Bibliographical Practices in a Time of Transition: Concluding Remarks

Article excerpt

The intersection of bibliography and digital technology in Canada today creates crucial questions both for libraries and for the future of bibliography. How is digital technology transforming bibliographical practice? How to deal with the sudden proliferation of digital acquisitions? How can the worlds of academia, technology, government, and libraries themselves benefit from this new landscape and work together?

Several important points were raised by other presenters at this conference. This paper will reflect on the challenges faced by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in the new digital environment, consider the impact of digital technology on bibliographical practices, and pose some questions for further thought.

One of my first jobs was to edit Canadiana, the national bibliography, at the National Library of Canada in the 1970s. Canadiana lists and describes a wide variety of publications produced in Canada or published elsewhere but of special interest or significance to Canada. These include books, periodicals, sound recordings, microforms, music scores, pamphlets, government documents, theses, educational kits, video recordings, and electronic documents. Canadiana was published in print between 1950 and 1991, and a microfiche product was produced in the 1980s. It appears online in the AMICUS database but does not exist as a distinct database. Since 1996, Canadiana has also been made available annually on CD-ROM, which serves as a tangible form of the national bibliography.

I still remember how we glued catalogue cards on pages, very carefully in alphabetical order, and then un-glued and re-glued the same cards in Dewey order and in straight lines, so that the pages could be filmed and then printed as the national bibliography. It was painstaking work, but glorious fun. I was also involved in developing the first Canadian Machine-Readable Cataloguing (MARC) format in the early 1970s, which truly revolutionized the creation and dissemination of bibliographical information through bibliographies and other means. Since then, the pace of change has dramatically accelerated. For example, there is a college in Wisconsin which produces an annual "mindset list" (1) to assist faculty in understanding the wider social context in which the incoming class of students has been raised. For the graduating class of 2007, it noted:

* that "Ctrl + Alt + Del" is as basic as "ABC"; and

* that computers have always fit in their backpacks.

And for those students just starting their college life, it noted:

* that they are wireless, yet always connected;

* that text messaging is their email; and

* that "Google" has always been a verb.

Information Access and Control: A Major Shift

This example gives some indication of the types of change in the communications sphere that have taken place since the last National Conference on the State of Canadian Bibliography in 1992. In the realm of information access and control, the changes have been equally phenomenal. Major reference works appear only online. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find national bibliographies on CD-ROM, never mind on microfiche or in print. Most electronic publications are full-text searchable. The publishing world is shrinking through consolidation and mergers, yet self-publishers are growing in number. The content strategy of Google Scholar has sparked fierce debate while continuing to attract the collections of major libraries. The list goes on and on. In this constantly shifting landscape, are we, as information professionals, helping to navigate and chart new paths or are we rushing to keep up? Either way, we are committed to the journey.

Conference Highlights

The President of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, David McKnight, set the tone for the conference by emphasizing the fact that bibliographers today must look beyond the text and must have the understanding and ability to record digital materials in bibliographies. …