Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Longing Look at Bibliographic Databases

I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions,
And I'm giving you a longing look.

Every Day I Write the Book” – Elvis Costello (Web site ; WCid ; Wikipedia)

At what point do landscape changes shift core bibliographic tools – shift as in the tools change and adapt, or shift as in relegate the tools to the dust heap? I direct your attention to a thoughtful and definitely worth-a-read post on this very question:

o Is There a Future for Bibliographic Databases? by John Dupuis (blog: Confessions of a Science Librarian) as a guest blogger on Michael Cairn’s blog, PersonaNonData.

John takes a personal-experience-based appraisal of a number of key professional tools including WorldCat and Books in Print, and offers insights broadly about publishing and the value of metadata going forward.

I commend the full piece to you, but here are some teasers:

o “...in the face of competition from Google Scholar and its ilk, the traditional Abstracting & Indexing databases [are] increasingly hard-pressed to make a case for their usefulness to academic institutions.”

o “Search and discovery are incredibly important to these users, almost more important than the content. They also really don't care about the source of their content, what they really care about is having as few barriers between the content and themselves.”

o “Never underestimate the value of good metadata; never underestimate the value of the people that produce that metadata.”

o “...I will hardly be buying any more print books for my library in 10 years. Libraries are changing, bookstores are changing. Our patrons and customers are the ones driving this change. As my patrons want more digital content, as they use print collections less, as they rely on free search and discovery tools rather than expensive specialized tools, I must change too. As my patrons' needs and habits change, the nature of the collections I will acquire for them will follow those changes -- or I will find myself in big trouble.”

o Fee vs. free: “... BiP, WC and their ilk have to be better than the free alternatives. And not just a little better. And not just better in an abstruse, theoretical way...”

Good search, free tools, high quality metadata, a better value proposition. The times are still a-changing...


Peter Bromberg said...

Hi Eric,

Thanks for directing me to John's post. He's given us a lot to think about. One line keeps replaying in my head (like a catchy tune in a minor key): "[I]f it takes you 20 minutes to explain why you're better, the margin may be too slim." Better get working on my elevator speech!

Eric said...

Peter -- it was a struggle not to just lift the entire post. The length-of-an-elevator-ride describe-it standard has always seemed like a "gold" standard to me.