The Library of Congress recently issued a report that challenges assumptions about the traditional library catalog and proposes new directions for the research library catalog in the digital era. Commissioned by the Library and prepared by Associate University Librarian Karen Calhoun of Cornell University, the report assesses the impact of the Internet on the traditional online public access catalog and concludes that library patrons want easy-to-use catalogs that are accessible on the Web.
The report, "The Changing Nature of the Catalog and Its Integration with Other Discovery Tools," grew out of the Library of Congress Bicentennial Conference on Bibliographic Control for the New Millennium, held in November 2000.
The conference also led to new curricula for schools of library science, continuing education courses for mid-career librarians wishing to update their skills for the digital world, publications on research in automated cataloging and the development of the Cataloger's Learning Workshop, a Web-based clearinghouse of information for catalogers and library educators. Most of these projects were collaborations among the Library of Congress, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging and the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), a division of the American Library Association.
"This superbly researched report promises to elicit open, thoughtful and productive discourse at the Library of Congress and in the research library community as a whole," said Beacher Wiggins, the Library's director of Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access.
"As the amount of information on the World Wide Web increases each day, it is critical that librarians continue to provide researchers with organized access to quality information."
The report proposes that libraries define the communities they aim to serve; choose a strategic option for their catalogs; allow users to access full electronic content from the catalog; reduce the costs of producing catalogs; enrich the catalog for users by including book reviews, images of book jackets and related information; and offer troubleshooting services and rush delivery of library materials.
The report also presents a concrete planning process to help libraries make good decisions, market their services, introduce change in their organizations and obtain funding.
Karen Calhoun is an internationally respected leader in the library and information communities. She oversees the acquisition and cataloging of books, online library resources and special-format materials for Cornell University's 20 libraries. She holds degrees in library science and business administration and has lectured on library technical services, staff development and project management in cities ranging from New York to Hong Kong.
The Library of Congress maintains the world's largest library catalog, containing more than 35 million records for titles and holdings. Each year more than 1.2 million records are added to the Library of Congress Online Catalog, which is accessible on the Library's Web site at www.loc.gov.
"The Changing Nature of the Catalog and Its Integration with Other Discovery Tools" is available free of charge at www.loc.gov/catdir/calhoun-report-final.pdf.