Weekly response, Erin E. McCabe

With the Paul Otlet article, there seemed to be less of these petty arguments going on behind the historical scenes of cataloging. While Dewey and Carlyle and of that ilk seem to be aggressive (well) nerds, Otlet seemed to me to be more of an artist. His approach to organizing and accessing reminded me a lot of current data mining practices. I can’t say I find any pleasure in the act of tagging data points within information directly, but seeing the resulting projects of some of these processes is really interesting, and beyond that, sometimes even really playful or creative. I think access in this day and age has moved beyond getting the information into the hands of the public and towards encouraging that public to engage with said information.

As a more basic appreciation, I find the term “social space of a document” really useful and plan to make everyone really tired of hearing it.

That being said, I am quite annoyed with the less than complimentary comparisons that I’ve seen drawn, more frequently than just the Weinberger reading, between Dewey’s system and Amazon. Personal Amazon boycott aside, the company admittedly offers some of that same creative, innovative, even playful relationship building between information sources that I appreciated in Otlet’s approach. Still, it’s hardly fair to compare the two, and I’m not really sure it’s beneficial either. What suggestions could Amazon’s process really offer the library cataloging system? Beyond an interesting philosophical distinction that is handy to perhaps students of cataloging, the system mandated by physical space (not to mention resources) makes for libraries and amazon a case of apples and oranges.


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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