Dumbing down the catalogue?

PAC "classic"

image credit: Ann Arbor Library

Thanks to a tweet from Marshall Breeding – a well known commentator on Library IT trends, I’ve just read this article, which is interesting not least for the response it has generated, summarised here.

Of course this is a debate that has been going on for years, just this week it surfaced again at an eLibrary team meeting as we discussed next week’s demo of Primo, the first in a series of sessions looking at next generation library catalogues.

I think this, from Susan L. Gibbons, vice provost and dean of the River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester, is as good a summary of the debate as I’ve seen, and as someone who in the past has had at least one foot planted firmly in the “dumbing down is bad” camp, I now find myself happy to agree with pretty much everything she has to say:

“The commentary shows the all-too-common divide within libraries about information literacy. Some pine for the good old days when students had no choice but to come to the physical library and be forced to learn the idiosyncrasies of mastering a research tool, such as journal indices and the power of Library of Congress subject headings.  Personally, I think libraries have gone from being in a monopolistic to a competitive marketplace for information; and that marketplace shift requires different thinking about services. I am of the opinion that libraries should do everything they can to lower the barrier of entry. Nothing should stand in the way of a student entering some search terms and discovering good resources. Once the student has entered into the (virtually or physically) library, then the rich complexities can be revealed.”