The attached URL is to an interesting post on the Google Library project in which the blogger makes the interesting comment that
In spite of their inherent slowness, organizing information is a job that’s still best done by people, and in most places those people are called librarians. I admit librarians can’t begin to sort all the available information, but at least for them preserving, categorizing, and creating access to the information that people need is a higher priority than content–targeted advertising. The insistence of librarians on continuing to use what might seem like arcane and antiquated systems — such as the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress systems — is as much for the benefit of patrons as it is for the librarians who shelve the books. These systems were designed to keep the materials on platypuses in one place and the materials on stuffed toys in another.
In a world of full-text engines, should we look to cataloguing systems based on human intelligence to do something different than a machine-based catalogue would.
I remember Jon Bing telling me 15 years back that for all the legal publishers vaunted emphasis on the value-added elements provided by headnotes written by trained lawyers, when one actually did the vocabulary analysis most headnotes simply reused the same terms as the judge did in the first place – no additional terms to attract a search engine that wouldn’t have been there in the first place.
I’ve always argued that as open source services like Canlii and the other LIIs expand their corpus of caselaw, the publishers must significantly enhance the value of their editorial additions in order to justify the expense of subscriptions.
Of course, this argument is undercut by the paranoia of lawyers that they may have missed something of value and the relative price insensitivity of purchasers of legal materials.