That headline may be a bit of an exaggeration, but if you kinda/sorta think the library catalog sucks in today’s Googling world and must be improved if libraries are to thrive and remain relevant, then you might want to subscribe to NGC4Lib, the “Next Generation Catalog” listserv, which is ripe with contentious (usually respectful, sometimes not, always enlightening) debate over just what needs to change and why with regard to the “precious” library catalog. I say “precious” because subscribers were recently treated to this comment at the end of a lengthy post by Alexander Johannsen, one of the more vocal (and rebellious) and forward-thinking contributors:

“To which you have responded ‘It’s a catalog. It shouldn’t be anything else, and if it needs to be something else, build something else, don’t touch the catalog! I loves it! It’s miiiine! Myyyy
preciiiiiousssssssssss!'”

Ha! Too funny (and too true, in the minds of some, unfortunately).

We have also been recently treated to a spot-on visual presentation by James Weinheimer of an imaginary encounter between a patron and “the library catalog”, which is represented in human form. The dialogue between the patron and the “catalog’ is meant to represent the inadequacy of our current OPACs to address user needs and wants (and oh my, there’s another hot topic on this list–user needs and wants!).

I’m telling you, this listserv is hopping and fully loaded with content from old schoolers, newbies, renegades, critical thinkers, rebels, the reasonably moderate, and the outrageously irreverent–good stuff! I’ve been tempted to comment many times; however, these are the big guns, the “players”, and I don’t think I have enough gumption (or cred) to weigh in. But it would be fun to see if I could get Alex or James to notice me!

Not only does the list provide entertaining, informative discussion about important and current topics, it illustrates oh-so effectively the reasons why things change so slowly in libraryland (oops! I used the term I loathe). But libraryland seems like the right term to use to describe the culture of absolute refusal on the parts of some to recognize that what is needed is a complete rethinking of our library-ish search and retrieval system rather than “tweaking” or “perfecting the irrelevant” as Weinheimer recently, effectively pointed out. This listserv serves as a microcosm for the larger debate going on everywhere in this land-o-library: How do we get people to see (and use) libraries as effective and relevant in today’s information-loaded, search engine-happy world? What assumptions must we question? What coveted traditions must we abandon? How do we change not just for change’s sake, but for the sake of survival?

And what outrageous debate will take place next over on NGC4? Looking forward to it!