Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Future is in the Past

(Disclaimer: IGWS that this is my personal perspective)

Rhonda K. Lawrence, Program Coordinator and Moderator of H5, "The Future of Cataloging," creatively introduced Michael Gorman by giving us many possibilities of who Michael Gorman was. Really clever! Gorman was as enjoyable and articulate a speaker as I remembered him to be.

He described the current atmosphere, "why online catalogs suck." Although organized structure may be old hat, he challenged his audience to look for a book, without knowing the exact title, in both Google and the LC catalog. Try it if you haven't already done so!!!

He also described his experience at the California State University in Fresno, where first generation college students were able to retrieve about 700 books per day through the use of a very good catalog. The books were in storage, and browsing the shelves would not have helped retrieve all these books.

The catalog is the result of at least one hundred years of development and many different codes. Those who attack the value of the catalog may "know the cost of everything and the value of nothing." Mr. Gorman advocated determining what is worth preserving, preserving it, and cataloging it. Much of the web is trivial and local; the cost of cataloging it is prohibitive. (Although I would personally advocate making material on the web accessible through URLs.) Maybe my favorite quote was "Cataloging is the best public service of all."

Cataloging traditions were eloquently defended by Mr. Gorman, but I did not see him as impractical. He impressed me as having very high standards and being able to explain them beautifully. As he ended his talk, he said it was "Big Yellow Taxi time, you don't know what you've got till it's gone!"

And as he ended the question and answer period, he pointed out that Google refused MARC records. Gorman believes libraries are part of the public good; Google wishes to maximize ad revenue.

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