Will Google’s Keyword Searching Eliminate the Need for LC Cataloging and Classification?Here’s a great quote:
Thomas Mann is a Reference Librarian in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; he is the author of The Oxford Guide to Library Research (3rd ed. forthcoming in October, 2005). This paper was written for AFSCME 2910.
Google Print does not "change everything" regarding the need for professional cataloging and classification of books; its limitations make cataloging and classification even more important to researchers. Google’s keyword search mechanism, backed by the display of results in "relevance ranked" order, is expressly designed and optimized for quick information seeking rather than scholarship. Internet keyword searching does not provide scholars with the structured menus of research options, such as those in OPAC browse displays, that they need for overview perspectives on the book literature of their topics. Keyword searching fails to map the taxonomies that alert researchers to unanticipated aspects of their subjects. It fails to retrieve literature that uses keywords other than those the researcher can specify; it misses not only synonyms and variant phrases but also all relevant works in foreign languages. Searching by keywords is not the same as searching by conceptual categories. Google software fails especially to retrieve desired keywords in contexts segregated from the appearance of the same words in irrelevant contexts. As a consequence of the design limitations of the Google search interface, researchers cannot use Google to systematically recognize relevant books whose exact terminology they cannot specify in advance. Cataloging and classification, in contrast, do provide the recognition mechanisms that scholarship requires for systematic literature retrieval in book collections.
There is a categorical distinction between "prior specification" and "recognition" subject searching techniques. Keywords inquiries–no matter how the words are weighted, ranked, massaged, or manipulated–essentially give you only those results having the terms you’ve been able to specify in advance. They do not bring to you attention, except by chance, conceptual options that are slightly different in their focus. They do not allow you to recognize related sources whose terms you cannot think of beforehand.
Christina's LIS Rant by Christina K. Pikas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
Christina Kirk Pikas
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