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Re: [ARSCLIST] Digital "catalogry"--was: Tape baking question

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Karl Miller" <lyaa071@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> On Wed, 11 Oct 2006, Steven C. Barr(x) wrote:
> > Now, quite seriously...it seems to me possible that we (that
> > being a VERY general "we!") could start using a process whereby
> > all the necessary information needed to "catalog" (standard
> > format here assumed) an entity (i.e book, sound recording,
> > physical/digital document, photograph (still or movie) or
> > similar such thingies...would be placed on a microchip which
> > would then be attached/inserted/whatever in/to/upon the thing
> > being catalogued!
> I believe that a similar idea is a solution. From my perspective,
> the very notion of "cataloging" runs contrary to the nature of information
> in the digital world. Information is its point of access. This notion is
> cleary understood by the major search engines like yahoo, google, et al.
> The information included at the header of any audio file could be all that
> there is for the purposes of identification. That information is perhaps a
> file unto itself, but it need not be isolated in a separate database.
> >From my perspective, the notions of authority control, and lets face it,
> uniform title and subject headings for music are too labor intensive and
> relate to the old linear information environment. Maybe this is still
> appropriate for print materials...well I guess we really don't need the
> subject headings and uniform title, but I think of what we could
> accomplish if instead of hiring a cataloger, a library hired at least one
> person trained in reformatting...I know, I am talking heresy and would
> probably be stoned to death at any library association meeting...
Well, here it seems to me that you are confusing the two "similar
but different" uses of databases (be they digital or drawers full
of cards...). On the one hand, we have the "catalog," which is
simply a collection of data listing (and describing, to the
necessary/desired extent) the physical items (of given sorts)
that an individual, institution or set of institutions have in
his/her/its/their posession. The purpose(s) of this data is/are
(at least) twofold...to provide information to thase accessing,
or wishing to access, the listed collection so that they can
determine if the item (or, in some cases, some information)
is part of that collection...and to provide information to
the entity that owns or controls the collection such that
said entity can makes informed decisions on acquisition
(or disposal) of items. For instance, a good example would
be a Sears & Roebuck catalog...which listed the items they
offered for sale (as of its date) and augmented that with
information about the items (description, price, etc.).

The second type of database (and this seems to be what you
were thinking of) is a collection of data concerning EVERY
known item of a given type (for phonorecords, this would
be a "discography"). If this data collection exists in
digital form (as it should) then an application can be
created which would search the digital file ("query" it)
and return a listing of all data records in the database
that meet the condition specified in the query. This, in
fact, is exactly what "search engines" do, except that
they are usually querying massive sets of data records!

Now, because (or, should I say "if") a catalog database
often contains a substantial amount of information about
a fairly large set of objects held in a collection, it
can also serve as an informational database. The drawback
is, of course, that all (AFAIK) collections are less than
complete...so its catalog will only provide information
on the subset of items in the applicable collection.
There is, of course, always the possibility that the
collection may contain one-off items that are otherwise
unknown (like my strange Radiex disc which seems to be
promoting Grey Gull's electric recordings?!) But, the
MAJOR function of a catalog database is still to
list the items that the collector possesses!

So...informational databases can and should be digital
(I've detailed why I decided this)...and can and (possibly)
should be accessible via the Internet. It is advantageous
to make catalog databases similarly available (if only
because it saves me an eight-block walk to see if the
local library has something).

However, per your (and other ARSCLIST) comments about the
state of cataloguing and collection documentation, it 
appears that a lot of institutions have even less knowledge
of what they own and where it's kept than I do...and at 
least I have an excuse. That is why the purpose of my
"suggestion" was only to see if there could be a way
to make cataloguing faster and simpler!

Steven C. Barr

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