Searching for information within a book chapter when you don’t own the book is a pain. Medline and other online databases have spoiled me. I can easily hop on to Medline and verify a citation or do a funky search for a specific keyword in the abstract, it is second nature to me. But give me a list of 5 book chapters that I need to verify the correct page numbers and it turns into a royal pain in the butt that can take me several hours to do.
Why have we librarians allowed books to be indexed and organized so poorly? This was our bread and butter for so long, yet we fell asleep at the keyboard. Catalogers strive to add all sorts of information such as the size of the book whether it has illustrations or bibliographic references, but there is no system wide requirement to add the table of contents in the catalog. Honestly that is some of the most important information. The table of contents often more accurately reflects the contents of the book than some of the subject terms that our catalogers so painstakingly assign.
Yet when I search for the book Female Urology, Urogynecology and Voiding Dysfunction in LocatorPlus, WorldCat and Amazon.com, guess which place has the table of contents on their site? Click on Search inside of this book on Amazon and voila the table of contents. Neither LocatorPlus nor WorldCat have the table of contents. It is only after I clicked on the fourth library (University of Western Ontario) listed on WorldCat was I directed to a catalog record that contained the table of contents. (WorldCat lists results are according to proximity. Those closest to your current location display first, so depending on where you are your results list may be different than mine.)
Why is it that we librarians require the size of the book in the cataloging record but we can’t require that the table of contents be added to our local or national catalogs? Frankly I find it quite sad that the National Library of Medicine’s LocatorPlus doesn’t have the table of contents for a medical book but Amazon.com sure does.
Now Amazon.com doesn’t have the table of contents for every book. When Amazon doesn’t have it and LocatorPlus, OhioLink, and the libraries within WorldCat don’t have the table of contents I do some deep digging within Google to find the information, or I end up calling or emailing a library that does own the book asking them for a special favor to pull the book from their shelves to help me verify the correct chapter information.
Why is it that almost every recent journal article in PubMed has an abstract that can tell us more about the article but we don’t seem to have that for books in our catalogs? Do I need point out that Amazon.com has this? This should be built into our catalogs. Having the table of contents and the abstract to the book is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than the size of the book which is in many cataloging records. What user cares that the book is 27cm?
And librarians wonder why users are using Google or Amazon.com instead of the catalog to find books.
There are arguments back and forth about the death of the library and trying to grab users on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. But if we as an organizational group can’t get our own national systems like LocatorPlus better and providing helpful information, we are going to have a real problem. The reason I say it needs to be national systems is because many librarians download the records from NLM. Additionally, when you do a search on Google for a medical textbook, results from LocatorPlus should be listed right up their with Amazon.com.
I am not a cataloger I am not hip to all of the things that go on with ILS. Perhaps something is a foot that me and the users don’t know about. I would love to hear a cataloger’s thoughts on some of this.