David Lee King has an interesting post of notes taken at a presentation by Marshall Breeding at ALA Midwinter in Denver. The idea that libraries should use the experiences and search behavior of their patrons is one that I strongly support. A generation ago, we had to start from scratch with every patron. Perhaps more importantly, they did not see the value of information. Now, we have a generation of library users that grasp the importance of information and also have a well developed set of information seeking behaviors. But, we push back arguing that our systems are more precise, often holding up the beauty of controlled vocabulary as the primary example. However, if our systems make no sense to our users (and any academic librarian who teaches a lot of BI sessions know that they do not), then we should use the systems that do make sense to them as models. I really like Breeding’s point about Amazon; why is it that our facets are incomprehensible to users while Amazon’s require no training? I think this has to do with the nature of faceted library catalogs. They pull the facets from the MARC record. To the majority of library users, the information from the MARC record is of little use.
But there is another thing about the library catalog that has been bothering my lately. When I search for books by an unfamilar author, all I get is a list of records without context. What I mean is that I have no way of knowing if it is considered an authoritative source. Also, I don’t know if it is considered A major wor by that author. To get this information, I have to go to Amazon. So me, a librarian who believes in the power of our systems, is forced to go to a commercial website for necessary information. We really need to rectify this situation or risk being faced with obsolescence.