I finally had a chance to read Martha's article. One sentence in
particular caught my attention.
"The implication in the Calhoun report that Google and Amazon.com are
comparable to a library catalog and that libraries are in competition with
Google and Amazon.com, are dangerous falsehoods."
I think that is an unfortunate misinterpretation. I know that many people
were upset by Karen Calhoun's report, but I think it was an important
wake-up call. Since I was one of the people that Karen interviewed, I must
take issue with Martha. Karen (& I) did NOT imply that Google & Amazon are
comparable to a library, but rather that users of these sites want, and
often expect, the functionality and added value offered by these sites and
we could enhance the functionality of our library OPACS by integrating
some of these user services. The Ann Arbor Public Library has already done
some of this by allowing users to add their own tags.
As an anecdotal example of the benefits of this, I searched the AAPL
catalog for a mystery book that I recently read by Sujata Massey, where
the primary subject of the book was "Manga"--Japanese graphic novels that
have become very popular. I searched by the author's name and found the
book; none of the LCSH referred to Manga. On the main screen, the right
sidebar listed the top ten most popular tags assigned by users. Manga was
second on the list! Now, I'm not saying that we should discard LCSH in
favor of user tags; there were some very useful Fiction Subject Headings
assigned, includng the name of the main character. But it was obvious from
looking at the popular tag list that AAPL was reaching a user group that
is very familiar with the term. The user tags (clearly marked as such)
supplemented the LCSH and added value to the catalog for many users.
There is nothing wrong with adopting techniques from the commercial sector
that will enhance what we are doing and provide greater functionality for
our users. That does not mean "throw the baby out with the bath water,"
but we could add some aroma therapy to help the baby sleep better!
Dr. Sherry Vellucci
School of Information, Communication and Library Science
4 Huntington St.
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
732-932-7500 ext. 8232
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