23 November 2008

Technical Parables

Friday night's New York Technical Service Librarians fall dinner program -- yes, I am behind here -- featured a compelling talk by the Library of Congress' Thomas Mann. Entitled "The Reference Librarian's Toolkit," Mann's presentation focused on the limitations of keyword and federated searching, researchers' ignorance of the power of controlled vocabularies (i.e. LCSH) and conceptual categorization, and the general dumbing down of search tools.

Mann was eloquent; I couldn't possibly reconstruct his arguments. Lucky for you, a number of his recent papers are freely available for download at the Library of Congress Professional Guild website, including "The Peloponnesian War and the Future of Reference, Cataloging, and Scholarship in Research Libraries".

And in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the NYTSL board. Thus, I have limited my subjective commentary on Mann's speech to the words "compelling" and "eloquent" and my impression of the event itself to, well, nothing. I leave that task to my readers. What did you think?

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