Trust vs. Control: Continued questions about the future of the catalog

I’m torn. I love the idea of tagged catalogs and user comments, but I’m also still in my honeymoon period with controlled vocabulary (having only graduated from library school 11 months ago). I guess I’m stuck here in the middle on the vocabulary issue just like I’m suspended between genX and genY.

For me, it all comes down to control and trust. Well, it may also have something to do with the fact that I’m located at a four-year college, so trust becomes even more of an issue. I’ve seen the notes scribbled in the margins of used books I’ve bought (most notably the copy of Frankenstein I read in grad school in which some over-eager and under-informed student had wondered which child Shelley was pregnant with when she made reference to a “pregnant pause”). I’ve seen the chalk scribbles on the college walkways proclaiming that world peace can be achieved by … um … love — very, very explicit love.

I want to trust that tagging would be a powerful and vibrant addition to a catalog. If my library said they’d be instituting user tagging tomorrow, I’d go for it with good spirit and gusto. But I’d also have nagging doubts. A month ago, though, I also had nagging doubts about the usefulness of blogs….

Well, this has gotten a lot longer than I intended, but I was thinking a lot about this as I sat at the reference desk tonight. I’d gone back to look at a message I’d saved from the O’Reilly Radar about Wikipedia and the Future of Free Culture which contained this quote:

The secret of Wikipedia’s content-generating process, Wales explained, is the nurturing and shaping of trust, instead building everything around distrust.

I think nurturing and shaping of trust is the heart and soul of the library of the future. I also think that the “nurturing and shaping” of trust does not mean giving up all control (which, to be fair, has never been intimated by anyone I’ve heard talk about the subject). Plants don’t often flourish if they’re simply dumped on the ground. They require feeding, watering, weeding, and sometimes even training. I’m eager to see what my somewhat unruly users could do for resource discovery if given the proper environment and ideal amount of training and oversight (what ever that “ideal” amount might be).