The Peloponnesian War and the Future of Reference, Cataloging, and

The Peloponnesian War and the Future of Reference, Cataloging, and

41 Pages · 2007 · 159 KB · English

1 The Peloponnesian War and the Future of Reference, Cataloging, and Scholarship in Research Libraries By Thomas Mann Prepared for AFSCME 2910 The Library of Congress

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1 The Peloponnesian War and the Future of Reference, Cataloging, and Scholarship in Research Libraries By Thomas Mann Prepared for AFSCME 2910 The Library of Congress Professional Guild representing over 1,600 professional employees wwwguild2910org June 13, 2007 No copyright is claimed for this paper It may be freely reproduced, reprinted, and republished ___________________________________________________________________________ Thomas Mann, PhD, a member of AFSCME 2910, is the author of The Oxford Guide to Library Research , third edition (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005) and Library Research Models (Oxford U Press, 1993) The judgements made in this paper do not represent official views of the Library of Congr ess ______________________________________________________________________________ Abstract The paper is an examination of the overall principles and practices of both reference service and cataloging operations in the promotion of scholarly researc h, pointing out important differences not just in content available onsite and offsite, but also among necessary search techniques It specifies the differences between scholarship and quick information seeking, and examines the implications of those differences for the future of cataloging It examines various proposals that the profession should concentrat e its efforts on alternatives to cataloging: relevance ranking, tagging, underthe hood programming, etc The paper considers the need for, and requirements of, education of researchers; and it examines in detail many of the glaring disconnects betwee n theory and practice in the library profession today Finally, it provides an overview of the whole “shape of the elephant” of library services, within which cataloging is only one component 2 What is involved in providing library service to the academic community? Is our purpose merely to provide “something quickly”? What, exactly, is wrong with promoting that end as our goal? What is the role of reference work? How does library cataloging fit into a larger scheme of necessary services? What is the larger scheme of which cataloging is only a part? What should research instruction classes strive to cove r? What is a good outline for a basic research class? Does anything need to be explained at all if our “under the hood” programming and federated searching capabilities are adequate? In short, what idea of “the shape of the elephant” of research, and of library resources as a whole, do we wish to convey to an academic clientele? Users of public and special libraries have different needs; my concern in this paper is the future of research libraries Much of what the latter do, of course, spills over into public and special library practices A wide range of important issues and distinctions is involved here: •Differences in content available onsite and offsite copyright restrictions on what can and cannot be digitized digitized sources restricted by site licenses or password use • Differences in search methods available onsite and offsite the variety of search methods, beyond keyword access (eg, controlled vocabulary searching, citation searching, related record searching, browsing classified book stacks, use of published bibliographies), available onsite: their different retrieval capabilities • Differences between cataloging (conceptual categorization at scopematch level 1, vocabulary standardization within and across multiple languages, systematic linkage of categories) vs relevance ranking of keywords, tagging, folksonomies, etc the need for search methods enabling recognition of relevantsources whose characteristics (and keywords) cannot be specified in advance • Differences between scholarship and quick information seeking 3 relationships, interconnections, contexts, and integrations vs isolated facts or snippets the need for successive, sequenced steps (with feedback loops) vs “seamless onestop shopping” • The problems of federated searching misrepresenting the full contents and search capabilities ofindividual databases masking the existence of nonincluded sources • The inadequacy of the open Internet alone

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