My favorite reading this week was David M. Levy’s “Cataloging in the Digital Order.” Cataloging electronic resources is a topic that both interests me a great deal and comes up often at my job. Despite the 1995 publication of this article, I thought Levy’s consideration of Internet sources felt relevant in a number of ways. First, I appreciated his acknowledgment of “the potential at least for a great deal more variability and mutability of materials” published on the Internet. In addition to cataloging such mutable sources, it is also quite difficult to cite Internet sources. From a scientific publications standpoint, it is often the case that a journal article or book will have citations to websites that have been updated or changed considerably before the piece is published.
Levy also talks about the distinction between cataloging Internet resources versus “cataloging the Internet.” This made me think of the Internet Archive’s efforts to “archive the Internet” with the Wayback Machine—and how useful it has been for researchers interested in the evolution of a topic on a specific website, as well as for the study of web developments. Though archiving and cataloging are not the same, it’s interesting to think of Levy’s assertion that cataloging the Internet is an impossible feat in 1995 when the Wayback Machine launched in 1996 and has since archived 426 billion web pages.
In general, I also liked Levy’s article for its brief and direct definitions of cataloging in all respects. It is definitely a piece I will return to for refreshers on cataloging basics.
As an aside, I loved the Buckland quote that those who enjoy the tedium of cataloging are “socially dysfunctional nitpickers.” There may have been a time or two when someone could have described me in this way!