This started as a comment in reply to Jeffrey Beall’s comment on my last post — but, like Topsy, it jus’ grew. So, here it is as a new post.

I think there are folks out there who think cataloging is wholly unnecessary. One might also think article indexing is unnecessary as we have more access through full text searchable databases. I don’t honestly know if they are right and neither does anyone else on either side of the argument.

We dyed-in-the-wool catalogers can rant until the end of time (or the end of cataloging) that “they” are out to destroy us but though a cataloger in my heart I am first a librarian. The purpose of librarianship is not cataloging but providing people with the information they need to be successful in their lives. Cutter’s objects were all about helping folks FIND information. Our first question should be, “How can we best do that?” I can say cataloging and someone else can say Google-books-style access and neither of us can say who is right or wrong because we don’t have EVIDENCE! I mean evidence that user needs are better served by one or the other.

What we are talking about is bibliographic access not cataloging per se. What does bibliographic data need to look like to best serve its purposes. We have always decided this by guess and by golly with a soupçon of but-we’ve-always-done-it-this-way thrown in. RDA both fights against this and caves in to it resulting in a mess.

I have to come back down to earth to get ready to teach the Dewey Decimal System tonight. We continue to educate future librarians in what we do now. How can it be otherwise? But I wish I could tell them we are approaching major changes in a rational way based on openness and evidence. I can’t.

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