Friday, September 10, 2010

We Bear a Heavy Burden

Interesting news on Salon about Google Books, which apparently is riddled with interesting quirks, such as:

Sigmund Freud is listed as a co-author of a book on the Mosaic Web browser and Henry James is credited with writing "Madame Bovary." Even more puzzling are the many subject misclassifications: an edition of "Moby Dick" categorized under "Computers," and "Jane Eyre" as "Antiques and Collectibles" ("Madame Bovary" got that label, too).


Librarians will instantly nod when we learn that this is a metadata problem, where the information in the record representing the item is faulty. Oh, metadata, we meet again. Where did I leave that blog I did in that class? seems to have vanished (serves me right for leaving it unattended on the UA server), although a Bloglines preview has preserved some of my remarks. It just goes to show that the internet is a land of contrasts.

You can't assume that something you put online will just stay out there forever, because many times no one cares about it, servers fail or are cleared, and your not-so-deathless prose vanishes into a digital grave.

At the same time, you can't assume that something you put online won't just stay out there forever, because if anyone does care about it, whether to laud it, deride it, or use it as evidence in a lawsuit, it will be copied, stored in multiple locations (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe!), and become nearly impossible to eradicate.

One must be constantly prepared both for immortal infamy, and for unbroken obscurity.

Anyway, the larger point is, yes, that Google Books needs catalogers. Of course they do. Everyone needs catalogers! When will the world shower us with the adulation, money and chocolate we so richly and obviously deserve?

I got this from Aunt B. at Tiny Cat Pants, who linked it with the astute observation, "Well, Some Librarians Will Have Jobs in the Future."


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