There’s a new post on The LibraryThing Blog that caught my attention – Flash-Mob Cataloging. What is Flash-Mob Cataloging? According to LibraryThing, it’s “when a horde of LibraryThing members descend on some small library with laptops and CueCat barcode scanners, catalog their books in LibraryThing, eat some pizza, talk some talk and leave them with a gleaming new LibraryThing catalog.”
Has anyone else heard of this concept? What do you think?
While I wholeheartedly support social catalogs and user-generated tagging, review writing, reading suggestions/recommendations and so on, I hesitate at the idea of good-intentioned lay people (albeit computer savvy, book-loving lay people) descending upon a library or knowledge institution to catalog their collection.
Who decides a “good” record from a “bad” one? What about authorities and the proper use of tags? While many of these records are taken from libraries (even the Library of Congress), there is also an element of professional judgment involved in choosing a record.
While there is research available to prove that when a large number of tags are created, uniformity and patterns in tags do appear, that does not mean that rules for use of the tags are also created. How we apply subject headings and access points are part of our expertise. If records are pulled in from multiple sources, subject headings and access points will be far from uniform. Will a project be undertaken to clean-up the bibliographic and authority records?
The emergence of discovery tools also brings in an interesting problem. These smaller institutions will run into difficulties when attempting to overlay their catalogs with discovery platform tools. These tools rely on properly cataloged records to retrieve information. The platform is only as good as the record. If there are spelling errors or lack of uniformity in subject headings and descriptive information (think multilingual items!), the discovery tool will be less than successful. And, discovery tools are known for exposing your bad records.We are all well-acquainted with the bare bones records of our past that still creep up in our catalogs today
One thing I absolutely agree with in the Flash-Mob Cataloging posts – Cataloging is FUN!! Yes, it really is.