Systems and Practices Laboratory
Xerox Palo Alto Research Center
What is the future of cataloging in light of ongoing developments in digital technologies? At one extreme are those who believe it is up to current institutions to take on the task of cataloging, and generally organizing, digital materials; at the other are those who imagine new sorts of tools and techniques will obviate the need for these traditional methods. This paper, written by a computer scientist, explores the nature of cataloging as it is now practiced. Drawing on textbooks and other library science materials, as well as recent results in anthropology and sociology, it characterizes cataloging as a form of order-making, invisibly sustaining "the order of the book." It then looks at how this order is being challenged by changes tied to the wide-scale adoption of digital technologies, and concludes by exploring the cataloging of digital materials.