How the Modern Web Environment is Reinventing the Theory of Cataloguing

Panizzi, Lubetzky, and Google: How the Modern Web Environment is Reinventing the Theory of Cataloguing: This paper uses cataloguing theory to interpret the partial results of an exploratory study of university students using Web search engines and Web-based OPACs. The participants expressed frustration with the OPAC; while they sensed that it was "organized," they were unable to exploit that organization and attributed their failure to the inadequacy of their own skills. In the Google searches, on the other hand, students were getting the support traditionally advocated in catalogue design. Google gave them starting points: resources that broadly addressed their requirements, enabling them to get a greater sense of the knowledge structure that would help them to increase their precision in subsequent searches. While current OPACs apparently fail to provide these starting points, the effectiveness of Google is consistent with the aims of cataloguing as expressed in the theories of Anthony Panizzi and Seymour Lubetzky


At first I was intriguted by this research. But then I noticed that it was published seven years ago. Is it still relevant? My initial reaction is that the catalog has improved and Google has become so large that it is often of limited value. But perhaps I'm just a dinosaur myself and need to get with the program.

I have believed for years that information literacy should shift to teaching principles not interfaces. The best teaching tool would in fact be Google which gives a helping hand and easily leads the user/student to refining, stabilizing, defining, and limiting a search. And what's more, Google uses standard English, not library jargon.

Library catalogs have the edge over Google in that they offer unbiased search results. Google is more and more becoming an echo chamber for the individual searcher. Information of dubious quality often being floated to the top of the results.

What I have never understood about this controversy is this: if the OPAC uses Keyword searching, and if this searching includes the subject headings, why does this not retrieve relevant results?

Example: weather - even if "weather does not appear in the title area, if it is a 650, which I would expect, does a keyword search of the OPAC not retrieve this?