Delphic cataloging (originally posted 7-19-2010)

I’ve just completed a Delphi study using the editorial board of CCQ as participants to posit a research agenda as part of the Year of Cataloging Research.

It was fun, and the results will appear in an editorial in CCQ in the fall (I’m told it will be in vol. 48, no. 8).

As happens with most research, some startling non-results revealed themselves. That is, a couple of issues came to the surface which weren’t part of the actual study, but I guess I can get away with writing about them here.

One was the frequent iteration of the sentiment that classification isn’t important because its only purpose is shelving (see below July 7 under “Cataloging for all *time*?”). Reflecting on this leads me in a couple of directions. I guess the first gut reaction is that we’re certainly not succeeding as a domain (KO I mean) if that point of view is still prominent among working professionals. I get this all the time from LIS students, and then I work really hard to convince them that classification is for more than shelving (and I don’t always succeed with them, because all they have to do is look around their libraries, or look at American Libraries for stories that abandon Dewey for Barnes-and-Noble-style groupings). But on deeper reflection it seems to me we have to work harder to make the case for classification as a fundamental aspect of information retrieval. Or for that matter, of information itself. It isn’t just that classification could be used to facilitate more efficacious retrieval, although it could and that has been known all through my career in the field. But there also is the empirical knowledge that phenomena generate inherent heuristics for their own classification, and these can provide natural means of translating among KOS.

Another surprise, and I guess I really shouldn’t have been surprised, was the number of folks who called for gathering basic empirical data about catalogs and cataloging. There has been quite a lot of that research, and my two papers on “theory” both addressed the cumulation of those data (Further progress in theory in knowledge organization Canadian journal of information and library science 26 n2/3 (2002): 30-49. ; and The progress of theory in knowledge organizationÂť Library trends 50 (2002): 300-49). But of course those pieces just marked a way-station, as it were; there could and should be a lot more empirical evidence-gathering. But there also is the continuing problem that research results aren’t disseminated in the domain.


Posted November 17, 2010 by lazykoblog in cataloging

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