Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A social catalog?

Katherine Gould has an excellent post in which she discusses the shortcoming of traditional library catalogs, "A fundamental shortcoming of the library catalog is that it doesn't (and as currently designed can't) know the why for any given search." -- we can only search for what people ask for, independently of why they need the particular information; the purpose of the reference interview is to get to people's real information needs... this reminds me of the distinction between exploitative and descriptive power which Patrick Wilson makes in Two Kinds of Power -- either we give access based on neutral, objective representations of the artiofacts (not possible) or we give access based on an in-depth understanding and appreciate for people's information problems (not possible).

I am not sure if there is why to get around Wilson's analysis, if we still aim at providing one system for access to library material -- it seems to a path bound for failure...

1 comment:

  1. We may not have an in-depth understanding of people's information problems, but sometimes we can guess at these problems. For better or worse, we users are leaving "a massive clickstream database of desires, needs, wants, and preferences that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited for all sorts of ends."[p. 6. The Search], as
    by Lorcan Dempsey.