The entry on cataloging from the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences mentions user-experience and functional requirements as important to the catalog of the future. These catchphrases led me to think of the term “design thinking.” How can libraries create a catalog and retrieval experience that works, as mentioned by David Levy in Cataloging in the Digital Order, to “generalize, to make universal” while considering “local conditions”? I think Levy was right-on in understanding that the work requires “knowledge from multiple work communities.”
Here’s an interesting example of a user-centered approach to cataloging: In January 2011, librarians at the Ethical Cultural Fieldston School, a private elementary school in New York City, set out to create a new cataloging system — to replace the 136-year-old Dewey system that they felt deterred even advanced students from finding materials. Collaborating with grade-wide teams, the librarians successfully rolled out a system of “categorization” with a focus on topics and subtopics rather than precise classifications. The system was driven by three guiding principles: child-centered, browsable, and flexible.