Response 4: Erin E. McCabe

I heard the other day a phrase that stuck out to me – “Librarians like to search, patrons like to find”. Though maybe an oversimplification of the whole evolution of cataloging debate, it did reverberate with something that had been rattling around in my thoughts while I’ve been reading these cataloging debate articles. The library management side of catalog use seems to be more or less unfazed, or at least relatively unscathed, by the evolution of content and the corresponding evolution of its access methods. Meanwhile, the user access side of catalog use seems to have had the hardest hit. Changes in technology have, in turn, changed the user – not just in terms of their expectations but in terms of their very understanding of how to interact with searching. Coyle and Hillmann’s article outlining the process of development for “Resource Description and Access (RDA)” includes this thought, “The fact that users have become comfortable with the result of a search leading seamlessly and instantly to the delivery of the resource to the user’s workstation undermines the whole notion of the value of a detailed catalog.” If catalogs are to remain useful to the searchers and not just the catalogers, there has to be a feeling of this seamlessness.We’ve talked in class about using Amazon to look up titles at the library – and that says a lot about the gap between official library speeds of progress and the rest of the Willy Wonka Googlefied tech world.

It’s hard to let go of something you’ve put a lot of work into, but I enjoyed the succinct nature of the suggestion, “Do not use AACR2 alone as the source of ideas and practices for RDA.” I’ve been having a similar problem lately with organizing my own classwork and work-work. It feels like an inability to see the forest for the trees and I’ve ended up planting visual reminders everywhere of the big picture. Maybe these boards need just a random patron to stumble into their meetings periodically with their own unique research query.

I think that the additional ‘I’ in the MLS/MLIS programs of nowadays, is a good sign of the progress that will be made when librarians not only start to understand data professionals, but start to become them.


About Erin E. McCabe

Publisher relations and content development assistant at JSTOR. Master's candidate in Library and Information Science at Pratt Institute.

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