The Changing Nature of the Catalog – A Response to Calhoun, Mann, and Yee (PDF)
The central premise of Calhoun’s report is that technology has “created an era of discontinuous change in research libraries—a time when the cumulated assets of the past do not guarantee future success” (2006, p. 5). Calhoun’s perspective is that this notion applies directly to traditional library cataloging. Yee argues that traditional cataloging is fundamental to the value of libraries (2007). Mann makes the case that research libraries’ primary mission is to serve the specific needs of serious scholarship (2006). Each is right in their own way. Mann and Yee, though, fail to recognize the changes that the coming of the Information Age has wrought on the world outside libraries. Far too much valuable information is outside the reach of traditional catalogs. Libraries must embrace technology to extend the grasp of catalogs beyond local holdings.
Continue reading The Changing Nature of the Catalog: A Response to Calhoun, Mann, and Yee
Mann, T. (2006, April 3). The Changing Nature of the Catalog and Its Integration with Other Discovery Tools. Final Report. March 17, 2006. Prepared for the
Library of Congress by Karen Calhoun. A Critical Review by Thomas Mann. Library of Congress Professional Guild, AFSCME, Local 2910.
Calhoun is primarily concerned with research libraries, but I believe her conclusions are more broadly applicable to all libraries, and my comments in the previous post reflect that. Mann, though, is specifically concerned with research libraries, academia, and scholarship, so I will share his focus and mostly constrain my comments to the field of research libraries.
In the real world … the goal of any business is to make a profit–which is not the same thing as the goal of increasing market share. … the very funding that enables research libraries to continue in operation is not dependent on market place forces to begin with. (pp.3-4).
This is a direct shot at Calhoun’s report, and at first glance it appears to strike home. The goal of libraries obviously isn’t to make profits. But then again, some would argue that market share is a fair measure of library performance–libraries want their base to choose them over alternative sources of information. Businesses and libraries can have different motivations and still compete with each other. Mann clearly disagrees though–he believes that research libraries should primarily aim to serve the small population of serious researchers. I think Mann has a valid point of view–I don’t completely agree with his conclusions but I believe they are deserving of serious consideration. But he is mistaken to think that libraries, research or otherwise, are free from market forces; taken to the logical extreme, a library with no users has no value. Well before that point, a dwindling pool of users would quickly lead to reduced funding. A death-spiral of reduced use and budget cuts could easily result.
Continue reading Thomas Mann: The Changing Nature of the Catalog and Its Integration with Other Discovery Tools. A Critical Review
I found this wonderful quote in the midst of writing the below entry. I think it’s wonderfully apropos to the discussion.
Those who assume hypotheses as first principles of their speculations … may indeed form an ingenious romance, but a romance it will still be. –Roger Cotes, Preface to Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, Second Ed., 1713 (though I found the quote in Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver)
Calhoun, K. (2006). The Changing Nature of the Catalog and its Integration with Other Discovery Tools. Prepared for the Library of Congress.
[Technology has] created an era of discontinuous change in research libraries—a time when the cumulated assets of the past do not guarantee future success. … The catalog is in decline, its processes and structures are unsustainable, and change needs to be swift. … Notwithstanding widespread expansion of digitization projects, ubiquitous e-journals, and a market that seems poised to move to e-books, the role of catalog records in discovery and retrieval of the world’s library collections seems likely to continue for at least a couple of decades and probably longer (p.5).
Continue reading Karen Calhoun: The Changing Nature of the Catalog and its Integration with Other Discovery Tools