«Part II Submissions by: Judy Anderson Heather S. Miller Bryan Baldus Allen Mullen Deanna Briggs John J. Riemer Diana Brooking Karina Ricker Lloyd ...»
There is a notable difference between these projections. Thinking there will be 60 million people in California will not make it happen. There are serious environmental and legal barriers to it. For example, in the 80’s, there were proposals for California to take water from the Pacific Northwest, but they were blocked by the Endangered Species Act. Species in the Northwest require a lot of water, and they cannot move to California if the water is moved.
In contrast, Calhoun’s projection could easily be a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” It already has been to some extent. Investment in cataloging has been reduced at least partly out of belief that technological developments will make cataloging less necessary in the future. This expectation has had its effects over the last several decades, and now the result seems inevitable to Calhoun and others. But does it have to be?
I would argue that the issue is not just the potential of technology. At the same time that cataloging has been reduced, funding for public educational institutions in America has gone down. More and more, the burden of paying for college, for example, has been put on the shoulders of the students themselves and their parents. A time may come when it will be very hard for people from low- or middle-income families to get a college education. We must reverse this deterioration of the public sector in America.
Libraries are a central element in our educational infrastructure, and I think they face a similar
danger. In an article recently submitted to American Libraries, Martha Yee gives this anecdote:
"I once went to a talk by a colleague who was working in the business world on an information portal. He indicated that the project had begun as an automatic indexing project with relevance ranking, but that the people paying for the work were so dissatisfied with the results that the project had morphed into a thesaurus development project employing human indexers. Is this a vision of the future? Information organization only for those who pay for it and Google for the rest, instead of information organization for all as a social good paid for with tax dollars?" Now, I realize (and I’m sure Yee does as well) that the proposals of Calhoun and others do not amount just to “Google for the rest.” But there are some serious questions about the confidence she and others put in technology. Sometimes technology progresses faster than we expect—I’d say that was the case in the 80’s for computer technology—and sometimes more slowly. There was an interesting article in Popular mechanics a few months ago about NASA. I remember how excited I was in the early 80’s by the Space Shuttle. What a technological marvel! But now, after 25 years, NASA has figured out they have no way to make it safe and are returning to the 1960’s vehicle for manned space flight, the capsule. They are designing bigger and more powerful capsules than the 60’s versions, but capsules nonetheless. Someone is quoted in the article: “It took us 50 years from the Wright brothers to get to the Moon, and it’ll take us another 50 to get back to it.” Few would have expected that in 1969. Could we experience a “plateau” in the development of computer technology, too, rather than the study upward trend Calhoun and others seem to expect?
It’s hard to say. I am not claiming to have much concrete evidence of it. Though it is interesting that e-books have not taken off (in fact have been discontinued by retailers like Barnes and Nobles) and portable e-book readers are still rather clunky. There’s no sign that people are losing their interest in print monographs, though print journals really do seem to be giving way to ejournals. Print books in the form of the “codex” are a technology we’ve been using for about 1400 years. And as long as we have print books, there will be a need for classified library shelving, as Thomas Mann has argued.
There are a lot of user studies showing traditional library searches like subject browsing have lost ground to keyword searching. But I think before we jump to accept the implication of that, there needs to be more research on the search practices of scholarly users. The question cuts one way but not the other: no one is arguing that we should eliminate keyword searching, but a lot of people want to eliminate subject searching. Keyword searching is a real advance achieved by online catalogs and appears to be relatively easy to provide in online systems. But the option to do a controlled subject search may be important for scholarly users. If we give it up, the quality and quantity of scholarly work may decline.
The main things I’m urging are caution about technology and the advocacy of better funding for the public sphere. I realize that it might be hard to expect the Library of Congress’s management to push for funding. They are under the authority of Congress and pretty much have to live with the funding they get. But I think as citizens, the rest of us away from LC need to take a stand for the importance of libraries and the whole public sphere. A big part of that needs to be advocating for the importance of cataloging. The worldwide library community depends a great deal on the leadership of LC in this area. Admittedly, that’s a burden, but it’s a burden worth shouldering.
The Library of Congress is truly one of the “pillars of the world,” and our culture and quality of life depend on its contributions.
Thanks for considering my comments.
Ted Gemberling Asst. Professor and Historical Collections Cataloger UAB Lister Hill Library LHL 234B 1530 3rd Ave. S.
Birmingham, AL 35294-0013 Voice: (205)934-2461 Fax: (205)934-3545 From: Denise Hanusek firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Jul 31, 2007 6:11 PM Subject: Personal response to the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control To: email@example.com
Dear Dr. Griffiths,
I have been a cataloging librarian for seven years. I also serve as adjunct faculty and teach in the field of World Religions at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
I come to the question of bibliographic control from both a library and a teaching perspective. Because of this, I appreciate particularly the thoughtful and insightful papers written by Thomas Mann of the Library of Congress in response to some of the ideas expressed in recent papers and reports by Deanna Marcum and Karen Calhoun.
