Thomas Mann: The Changing Nature of the Catalog and Its Integration with Other Discovery Tools. A Critical Review

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.

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