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CODE4LIB  June 2006

CODE4LIB June 2006

Subject:

Re: next generation opac mailing list

From:

"K.G. Schneider" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Tue, 6 Jun 2006 08:56:41 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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> My impression is that there are LOTS of catalogers interested in
> discussing this topic---the future of The Catalog. (I think there's
> no reason to stop calling it the catalog, although 'OPAC' as an
> acronym is probably best abandoned).   Some coders seem to assume
> that the cataloging community doesn't realize the need for change, or
> doesn't understand the possibilities of the online catalog.  I think
> this is more and more NOT the case. Catalogers too realize that
> things are broken, change is the topic of discussion.

I second this heartily. I am not a cataloger, but when I wade into the topic
of catalogs, I am impressed by the responses, sometimes visionary, sometimes
apocalyptic, from catalogers who are grappling with these issues. I work
with a tremendously gifted cataloger who has that valued dual vision.

> possibilities.  But what's also true is, yes, there's a lot of
> dispute about what is to be done. (I also think that what is to be
> done is not necessarily clear; while there are some things I
> personally think are clear that many colleagues irrationally [ :) ]
> disagree on, the terrain in general is in fact a lot less clear than
> some coders may think, in my opinion.)

All true on these points, and LibraryLand does not need (and more to the
point, will not adopt) solutions crafted solely by the coders. I am not a
coder or a cataloger and with great fear and trembling I have waded into the
catalog discussion because I felt it was important. Fortunately if I have
been mocked it has been behind my back ;> . Even with my toe-in-the-water
ruminations, I am conflicted with my own admittedly preliminary and only
partially formed conclusions, and on alternate days am equally persuaded by
other models. What is the best design-the One True Catalog or A Million
Points of Catalog? Are there other models? If we do one does that mean
opting for total dominion by a major company, I mean nonprofit? If we do the
other are we stuck in the system design of the 1960s?

> created by coders?  Will the coders and the catalogers be able to
> communicate...

If you really want a discussion on this topic, the best argument for
establishing another list is the naming issue, and the second is a question
of list dominion. I am not a coder; I'm not a cataloger. But I know a few
things, and I've worked or do work with coders, catalogers, reference, etc.
I felt extremely anxious posting at all about indexing software and the
qualities of good search last week, even though I've spent the last year
developing and evaluating software against standards for search and have
some passionate and I'd like to think well-informed ideas on the issue. A
broader group devoted to the topic of "catalog" is less likely to do the
coder take-down that can sometimes happen when coders get distracted by the
technological imprecision of the non-coder's ideas and more likely to listen
to what people like me are trying to say.

, do they speak enough of the same language, do they have
> enough of the same conceptual model of what we're talking about,
> enough of the same ideas of where we should be going?  I don't know.
> But such common vision is desperately needed.

It's possible when this discussion gets broadened that the coders are given
cause to evaluate and refine their notion of the "ideas of where we should
be going." In any event it would be richer as a collective discussion.

> As Eric writes, an important topic for discussion is: "To what degree
> should traditional cataloging practices be used in such a thing, or
> to what degree should new and upcoming practices such as FRBR be
> exploited?"  Coders can't have this discussion without catalogers if
> it's not just going to be a fantasy discussion.  And we should be
> humble enough to realize that we may not in fact even understand the
> question as well as (some) catalogers, and the cataloging community
> in fact has an awful lot to contribute.

Yes, on all points, if cataloger is understood as a term that means "other
than coder" (and let's not forget FAST-and I wish there were more discussion
about FAST widely in the community because it FASTinates me but I'm not able
to attend that one ALA program I am pointed to whenever I seek more
information about it).

You aren't going to get oodles of directors or reference folk or whatnot on
a list like this, at least not participating. But if the discussion is
forced to be at, um, higher than machine level, you might get wide viewing
from the peanut gallery, who will pingpong ideas around the bibliogalaxy.
(Er... how easy is it to view the archives of this list? I had an
embarrassingly tough time getting on this list, and no memory of other
details about it.)

I would also suggest that statements such as MARC Must Die-which I do not
disagree with-might best be posed as questions: What's Wrong With MARC? For
one thing, it would make assumptions difficult. For another, it suggests
that the list subscribers are being invited to a discussion, not a lecture.

Anyway, 'nuff said. I really appreciate Eric punting on this issue. It *is*
important, maybe the most important discussion we will have in this half of
the century. Good for Eric!

Karen G. Schneider
[log in to unmask]

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