Monthly Archives: April 2010

Are catalogues more than an inventory? Or, more than just a place to query library holdings?

Yesterday, Ivy from The Catalogs of Babes, posted a great piece called All catalog queries are reference questions, but not all reference questions are catalog queries.

Ivy’s post goes to the heart of what I’ve been exploring for the past year. In fact, the book I’m currently writing explores the idea that catalogues can be much more than inventories. In fact, if we are willing to redefine and explore the potential of catalogues through the new technologies available to us, they can play a vital role in enhancing not only local “core” library services within the physical branch, but create a remote “all-in-one” branch that includes interaction with reference staff and readers’ advisors.

What struck a chord in this post is Ivy’s exploration of the following:

If catalogs truly aren’t designed to work like reference librarians or Google information searches, then it’s not fair to patrons who have that impression and expectation. It should be on us to make it clear that the catalog is a list of what the library holds and nothing more. Maybe we need to start referring to it as an “inventory” rather than a catalog?

Exploration, acceptance or even the concession that library catalogues can never be more than an inventory should give us all pause; given the technology at our fingertips and the continual growth and maturation of “social” (what I have recently been calling “Collaborative”) catalogues.

The shift has only recently occurred that we no longer compare ourselves to Amazon or Wikipedia, but now to the grander and all-encompassing Google. It is fair to assume that many of our patrons may not understand how the search box in Google differs from our library catalogue and the ranking of results. However, is it safe to assume that users who find themselves on the library website or catalogue believe that the catalogue is another Google? If they do assume we are just another Google search engine on a local scale, why do they believe this and why do they continue to believe this? Does some of the fault lie with us, trying to be all things to all people?

Rather than comparing ourselves to Google, I’d rather look at what the library offers (can offer, doesn’t yet offer, etc.) and the expectations from users as to what they want from us (where does our value lie in community?) and then look at if we are successful at doing this. And, as a result, how to carry out these expectations to meet the mandate and needs set by our users, and our profession.

One of the primary topics I am interested in focuses on the catalogue being MORE than an inventory, rather than just an inventory. If we use the technology at our fingertips, a library catalogue can incorporate reference and readers services into it. There are chat widgets for reference and RA staff that can be placed not only on the catalogue interface, but within the catalogue. There are add-ons to catalogues that includes faceted navigation as well as reading recommendations (NoveList Select).

In that way, catalogues can be more than just an inventory. In fact, catalogues can offer remote patrons access to reference staff, reading recommendations, access to readers’ advisors and access to all of the holdings in the library (including “virtual” holdings like our downloadable collections and subscription databases). In fact, with the genius of Youtube, author readings and other programs that occur at the library (and are recorded) can now be catalogued so that they, too, can be accessed. I’ve even seen libraries work together with local museums, community groups and cultural groups to incorporate museum exhibits, events, courses, organizations and so on in search results within the library catalogue.

As a result, the library catalogue has now become a gateway to numerous core branch services, as well as a wealth of other information not housed within the library.

It is only our own definition of the limitations of what the catalogue can and can not do that hinders the potential of the library catalogue. Will everything work that I suggest? No. Do I want professionals to disagree? Absolutely. It is only through discussion and exploration of these issues that we can truly see the catalogue mature and grow. However, I don’t think that I can accept that the catalogue is only an inventory. Not when I see the wealth of opportunities and creative ways we can use the catalogue now and in the future.

I think Ivy’s post should get us all thinking about the limitations of the catalogue – limitations we place on it, technology and resources place on it and then, we need to explore how many of those limitations we can eliminate.



Filed under Discovery tool platforms, future of cataloguing, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Video: Dewey Humour

Thought you’d appreciate this video of a very avid supporter of Dewey. Okay, not quite how we want to speak to patrons, but definitely a good laugh!


Filed under Dewey

What’s happened to the Cataloguing Librarian?

Lately, it feels as if I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants, trying to balance work, life and writing! The Cataloguing Librarian blog is here to stay, but I’m behind on my blog and professional reading – which has resulted in fewer posts for the past two months.

Within the next two weeks we are physically relocating our Collection Access department (aka Cataloguing dept) to a new branch across town. This, combined with year end (cataloguing backlog), the launch of our new catalogue and the opening of this new branch (meaning a push on all items to that branch) has resulted in long work days and exhaustion in the evenings.

I have a few ideas simmering that I can’t wait to share. This includes thoughts on our new catalogue at HPL, Foursquare, Wolfwalk at NCSU (and its potential for public libraries) and the exploration of libraries without people and books – jumping off from James R. Lund’s recent column “A vending library is no library” in the April 15, 2010 Library Journal issue. I’m also excited to share more ideas on social catalogues (ideas are already buzzing around in my head!)

The next few months will be busy so please be patient. Our department will be settling into our new home and adjusting to life in a branch, rather than a stand-alone location separate and apart from any library branch. I’m looking forward to sharing that experience with you! Also, I’m almost at the halfway point in my first book, The Library Catalogue as a Social Space: Promoting Patron Driven Collections, Online Communities and Enhancing Readers Services – but, work continues on that front. And finally, the OCLC research project with Dr. Louise Spiteri will be in full swing in May and we’ll be preparing for a presentation on this research for CLA in Edmonton (June 2-5).

However, I will continue to blog as time allows and have no plans to take a break from blogging during this time. In fact, I’m hoping that the excitement from the relocation, writing, research and conferences (CLA and ALA) will provide a wealth of ideas and information to share with all of you! And, like many of you, I tend to accomplish more when I’m swamped with deadlines and projects.

I hope all of you continue to enjoy the Cataloguing Librarian!

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Filed under The Cataloguer

AquaBrowser Launches in Eastern Canada

Yesterday, Halifax Public Libraries launched their new discovery tool, AquaBrowser! While still in beta, we’re inviting feedback and I wanted to invite all of you to have a look at our new catalogue – and to provide your input. You can do this through the feedback button at the top of the catalogue, or by posting your thoughts right here!

We’ve been working on this installation for a year – and we’re very happy with the results.


Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Slides: Social Catalogues and Readers’ Advisory Services

For those of you wondering why I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks, my husband and I were in Italy on vacation. Visiting family and touring around, it was a much needed break before the writing deadlines, conferences and Spring yardwork begin!

However, now that I’m back and well-rested (at least for now!), I thought I’d take the time to post my slides from the audio conference that I gave on March 17th.

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Filed under Access Issues, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue