I believe we are seeing here one of the splits in contemporary library
technology. That is, a lending library using published materials, would
have such a standard index available. But an acquisitions library dealing
with manuscripts, private recordings and works in limited distribution
would have to devise its own cataloguing system as well as its own filing
system. Clearly, older publications will also be deprived of modern
catalogue references; the first folio has no ISBN. <G>
It's not that simple. One of the functions of OCLC and RLIN is to share the work of original cataloging. Another is to create access for interlibrary loan. Yet another is to create union lists and catalogs that allow a researcher to find materials in a single search. There are many other uses.
Many materials on these catalogs are one of a kind, and include manuscript libraries and special collections with non-book materials. Both RLIN and OCLC now have cataloging functions geared toward 'cultural materials.' So, having unique materials does not neccesitate a unique cataloging system or classification (filing) scheme.
They're not perfect, and it is impossible to be all things to all people, but cataloging utilities are evolving and changing with the times. According to their annual reports, catalogs and members continue to grow for both OCLC and RLIN.
Public libraries will always thrive in a world where your 3rd grader needs 4 sources on llamas for a paper due tomorrow morning. Amazon ain't gonna cut it then!
(Cataloger, Librarian, Archivist)
Special Collections Librarian
Thousand Oaks Library System
(805) 449-2660 xt228
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