Thomas Mann makes a compelling point about the importance of LC subject headings and the value of the librarian cataloger. He writes that “a system that enables people simply to recognize what they cannot specify beforehand is crucial” because, without this capability, “researchers will routinely settle for whatever comes up…even if their misguided specification of terms causes them to miss the best material.” His assessment of why librarians are susceptible to unwarranted criticism — the prospect of being labeled old-fashioned and misguided feedback in a new web environment — is valid.
But if subject headings optimize search, why is Google and its keyword search so popular? A qualitative study suggests that students favor simplicity and ease and are willing to put up with irrelevant results.
Maybe there is value in both types of search. Subjects headings are useful to display different context on the same topic. Keywords are fundamental to the web environment and are great for quick searches.