Several issues arising from this debate are of particular concern to me. First, it has been intimated that catalogers are disturbed about some of the new ideas being expressed by Marcum and Calhoun because they are resistent to change, extremely conservative, etc. Some of these new ideas include the need for nothing more than keyword searching in order to find "something" on a topic, or the call to drop LCSH as being too expensive and beyond the understanding of the ordinary library user. But acceptance of "new ideas" is not the issue for catalogers. (I assure you that we are constantly having to deal with new ideas, new tools, new ways of doing things and manage this quite nicely.) The issue is the striving for excellence in what we do as a profession: the organization of information. Based on more than a century of cold, hard experience, catalogers know that keyword searching will never be adequate to mine the riches of any library's holdings. The most eloquent testimony in proof of this is Thomas Mann's excellent paper entitled "The Peloponnesian War and the Future of Reference, Cataloging, and Scholarship in Research Libraries" with which I am sure you are familiar.
A second issue that arises from the writings of both Marcum and Calhoun is: what type of researcher should serve as a target audience for what professional organizers of information do? Should it be high school students or college freshmen who have not yet learned how to do research and are mainly interested in finding "something" to use a source as quickly as possible as with as little effort as possible? Or should it be the experienced researcher, the grad student who is trying to determine what has been written in his or her field before writing the perspectus for a dissertation? I would argue that the expertise of organizing professionals should be brought to bear in order to address the needs of the second group. It will always be easy to find "something" for a five-page paper due the next morning. The resources of the entire library system should not be set up to deal only with this. But again, as Thomas Mann makes so eloquently clear, much more is required for the experienced researcher whose needs will be much more focused than that of a beginner. If the tools to help these people should be permitted to crumble, it will be very difficult to put them back into place once the extent of the disaster becomes clear. There will be no such problem for those who rely only on keyword searches. The decision-makers of the library community need to keep this clearly in mind: one cannot put the toothpaste back into the tube once it has lost its structure. Let us look at the issue from a slightly different perspective. A high school student or college freshman argues that the textbooks that they are required to read, texts that require rigorous organization of knowledge and thought in order to grasp their message, are too long and boring. They suggest that, instead of reading them, they should be permitted to find material on the subject they are studying by using keyword searching on the internet, and that the final exam consist in editing an article for Wikipedia. What would be the response of their parents if their teacher's answer to this were "Excellent idea! Yes, we have been wrong all these years in trying to organize knowledge and present it to students so that they can learn for themselves how to put it all together." If your child had such a teacher, would your response not be to place your child in another school immediately? And yet this is what librarians are being told to do by supposed "experts" in their own profession. As a librarian and a teacher, I find many of the ideas expressed by Deanna Marcum and Karen Calhoun to be profoundly disturbing, and destructive not only to the profession of librarianship but to the pursuit of knowledge generally. Libraries are not businesses and should not follow a business model. The object of libraries is not to increase market share but to cooperate with the teaching profession to provide oncoming generations with the tools and knowledge they will need, not only to survive in, but to better their world. Let us be very careful to keep this trust for our children and their children.
Denise Marie Hanusek, Th.D. Pitts Theology Library Emory University 505 Kilgo Circle Atlanta, GA 30322 phone: 404-727-1220 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org "The truth will make you free." (John 8:32b) "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken." (Oliver Cromwell) "Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit." (Vergil A. 1,203) From: W Gerald Heverly email@example.com Date: Jul 31, 2007 11:06 AM Subject: Testimony for Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control To: firstname.lastname@example.org Dear Dr. Griffiths, The Forum for Classics, Libraries, and Scholarly Communication brings together librarians, publishers' representatives, classics professors, and others interested in the intersection between libraries, scholarly communication, and the study of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. The Forum is an affiliated group of the American Philological Association, the principal learned society in the U.S. for classics. On behalf of the Forum's more than 80 members, we, their elected officers, write to express concern about the future of cataloging in this country.
Increasingly statements are made that controlled vocabulary is no longer necessary for locating information and that precoordinated subject headings such as LCHS are thus obsolete. Instead, it is claimed that keyword searching and Google-style interfaces are adequate. We believe that such claims are fundamentally flawed given the current state of search engines' approach to subject retrieval. Keyword searching is certainly a powerful tool, but relying on it exclusively often produces too many hits for library users to comprehend. Moreover, many hits generated by keyword searching turn out to be irrelevant upon inspection. In our experience, LCSH provide an ultimately faster, more reliable approach to determining a library's holdings on a given topic.
Classics is an international discipline, and American classicists routinely consult scholarship in French, German, Italian, Modern Greek, and Spanish. The limitations inherent in keyword searching become especially evident when one attempts to locate information in all these languages on the same topic. Indeed, in the absence of subject headings or cross-language semantic mappings, keyword searching in English usually identifies only material in English. As a result, a keyword search has to be performed in each of the other languages in order to generate a comprehensive list of titles. In addition, one must know what the correct keywords are in each language in order to have any hope of finding all the relevant material on a topic. Precoordinated subject headings, however, make such repetitive searching unnecessary and reliably identify both the English and foreign language material that might be of interest.
In short, LCSH are certainly not obsolete. Consequently, catalogers at the Library of Congress must continue to have relevant subject expertise and foreign language competence. Only such individuals can assign subject headings accurately and devise new ones as the need arises.
Thank you for considering our concerns about the future of cataloging. Please feel welcome to contact the current chair if you have questions about the Forum's position.