Tuesday, January 17, 2006Two good posts about library technology
Like the post title says, a couple of good posts on the need for libraries to improve their use of technology, especially in the catalogue. Not sure I agree with them 100%, but they're certainly worth a read.
Karen Schneider at ALA TechSource writes 'The Revolution Will be Folksonomied', a strong criticism of the "piteously clunky library systems most libraries pay dearly for because we've never insisted that the catalog could be better than that." Karen argues that catalogues lack useful features such as truncation and relevance ranking, are limited by reliance on Library of Congress Subject Headings, which are either in arcane language or too narrow or broad for users, and because the library catalogue is "still an index, not a full text search engine".
There's a lot more, and Karen's arguments are convincing. She also points to the University of California's Bibliographic Services Task Force report, which apparently condemns the failures of library catalogue software, while offering some solutions. [I haven't yet read the report].
I don't 100% agree with everything Karen writes. Her criticisms of the limitations of LCSH for many libraries are correct, but then LCSH was developed specifically for the Library of Congress, right? And there are plenty of alternatives that suit smaller libraries better (I've never used LCSH in real life). I'm also not sure about the emphasis on full-text searching - surely this isn't practical (or probably legal) if we're talking about print collections? Google might be able to afford to scan books and create full-text indexes, libraries can't. Possibly I've misunderstood, or perhaps Karen's comment "consolidate your resources instead of dribbling finite funds across multiple, duplicated library systems" implies that we should be conducting collaborative scanning projects ourselves, and sharing the results.
Another good post is Eric Martin's on the Library and Information Technology Association weblog. Eric discusses the "increased need for library services and not necessarily library collections", given that our users now have access to a multitude of collections via the web; and the ability to be leaders in the implementation of services through in-house software development, arguing for the importance of knowledge of information technology for librarians.
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