The Catalog's Last Stand

Those in libraries, and particularly academic libraries should think carefully about this piece by Norm Medeiros at Haverford College. He succinctly throws down a number of good questions lurking in the hazy future of discovery tool development and challenges us in the library profession to position ourselves squarely for a "disrupted" future. Our old model of business will no longer sustain us in the future.

He writes, "A colleague asked recently whether I thought purchase of an enriched online catalog (opac) tool was justified. Rejuvenating the catalog to be a more user-friendly and powerful tool, I told him, is not just warranted, but responsible. Despite this assertiveness, I have doubts concerning the long-term future of the opac and its role in resource discovery."

I agree wholeheartedly with his statement. In a world of digital libraries, and mega-databases pulling together information on broad collections, it is a challenge to conceive of the value added by small tools aimed at small collections and small populations. While I don't believe the role of librarians or information professionals is threatened by the sea change (if we can ride the wave without falling off), but our catalogs may be. Increasingly it would seem we should pay attention to the service and training we provide.