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August 03, 2006


In re discoverability vs. availability - we used to call that intellectual access vs. physical access. The catalog, indexing services, and pathfinders were intended to provide intellectual access; that is, "a solution exists" access. I strongly disagree with you about the library's role in providing intellectual access. I do agree that in most cases Amazon does it better than the *standard* catalog (one without faceted results presentation or visualization tools). Where commercial systems work better, libraries use them -- librarians use Google and Amazon and we also use Compendex, Inspec, ABI/Inform, etc. Those are commercial systems that supplement in-house systems. Some in-house tools work better because they are tailored to the specific needs of the user.

I think libraries have a definite role in discoverability because we're all about the user/customer/patron. We provide the interface to help the user search better. But... we also need to provide better visualization tools for our materials so we can have electronic serendipity like we used to have serendipity in the stacks.

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