense for many?