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The text of Martha Yee's paper, for those not on AUTOCAT (like me), has been posted on the cataloging wiki at James Madison University as a word document. You can get it at http://tinyurl.com/2vcqvx

My major concern with Yee's paper, and with others like it, is that she doesn't seem willing to admit that the tools being used for automated indexing and classification of materials are extremely complex and the subject of massive investments in research and development. Google and Amazon's algorithms are much more than "word counting or counting the number of times users gain access to a particular URL," and the presence of these over-simplistic and indeed mistaken attacks makes me uninclined to give any of Yee's other arguments much credence.

Where automated systems really shine is with textually-rich materials, particularly full-text, an area with which library cataloging has not traditionally been concerned. Automated systems can do nothing with a physical object if it has not already been converted to digital form; instead, these systems rely on human-created surrogates (metadata) generated by publishers, authors, readers, and, yes, catalogers. I myself am convinced that more and more materials will be available digitally in the future, including not only new works but also products of retrospective conversion. It therefore seems common sense to me that cataloging needs to learn to use these new tools, and, therefore, that cataloging education needs to change to include more and different methods of information organization. I actually applaud organization of information courses that look at how supermarkets are organized!

Although neither a professor of cataloging nor a cataloger myself (or so I've been told, as I work primarily with non-MARC metadata), I have great respect for cataloging, and, indeed, I know folks at Google and Yahoo! who express continued respect for and appreciation of the work of catalogers. I think we all agree that we need more investments in cataloging and metadata creation, not fewer, although those investments will not and cannot be targeted at traditional cataloging, the way we've "always" done it. Yee and others would be much better equipped to argue against outsourcing and eliminating cataloging practices if they recognized that essential truth.

N.B. I'm a medievalist by training, so I have to point out that our "traditions" of cataloging have mostly been developed in a mere century of practice! I don't think that's quite enough time to show that they have "permanent" utility.

Danielle Cunniff Plumer, Ph.D., M.S.I.S.
Coordinator, Texas Heritage Digitization Initiative
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
512.463.5852 (phone) / 512.936.2306 (fax)
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+++Opinions expressed in this email are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the Texas Heritage Digitization Initiative, or any other organization+++

-----Original Message-----

Arlene Taylor <[log in to unmask]> wrote: Hi folks,

I sent the message below to AUTOCAT in response to Martha Yee's paper that 
is soon to be published in American Libraries.

Mac Elrod responded: "Martha Yee is very correct that the lack of 
cataloguing education is a major contributing factor to the decline of the 
quality of bibliographic records in bibliographic utilities and in our 
catalogues, and to the general lack of understanding of cataloguing among 
non cataloguer librarians.  Considering the seriousness of the situation, 
a little hyperbole does not seem out of place to me."

I don't think people reading American Libraries will see it as hyperbole. 
Is our education really "a major contributing factor to the decline of the
quality of bibliographic records in bibliographic utilities and in our
catalogues, and to the general lack of understanding of cataloguing among
non cataloguer librarians"?  Am I right, or is he?  I'm trying to defend 
you guys!  Help me out here!

Thanks, Arlene