The Invisible Library

The University Library Catalog is perhaps the most underutilized and underdeveloped resource at our disposal. While we can readily search for catalog entries based on their constituent fields and even browse some collections in “shelf order” with images of dust jackets, the accessible catalog is but the tip of a potentially invaluable sea of metadata and associations.

Moreover, the set of titles present in the formal catalog of the library proper does not always include non-circulating and often uncatalogued departmental holdings, nor the private collections of inividual students and faculty along with transient titles accessed online or through interlibrary loan that make up the true “working collection”. To begin to automatically assess the scope of this Invisible Library one could scan the bibliographies of student and faculty publications and compare them with the traditional catalog proper to find cited work not in the permanent collection.

If we could further enrich our analysis to capture frequency, nature, and importance of use, we could begin to isolate key titles for future acquisition; as well as identify low value unused and underused portions of the collection, whose retention serves no active function other than contributing aggregate collection size statistics.

Working in the other direction, one could begin mapping out the subject matter expertise of borrowers with an eye to soliciting collection development guidance and facilitating expertise matching to proactively suggest co-authorship opportunities.

Likewise, there is no reason not to regard each title and associated subject entry as its own chat room and discussion forum, further enriching the catalog with links to locations, people, organizations, artifacts, experiments, questions, concerns, and all manner of related entities.

In short we call for making the library catalog a true Knowledge Graph in the richest possible sense.

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