Monday, November 24, 2008

"A Useful Amplification of Records That Are Unavoidably Needed Anyway" by Brett Bonfield

I just read a lengthy blog entry about five different online catalgs and how each measures up to the ideal of a universal catalog. None of them aims at that ideal, but each approaches it and so may be used that way by librarians.

Amazon - After some interesting discussion of Amazaon's business model (this guy has done his homework!) the author points that the commercial imperatives that drive Amazaon's database mean that the old and out-of-print are less likely to be found in its database.

Google - The Google Books project is just one of the many initiatives he discusses here. Google has overcome technical and legal obstacles to catalog and digitize a large number of books. Whether these remain available or not depends on whether the revenue from Google's principle venture can support it or whether the Books project can somehow support itself.

LibraryThing -- demonstrates the power of "crowdsourcing" in tagging and disambiguation. The latter is a time-consuming task and difficult for machines to accomplish. Many people addressing it at once can work wonders.

WorldCat -- not the great union of all catalogs that I supposed it was. Do not assume that all libraries are OCLC members. Small ones are less likely to belong. So, the list of libraries that own a particular item may omit a few locations and some obscure items of local interest may not appear at all. It misses the end of the long tail.

Open Library -- The Internet Archive preserved web pages and the Open Library is a further development from it that seeks to preserve the content of books. Along the way, it might also create a universal catalog. Libraries can donate their records or the Open Library could obtain them by means of some kind of spider.


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