In recent days the move towards digitization, keyword searches, and
loosening of standards of bibliographic control in libraries has
reminded me of something I read in the 90's. Here I have to get into
politics a bit. I used to worry that the growth of Hispanic population
in the Southwest (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas) might
someday lead to the sort of separatism we see in Canada with Quebec. If
we reach a situation where most of the population in the SW speaks
Spanish better than English, is it possible they might not identify with
the United States anymore?
But then I read something that allayed that fear. There was a referendum
about 1996 in California intended to eliminate or at least significantly
reduce bilingual education. And guess what, some of the strongest
supporters of it were Hispanics! Why would that be? I think it's because
they wanted to settle here in the USA and realized their children's
future depended on learning English well. And bilingual education
threatens that somewhat by delaying a child's acquisition of English, in
some cases, till around puberty. After puberty it becomes much harder
for most of us to become proficient in a second language. Before, if a
child just plays with English-speaking kids for a few months, he will be
fluent in English.
Bear with me: this does have some relevance to our cataloging issues.
Whether you agree with me about bilingual education or not--and I do
think it can be good in some cases, as with Alaskan Natives--the point
in both areas is that there is a body of knowledge that needs to be
imparted and acquired for people to be successful. The stress on "user
studies" and statistics from transaction logs and such things threatens
to make us lose sight of that. As Peter said, do we want to plan our
libraries around Judith's freshman daughter, or around the scholar we'd
like her to grow into? Of course not everybody can become a scholar, but
if we plan our libraries around the freshmen, we aren't going to have as
many scholars later. And some of the ones we have now may be frustrated
and consider going somewhere else.
I get the impression that the area of education that is growing the most
in the US today is community colleges. And we may see that become the
standard of education in America in the next few decades. I think we
may see degrees above the associate's degree become less common as
America's public investment in education continues to go down and more
and more of the burden is on the students themselves and their parents.
So maybe real research libraries really will become less common in the
future. But that will mean an impoverishment of our society.
I know that sounds awfully alarmist, but let's at least consider the
directions our choices can lead to. I don't generally like "slippery
slope" arguments, but maybe they have some value now and then.
From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
Behalf Of Judith A. Vaughan-Sterling
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 12:34 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [PCCLIST] David Banush's message
Like anything else that ever causes an uproar, David's "Culture wars"
message had, in my opinion, quite a grain of truth, and if we all took a
deep breath, we'd be better able to address the very real problems the
profession faces. Several messages have objected to David's use of the
conservative librarian stereotype, European welfare states, etc. I don't
know anything about welfare states, but I do know the librarian
stereotype is loosely based (as are most stereotypes) in fact, so
David's comment is not without merit. I have known many of us who fit
nicely into stereotypical patterns (probably I do myself). People
discussing on AUTOCAT the use of punctuation in the 246 field (and
similar discussions) just confirm this impression in my mind.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are all in danger, so let's work together. Our
administrators don't know what we do, and don't value us. My daughter,
a Dean's List student at a prestigious university (not where I work),
has completed her freshman year without once going into the library. She
did go to the high school library once (to use the laser printer). She
says she gets everything she needs over the Internet. Apparently her
professors agree. There is nothing we are going to be able to do to
I suggest we take advantage of keyword searching where we can (for
eaxmple, in series statements), and use the time freed up to see how we
can re-envision our OPACs in this age of Google, so it will remain one
of the resources kids like my daughter can find on the Internet. I'm
afraid we'll go the way of the dodo bird otherwise.
Judith A. Vaughan-Sterling Voice: (215) 898-7299
Principal Catalog Librarian Internet: [log in to unmask]
Biddle Law Library Fax: (215) 573-1199
3460 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3406