David Weinberger’s book Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder is fascinating — I’m especially enjoying his many original comments on metadata. So, trying out Weinberger’s ideas, I search in local library catalogs for david weinberger metadata — I get: NO ENTRIES FOUND … Hmmm … How does Google Book Search compare? I do the same search in GBS, and Bingo –There it is, at the top of the list …
Google, of course, puts the book at the top of the list because its deep metadata indicates that metadata is an important topic, and PageRank likely indicates that other people also value Weinberger’s discussion of the topic.
So, why don’t library catalogs find the book? — The problem is the subject headings assigned by the Library of Congress, and used in most all library catalogs:
Information technology — Management.
Information technology — Social aspects.
Personal information management.
Information resources management.
Even though the book discusses metadata at length and on many pages, it’s not deemed important enough to be a heading — The problem is that the traditional catalog is what Weinberger calls a “second order” resource, being limited to the small number of subject headings that will fit on a card in the (bygone) catalog. Given resources to assign a larger number of subject headings, no doubt metadata would be included.
So … Librarians can’t afford to be smug about metadata — Google has problems (as discussed in Geoff Nunberg articles linked below). But libraries have their own problems. In many ways the traditional library catalog lacks metadata features that have become common in Google, Amazon, and other sites.
Hope for Libraries — WorldCat does find the book with the david weinberger metadata search (#2 in results), because it has additional tags listed in its “Abstract” (scroll down) which include metadata — Sooner or later, maybe libraries will add the WorldCat Abstract to their catalogs to “enrich their metadata.”
Eric Rumsey is on Twitter @ericrumsey