I have been reading several books about or by people who are or were blind. I went back to the library descriptions on BARD for bibliographic information I need for my next blog post and started noticing that all of the books were described as "Disability," so I went to the subject search drop down box and found a file named "Disabilities." When I clicked on this link and it opened, it said that there were more than 1000 books as entries. They are arranged in alphabetical order. GROAN!
I started going down the alphabet and realized that this was getting me nowhere. On a whim, once I got past all the “B” books with “Blind” as the first word in the title, I went to the “L”'s and found a book on living with low vision published in 1996. At first I vented: I've been reinventing the wheel for 20 years? I did all that research for nothing? My doctors could have given this book or at least the title to me! You get the picture. It was not pretty.
Now I will read the book that I should have read a very long time ago, Living with Low Vision: A Resource Guide for People with Sight Loss, to see if there is any information I need. I will also search to see if this book has been revised and updated in the past 20 years. I have no idea how long this book has been available in audio format. BARD has been adding many books about blindness and low vision in the past year that were published years, decades, and even centuries ago, and these titles are most welcome.
Meanwhile, I want to remind my Information Studies’ colleagues about the most important course we took in ALA accredited library schools: Cataloging and Classification. (No, it was not the course telling us that computers are the greatest things since air.) The Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress Cataloging System were created so every book in a library or every subject heading would not be shelved alphabetically. There are simply too many subheadings. The same standards that are used in public and university libraries must be followed online by special libraries serving the blind and physically handicapped.
All current online library tools are not meeting the standards of their in house predecessors. I have not found some books that are in BARD because the descriptors were not consistent. For example, if you leave the period after “Dr. Seuss,” you will find just a few books. If you leave the period off, you will find many books. A professor with a Ph.D. in Business Information Systems who is currently teaching in a School of computing tells me that the problem with online cataloging is the result of online databases accepting information from publisher copyright information rather than the Library of congress classification. Human error starts at the point where data is being entered. If this is not being done by ALA accredited information specialists trained in cataloging and classification, errors will be made.
BARD also adds new books and magazines frequently. Recently added books might appear in the “Recently Added” link for some time but not in the general database where people normally search for a book by title, author, or subject.
Several decades ago, I started a list of books on a particular subject dealing with children’s literature. I used the card catalogues in public and university libraries and the hardcover copies of Children’s Books in Print. My attempts to update this bibliography using the online version of the book have not been successful using any of the descriptors that were used in the past nor currently being tried by reference librarians and computer specialists. While there are many benefits to using online systems, much important information is being lost or buried by the library standards that exist today.
If the options of the partially sighted, the blind, and people with other disabilities are to be optimized, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped must take a look at its computer programs and their links. Perhaps additional links can be created or folders under existing links. “Disabilities” could have sections for each medical condition rather than an alphabetical arrangement for all disabilities. Until this is done, finding the information one needs will be more a case of luck than science.