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Posts Tagged ‘library catalogs’

Do we still need library catalogs?

Posted by George J Janczyn on April 29, 2010

I should say immediately that there’s nothing here about the controversy over a new public library for San Diego, but if you’re bugged by problems with online information retrieval, this may interest you.

I’d like to draw attention to a blog that has some very interesting discussions about library catalogs (it can sometimes be quite technical for casual readers). It’s called First thus: thoughts about the future of libraries and the catalog and is hosted by James Weinheimer, Director of Library and Information Services at the American University of Rome.

A recent series of posts looks at differences between doing research with online tools like Google (which entails typing keywords into a box to retrieve large quantities of results arranged to suit Google’s business needs), compared to using card catalogs (which allow navigation of information that has been conceptually organized). This excerpt from one post illustrates:

Research has shown that some 80% or more people rate their searching abilities as “very good” or “expert”. And they may be, for a mundane task such as finding the height of Mt. Everest, getting somebody’s email address, or finding and buying a new Ipod on (More or less what librarians term “ready reference”) But once they are confronted with the task of finding information for a class paper–even on extremely simple topics such as the one I gave you–they discover they are helpless and don’t know anything at all. They don’t know where to begin; they don’t know how to end; they don’t know anything except to type different words into a box and it’s not working. This is when they come to the reference librarian for help, and in my experience, they are more or less in a state of shock and totally panicked.

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