This week there’s been some discussion on the future of cataloging. Which is hardly news. But I’ve particularly enjoyed it this week, so now you get to hear about it. High Visibility Cataloging raised some questions about how cataloging should adapt to new technologies. The argument is that the technology to define and manage data is moving far faster than the profession is adapting to it, and that catalogers need to be re-skilled as systems managers. If computers can handle resource description, then catalogers need to learn to manage resource discovery: that facilitating the process by which users search for and find the stuff they want.
This ties in well with what Laura Tarulli said the day before about Catalogers and RAs working together to facilitate discussion between users. The job of the cataloger in this arrangement is to link the catalog to discussions about the books. The role of the RA is to facilitate and encourage discussions, then use this data for resource discovery. Linking to social networking sites is key here because they provide spaces where people are comfortable with discussing media. An interesting piece of research was done on this topic last month: 25% of users want to see what their friend’s have been watching on telly, 10% want their friends to see what they are watching and 29% of users are on Twitter. If we tap into what they’re saying, then we can provide users with the data they want, without intruding on their privacy, or expecting them to spend time contributing their opinions to our systems.
From the blog posts I’ve referenced it seems that cataloguers are moving away from a role as people who engage in resource description, towards a role as managers of resource discovery systems. I’m not so sure about this for a few reasons: first, vendors apparently aren’t providing us with adequate MARC records to run our catalogs effectively. Second, in my own really limited experience at the Cowley Club I have found that I spend a lot of time editing “off the shelf” records to fit our library’s needs. I find it still takes time to process a record because the metadata we’re importing doesn’t include classifications, reviews and summaries from the website we get it from, and certainly doesn’t include the indexing terms and keywords which we use. I’m sure we’re not the only library that has to edit records for our own specialist interests. As long as this goes on, we’ll need in-house catalogers to generate metadata.
As far as I can see, the cataloguer still has to do resource description, but the blogs I mentioned are right in saying that there are other jobs to perform related to resource discovery. These jobs aren’t anything new, though. The catalogue has always existed to aid resource discovery based on potential user search strategies. As What’s the Point? says “resource discovery” is just another word for cataloguing.