Friday, November 18, 2011

But who will organize the stuff?

In addition, the catalog primarily organizes things; resources, books, CDs and DVDs. Where we need to go is to KNOWLEDGE ORGANIZATION. Not STUFF organization.

This is Karen Coyle's declaration, in her October 2011 keynote address to LITA, linked here.

And she is right, absolutely. It's just that we actually still have a large amount of stuff that needs to be organized.

Other interesting points include,

Why does Google (Yahoo, Bing) use keyword searching? Because it's easy. It is mechanical. It is a match between a string in a query and a string in a database (even with all of its enhancements, that's the bottom line). It requires no knowledge of the topic, no human intervention, no experts. Keyword searching is NOT knowledge organization. . . .Did you ever wonder why so many searches turn up Wikipedia in the first few hits? Wikipedia is ORGANIZED INFORMATION. To me it is the proof that organized information is needed, works, and helps people find and learn. Wikipedia does have pages for concepts, it does have links between related subjects, it IS organized knowledge.


Where does this leave us? We've spent the last 15 years re-making cataloging (for the fourth time in 50 years), but we are still using the Knowledge Organization (Library of Congress Classification, Dewey Decimal Classificatin, Library of Congress Subject Headings) from a century ago; three Victorian era knowledge schemes. They are like information retrieval of Brideshead Revisited. Yes, cookery has just now become cooking, but that is simply too little, too late. All of these knowledge schemes precede computers and have the limitations of the analog world. Today's technology could help us do much better topical access.


We've got to move beyond the catalog. It is not longer an end in itself, and it is no longer a primary user service. Yes, we need the metadata that describes our holdings and our licensed resources, but this inventory isn't for our users but is fodder for services that will be used in a larger information environment. It needs to be like the OpenURL server database that sits between information resources on the network and the library user. This also means that FRBR and RDA will have to evolve. The catalog that they address, that they create, is no longer serving our users. Our data needs to focus on making connections outside of the library that will bring library resources to users as they interact with the world of information. Those connections can't be limited to connecting to the names of authors and titles, or to works and manifestations, but absolutely have to have a knowledge organization component. In fact, our main emphasis should be on knowledge organization, quite the opposite of where we are today.

An interesting talk!

More from Karen Coyle here.

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