The CLA conference was held this year in St. John’s, Newfoundland. I had joined a CLA interest group, the Technical Services Interest Group (TSIG), and this year the TSIG was putting on a special day-long event with speakers and discussions. St. John’s was a long way away, but since I had not had a real vacation for a while, I saw this as an intriguing opportunity to accomplish two things at once. Another reason cropped up, and that was to tune into the vibe of what is happening in the next generation library world. At this point it seems really useful to actually see the library leaders involved, to hear the discussions and presentations directly, and to volunteer to be involved in the development of the field. A new colloborative, user-centred library world is emerging, and new efficiencies and new technologies are allowing this world to emerge which yet retains the reliability and trustworthiness of traditional library service.
I would characterize the field of bibliographic control (aka cataloguing) as entering its third phase. The first phase was the era of the card catalogue, which one had to visit in person at the local library to get anything out of it.
The second phase involved putting the catalogue online, first through dial-up and then through the Internet, so people at home could access it. At the same time cataloguers could access the Internet and add information directly to the catalogue instead of having to rely exclusively on time-consuming print or microfiche reference sources.
The third phase is one in which the catalogue is distributed over the Internet, so that bibliographic information and links to the library’s holdings can be accessed from many places, not just by visiting the library’s web site. Information about books and authors will exist out on the Internet and the local library catalogue will seamlessly merge with that information. Usage statistics and user-supplied data like reviews, tags, and comments can be part of the catalogue that everyone sees. People use information in different ways, and the opportunity now exists to have a library catalogue fit more precisely to the needs of specific individuals as well as to groups related by interest, language, or geography. Already new discovery and delivery web-based interfaces are replacing the current generation of OPACs, with products offerings such as Endeca, Aquabrowser, Primo, and Encore. An international effort is underway to update the catalogue code to bring it out of the card catalogue era. Efforts are being made to integrate library catalogue data with the metadata from other communities such as archives, museums, and digital depositories. To broadly characterize the third phase, the next generation library catalogue is very much focused on making the catalogue more responsive to user needs and to diverse community interests.