Library catalogs and agism

Subject: Library catalogs and agism
From: "lydiaw -at- gte -dot- net" <lydiaw -at- GTE -dot- NET>
Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 11:01:00 -0400

Tim Altom recently expressed the opinion that computerized card catalogs
in libraries were of benefit "primarily for the library staff" and not
for the patrons. I'd like to respond, as I have a master's degree in
library science and I worked in libraries for years (just now I'm a tech
writer).

Libraries deal with huge amounts of standardized information every day
and need to provide the fastest possible ways to access that information
for both the library staff AND the patrons. The information needs to be
available by title, author, and subject, as well as by other search keys
such as call number and ISBN (most often used by the staff). It is an
obvious use of database software and computer technology to catalog
materials and to provide as many means of access as possible. Plain and
simple, card catalogs do not provide all the access points that
computerized catalogs do. Therefore, computerized catalogs help staff
and patrons.

I could go on at length about how difficult and time consuming it is for
libraries to switch to computerized catalogs, and the amount of
maintenance and training involved (no less than for card catalogs), but
that belongs on a library forum, I guess. :-) I do want to add though,
that if not for computerized catalogs, we could not use the Internet to
search the vast resources of materials cataloged in libraries all over
the world.

As for agism, I think that wise companies and managers realize that
people of all ages, as well as all sexes, races, and cultural
backgrounds, have something to offer, and the more diverse your staff
is, the better you can address the needs of a diverse clientele.
Closed minds equal closed markets (and a less healthy work environment).

Just my two cents,
Lydia Wong
lydiaw -at- fpoint -dot- com


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