NELINET Bibliographic Services Conference

I’m here at the NELINET Bibliographic Services Conference at the College of the Holy Cross today.

The conference is titled “Google vs. the OPAC: the challenge is on!” and there’s quite a lineup of speakers.

My presentation is on “the social life of metadata.” My slides are online, and below is some background.

**The Library Catalog…

** The catalog is among a library’s most important assets. An unread book offers little value, but the catalog offers the promise that the library’s resources will be found and used, and a well constructed catalog makes the finding easier by offering rich details and easy navigation.

**…vs. The Google Economy

** One of the most critical differences between the search behavior of librarians search and that of a typical patron is the conscious decisions librarians make to define the question and identify specific resources to search. Many patrons, however, pose their question in simple terms to the nearest search engine, and refine it over successive searches until an answer is found.

Patrons are increasingly unlikely to consider questions of where or what resources to search prior to executing their first search attempt.

**The Systems We Build Shape The Search Results We Get

** We must remember that search results reflect the resources and metadata indexed by the search engine. Search engines offer us the opportunity for libraries to deliver quality information to patrons who need it, but who have not yet thought to search library systems specifically.

So, in addition to outstanding ease of use and quality search features, a well constructed catalog must optimize the linkability and indexability or our data.

**Findability Is Paramount

** “What we find changes who we become.” So reads the subtitle to Peter Morville’s Ambient Findability.

The internet and search engines offer our patrons access to more information sources than ever, making our role in the findability equation ever more important. The challenge is to take advantage of how search engines work, to manage the tools that manage our information.