Andrew Pace says that Bibliographic Control Has a Future. I hope so. What we do know is that it has a working group.

I am, of course, very keen on harnessing the power of computational analysis of data to create richer, better forms/methods/systems of bibliographic control. But I have a hard time believing that computational analysis will be able to replace the human analysis of authority data with an acceptable level of control. I am not that much of a technological optimist.

I’m not willing to cede the importance of striving for Cutter’s collocating objective (recall). I don’t want to lose the structure of the catalog. I want it to be augmented with all the cool things we can do now, but I’m too much of a pedant to be comfortable with doing away with series control, or trusting that algorithms are going to be able to accurately disambiguate and reference between names, bibliographic identities, subject terms/tags/headings, titles, works, etc. The more you think about these problems across the reality of the bibliographic universe, the more complicated and messy they seem to become (which is a large part of the fun).

I like the idea of large, distributed groups handling the work that humans do best. In one sense, we already do it through OCLC, but that has its own nest of problems. LibraryThing has shown that this is a viable and useful way to handle authority work out in the open. Lots of people in librarianship are thinking/dreaming/working in this general direction. I think it’s obvious this the way it’s going to have to go. I’m curious, hopeful, nervous about whether we are going to get to “The Future” without losing too much of what is valuable in bibliographic control. Or ending up with more corporate/proprietary control over the results of the work of catalogers (librarian or not).

Anyway, I look forward to following the activities of the working group. Karen Coyle made copious and excellent notes on the meeting on Uses and Users, though I haven’t yet had time to really digest them. Her summary is here. Preceding posts detail individual presentation.

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