On Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 9:11 AM, Jonathan Rochkind <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> There are some unanswered questions about what the purpose of the catalog is
> or should be in our users research workflow, and it's not obvious to me whether
> that purpose will involve putting any possible book or article that exists for free
> on the internet in the catalog.

I personally think that libraries in general still have some
fundamental issues of just getting their head around the two-headed
problem of free web resources. Not only are these free, but they don't
physically exists. This has certain implications for libraries ;

Free: as has been pointed out, sometimes this means not being peer
reviewed, or doesn't have the quality seal of a publisher, and as such
there is no process for libraries to really understand how that
knowledge fits into the rest of their collection. (I don't think it's
a price issue; it's more a fundamental model issue) It's sometimes
hard to wrap your head around the concept of anything free being of
much *worth* where in the past worth and often quality was measured in
the name of publishers and the amount of peer-review or the reputation
of the author. The Internet has *changed* this to the core; it's all
gone or going, and new models are coming through the haze of confusion
which I think the library world is both unprepared for and seriously
underfunded to deal with.

Links: The whole concept of web resources, of what a link (or a link
to a mirror or cache) is all about confuses libraries who are deeply
rooted in all things being physical. I know this is a dozy, but I
still find this an issue when talking to librarians even today. The
concept of virtual things in the library world really only exists with
the notion of meta data, and I don't think the transition to the
resource itself *also* being virtual has worked out well. Libraries
*likes* physical objects, they *like* shelves, they *like* their
buildings, and I don't blame them; we are physical beings who love the
smell of paper, however books are not actually important, buildings
are not actually important, that smell is definitely not important :
Ideas, knowledge and concepts are, and that's what we all try to pry
from the books. (As an aside, if ideas and concepts were valued more,
why couldn't LCSH morph into something far, far more important and
useful? The mind boggles at the lost opportunities!) You cannot pry
anything from a link except the possible resource at the other end,
but it is a few traceroutes away in a virtual place, and in need of
technological interpretation on arrival, and then comes the next level
of trouble;

These are just the conceptual problem. The next real problem of
technology and the library world is - despite the hard and excellent
work put in by people like us on this very list! - that they are still
a slow-poke in the realm of using and developing technology. Most ILS
are charmingly quaint in dealing with these things. OPAC's are mostly
dreadful. Backend infra-structure never powerful or big enough for the
growing digital stuff coming in. Systems running always a bunch of
features away from being what we need, only getting by on a barely
useful set of features (that far too often the vendors dictates) to do
the minimum we have to do. Yes, yes, exceptions here and there, I
would never deny that, but look at library land as a whole; you're
lagging behind and you cannot really compete in a world that needs you
to not only run, but win. And frankly, you *cannot* win, not on
technology. There's just no way. Winning this one requires not
technology as such, but paradigm shifts in thinking, both from inside
and especially from the outside, coupled with proper resourcing by
people who understands the value libraries truly bring to the world.
And this latter thing is becoming a real problem, I think.

> One reason that libraries may not prioritize putting free ebooks in the catalog is because
> there are other places users can search for free ebooks on the internet -- but there
> aren't other places users can search for non-free ebooks that they know will be licensed
> to them as library patrons, or for that matter to search for physical things on the shelves
> that they know are available from their library.

Seems like an odd argument to me. Why are we talking about the price
and the format of the information rather than the *quality* of it? I
thought a curated collection was the bee's knees, regardless of what
formats used. Hmm. Maybe I'm thinking too much like a knowledge
customer than a librarian these days, and I've lost my touch or my
way. :)


 Project Wrangler, SOA, Information Alchemist, UX, RESTafarian, Topic Maps
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