Reaching our Limits

There are some days when I truly despair for how far behind library catalogs are from the rest of the world.  At work yesterday one of my colleagues was attempting to compile a list of our new DVDs for our patrons and was unable to pull out a single piece of useful from the system besides the titles.  She wanted to list the directors of each film, which couldn’t be done.  She also wanted the year each film was released in cases where there were multiple adaptations, couldn’t be done.

The sad thing is that some of that information was indeed in the records, just not in a useful way.  Anyone who has any role in the production of a film can be listed in a record if the cataloger felt so inclined at the time, but their roles are never assigned and it’s not considered essential information so it only appears sporadically.  

Which officially makes our catalogs less powerful than the IMDB, Google, and the spreadsheet I cobbled together in excel for my own collection.  And don’t think that dvd’s are a unique example, this is par for the course.  Using a catalog try to find comics written but not drawn by Frank Miller, novels written by the actual V.C. Andrews, or a collection containing the Raven by Edgar Allen Poe.

These are all useful, fairly everyday searches that are impossible to conduct using the catalog alone.  And we these are pieces of software we’re paying small ransoms for, which are all the while becoming more and more obsolete.  And to make maters worse, we can accept a large amount of the blame for this ourselves.  While we’re debating the practicalities of FRBR and RDA and generally aren’t getting anywhere with a great deal of speed LibraryThing is merrily marching on with less than a dozen people on staff and have been implementing exactly these sorts of things monthly.

Why can’t we do the same with the resources that come from the rest of the profession?

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