the people's card catalog (a thought) 05.30.2007, 1:31 PM
posted by ben vershbow
New partners and new features. Google has been busy lately building up Book Search. On the institutional end, Ghent, Lausanne and Mysore are among the most recent universities to hitch their wagons to the Google library project. On the user end, the GBS feature set continues to expand, with new discovery tools and more extensive "about" pages gathering a range of contextual resources for each individual volume.
Recently, they extended this coverage to books that haven't yet been digitized, substantially increasing the findability, if not yet the searchability, of thousands of new titles. The about pages are similar to Amazon's, which supply book browsers with things like concordances, "statistically improbably phrases" (tags generated automatically from distinct phrasings in a text), textual statistics, and, best of all, hot-linked lists of references to and from other titles in the catalog: a rich bibliographic network of interconnected texts (Bob wrote about this fairly recently). Google's pages do much the same thing but add other valuable links to retailers, library catalogues, reviews, blogs, scholarly resources, Wikipedia entries, and other relevant sites around the net (an example). Again, many of these books are not yet full-text searchable, but collecting these resources in one place is highly useful.
It makes me think, though, how sorely an open source alternative to this is needed. Wikipedia already has reasonably extensive articles about various works of literature. Library Thing has built a terrific social architecture for sharing books. There are a great number of other freely accessible resources around the web, scholarly database projects, public domain e-libraries, CC-licensed collections, library catalogs.
Could this be stitched together into a public, non-proprietary book directory, a People's Card Catalog? A web page for every book, perhaps in wiki format, wtih detailed bibliographic profiles, history, links, citation indices, social tools, visualizations, and ideally a smart graphical interface for browsing it. In a network of books, each title ought to have a stable node to which resources can be attached and from which discussions can branch. So far Google is leading the way in building this modern bibliographic system, and stands to turn the card catalogue of the future into a major advertising cash nexus. Let them do it. But couldn't we build something better?
Steven Harris on May 30, 2007 2:37 PM:
I really like those Google Book "about" pages. I think we need to somehow partner with them to make that our OPAC record. For people who have identified their home library, the "borrow this book" link would actually say, "this book is in your library," and you'd just click there to get the call number and location.
With OpenURL, Open WorldCat, Z39.50, and APIs from Amazon, Google etc. Somebody (who is smarter than me) ought be able mashup a pretty damned fine catalog record! Have at it!
bowerbird on June 1, 2007 3:18 AM:
> couldn't we build something better?
sure. start it up. action is infectious.
Laura Cohen on June 1, 2007 12:03 PM:
Speaking as a librarian: just please don't call it a "card catalog"!