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The Current State - Is the Catalog Relevant?

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The current state - is the catalog relevant?

Today, the online library catalog is in a state of crisis. The current challenges facing the catalog are numerous. There is the challenge of having to catalog ever-increasing inputs; more print titles and online resources exist today than ever before. The high cost of cataloging is a factor as well. "In 2004, [American research] libraries spent an estimated $239 million on technical services labor alone." (Calhoun, 11) But the biggest challenge to cataloging today is competition from other services. (Danskin, 2)

The Catalog began life as an inventory control tool for the sum total of our collective knowledge. Before the internet, the library catalog was the starting point for research. Now, however, the catalog is becoming less and less relevant to scholars and other library users. The OCLC Report of 2005 found evidence that “89% of college students began their searches on the web, with only 2% starting at the library website.” (Calhoun, 37)

In May 1999, at the Medical Library Association's annual meeting, Dick Miller discussed the "frustrations that we encounter regularly at Lane Medial Library, in trying to cope with proliferating digital resources. With burgeoning web development, we [Lane Medical Library] felt that our 'library information' was under-utilized due to its segregation from mainstream web resources, and in danger of becoming marginalized." (Miller,1) What Miller feared in 1999, the under-utilization of library information due to its segregation from other web resources, has already happened.

While we are meeting at conferences to debate the particulars of conceptual models like FRBR, we are losing our constituency. The first wave of defectors left the libraries for bookstores and Amazon.com to get their books. The second wave left the library to get their information from Google and...

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