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NextGen Catalog Listserv Debut

Yesterday Eric Morgan wrote to the Web4lib listserv wondering about starting up a new listserv exploring the catalog of the future (a topic that is becoming one of my de facto research areas because, well, I’m interested). Today it’s up and running and I’ve subscribed. You can join, too, by going here.

One of the interesting discussions that came up while deciding on the name of the list (ngo4lib for “next gen opac” was nixed because it sounds like a government agency… but I’m glad it’s gone because I HATE the acronym “OPAC.” It just smacks of everything that’s wrong with our current discovery system. It’s incomprehensible to non-librarians. It specifies that this system is online, which only makes sense if you’re differentiating between this and the card version. And by specifying “public access” it makes it sound like there’s a whole bunch of other good stuff out there that we just don’t let the riff raff see. But I digress… a lot.) Anyway, the question came up whether a listserv was really the best format for this discussion, and the answer was very quickly and decisively “yes.” Hmmm. Really? Someone pointed out that email is integrated into our lives while checking blogs isn’t. But my aggregator is now a part of my day, from beginning to end, just like my email.

Oh well, I don’t really care that it’s email. I was just interested in the speed with which other formats were dismissed. And I guess this way it’s more apparent that anyone can post, so that should help foster interaction.

Anyway, I’m signed up and look forward to a lively discussion. I wonder if any of the major vendors will sign on. Innovative Interfaces? SirsiDynix? Listening in could be not only a great source of ideas, but also a great PR move.

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  1. CW CW

    Funny, a new email list. I’ve stopped signing up because I find them email lists so stressful to try and keep up with. This is the part where I admit that I haven’t managed to keep up with posts on email lists for some years now. Thankfully, now there are blogs and RSS aggregators, I no longer feel guilty about signing off of email lists, and I’m definitely managing to stay connected – more connected than I ever did with email lists, actually. My aggregator is completely a part of my day too!

  2. Iris Iris

    I’ve completely separated my email list email account from my work email account. I found it was eating up my day just deleting all the posts that didn’t grab my interest, so now I tap in to these lists just like I tap into my aggregator. But I’ve got to admit, I’d be a lot happier if this new list were a set of connected blogs or one blog that anyone could sign up to contribute to. It just seems so much easier to manage that way… Some day, CW, some day. :)

  3. joshua m. neff joshua m. neff

    Right on. I signed up for the list, but really, I hate listservs. I find them clumsy to use and, as you guys have noted, they tend to stuff my inbox with messages I’m not interested in reading.

    A blog that everyone could contibute to would be great. Or forums powered by something like vBulletin or Vanilla.

  4. David David

    A forum might have been a good idea, but a weblog or Wiki are not the best for a wide-ranging open discussion. A weblog does not have threading of posts, that can be very helpful in following threads. ICQ might have worked, if we could all agree on a particulat time to meet. Each tool has strengths and weeknesses. A many-to-many open discussion not limited by place or time works well in e-mail or a forum.

    If the list gets too busy, like AUTOCAT or this one just change your setting to digest.

  5. Iris Iris

    My method, Josh, is to sign up using Gmail. Then I label and filter the messages away from my inbox. What I really like about this way is that conversations are automatically “stacked” so the label group can look like it only has three or four messages in it, but each “message” is actually several messages pulled together. It’s really working rather well, and it separates this type of reading from the more immediately work-related reading I get at my other email address.

    Hi David. Nice to “meet” you. :) As I said in my message, this format is probably the most accessible for this type of conversation, as you say. I’m just disappointed that I can’t integrate it more easily into what is now my primary daily connection to the profession: my aggregator. Also, threaded conversations are great, but categories work, too, as do comments. I’ve seen incredibly detailed “threaded” conversations happening in blog comment lists.

    I have three basic complaints about lists:

    1) I find that I rarely search list archives (I think I’ve only done it once), while it’s highly intuitive for me to search through blogs.

    2) I find that there tends to be a lot of “noise” with people writing off topic, substance-less, or even hateful emails because they don’t think of it as permanently visible and archived. Not that all blog posts are relevant and thoughtful. I’ve written my share of substance-less posts. But I’m always acutely aware that these are visible “forever.”

    And 3) they are no longer a part of my habit for staying connected to the profession.

    Even so, I’ll say it again: if the goal is to have anyone and everyone be able to easily post a message, a listserv is still probably the best way to do that. And I’ve resigned myself to that fact. That doesn’t mean that I have to prefer the listserv, though. By the same token, I think there’s a lot wrong with our current catalogs in libraries, but they’re still the best that we’ve got, so I use them. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t dearly love different discovery options.

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