Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What's going on at the Library of Congress? Part 2

After I wrote my original post, a colleague e-mailed and said, "It can be argued that the digital repository is more cost-effective than a proper bricks-and-mortar archive." And he then goes on to say, "I don't see this one item as all bad..." I can argue both sides on all of the points Thomas Mann makes. And yes, I think relying on digital formats, in this day and age, makes sense, as long at the Library of Congress employs digital preservation techniques.

And maybe that is what is important about Mann's report and the actions that the Library is doing -- you can argue about them. You can feel passionate about them. And most importantly, you can think about what they mean to you and your institution, either because you rely on the Library of Congress or because you see them(LC) as a model that you want to emulate.

By the way, my personal hot button is over the LC Subject Headings. Although they are a standard, I find them hard to use (yes, and I am a librarian). I remember filing cards in a real card catalogue and learning the rules about the LC Subject Headings, but that memory faded l-o-n-g ago. Now I like to search using terms that are more familiar to me. So I don't see moving away from LCSH as being a bad thing. I think the work that people are doing to re-think "the catalogue" (like Andrew Pace) will help us as we move away from the old standards and towards something that fits with our current and future expectations.

1 comment:

walt crawford said...

I'll suggest that the primary virtue of LCSH isn't for initial searching, but for finding related items once you have something you're interested in. That functionality has been supported through Eureka's browse function, Endeca, RedLightGreen, Worldcat.org, and various other ways to expose a formal taxonomy used to support related retrieval.

As direct retrieval, LCSH doesn't work very well and isn't used very much. As a way of locating "other stuff," I think formal taxonomy still has power that even full-text searching (and folksonomy) don't provide. Only my opinion.