Notes From Readings on Discovery – Catalog focused blog posts

Tim Spalding is writing a series on catalog enrichment:—Part-One-Where-Weve-Been.html

the first wave of catalog enrichment was all about static elements—book summaries, tables of contents, published reviews” and “cover images

such enrichments came from the growing sense that Amazon—for all its faults—was doing something right: presenting books in a way patrons wanted to see them.

The second wave used “cross-site JavaScript” and “exposed user data,” especially their reviews and tags

the second wave “moved catalog enrichment beyond data into full-fledged two-way services” … “library patrons could add their own reviews, create lists, and search and browse hand-picked and algorithmic read-alikes while still essentially in the catalog itself

I would add faceted displays, locally implemented discovery layers like Blacklight and the merging of catalogs into discovery services like Summon as a third wave – maybe Tim will discuss these efforts in his followup article?

Karen Coyle is writing a series on the development of library catalogs -based on her presentations at ELAG:

Because we present the catalog as a retrieval tool for unrelated items, users have come to see the library catalog as nothing more than a tool for known item searching. They do not see it as a place to explore topics or to find related works.

In the past catalogs had cards, one for the main entry and separate cards for headings: “all bibliographic data was subordinate to a layer of headings that made up the catalog…  that heading layer was… the only entry to the content of the library.

Innovation:  Use “printed cards and type (or write) the desired headings onto the top of the card. Each of these would have the full bibliographic information” … users would no “longer need to follow ‘see’ references from headings to the one full entry card in the catalog

The printed card “combined bibliographic information and heading tracings in a single ‘record’, with the bibliographic information on the card being an entry point to the headings.”

Innovation: “The MARC record was designed to have all of the information needed to print the set of cards for a book” … “Here again the bibliographic information and the heading information were together in a single unit, and it even followed the card printing convention of the order of the entries, with the bibliographic description at top, followed by headings. With the MARC record, it was possible to not only print sets of cards, but to actually print the headers on the cards, so … they were ready to go into the catalog at their respective places.

the catalog is composed of cards for headings that have attached to them the related bibliographic description. Most items in the library are represented more than once in the catalog. The catalog is a catalog of headings.

In most computer-based catalogs, the relationship between headings and bibliographic data is reversed: the record with bibliographic and heading data, is stored once; access points, analogous to the headings of the card catalog, are extracted to indexes that all point to the single record.

Indexes of the database system are not visible to the user. This is the opposite of the card catalog where the entry points were what the user saw and navigated through.

online catalogs are not “a linear, alphabetically ordered list of headings.” Databases  “encourage the use of searching rather than linear browsing. Even if one searches in headings as a left-anchored string, … a search results in a retrieved set of matching entries, not a point in an alphabetical list. There is no way to navigate to nearby entries. The bibliographic data is therefore not provided either in the context or the order of the catalog.

if the catalog uses a visible and logical order, like alphabetical by author and title, or most recent by date, there is no way from the displayed list for the user to get the sense of “where am I?” that was provided by the catalog of headings.

A “major difference between the card catalog and the computer catalog: the ability to search on individual words in the bibliographic record rather than being limited to seeking on full left-anchored headings… keyword searching was both a boon and a bane because it was a major factor in the loss of context in the library catalog.

So how do we get context back? Faceting based on headings seems to provide that. I will check back with Karen as she continues her series.


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