Tuesday, April 13, 2010

RE: Authority work, VIAF, and most recent issue of CCQ : a rant

Posting to Autocat

I think this discussion is missing the main point: we are all in favor of cooperation, but more important is: exactly with whom do we cooperate? The library-centric world, or the world that our users inhabit?

So, we have the LCNAF for Sacks (1948- ) at: http://authorities.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&Search_Arg=sacks,%20jonathan&Search_Code=SHED_&CNT=50+records+per+page

the version in the VIAF at: http://www.viaf.org/search?query=local.names+all+%22sacks%20jonathan%22&version=1.1&maximumRecords=100&operation=searchRetrieve&stylesheet=xsl/results.xsl&sortKeys=holdingscount
(which needs some work)

and the one at dbpedia at: http://dbpedia.org/page/Jonathan_Sacks.

Look at the incredible number of links from this record that are very useful and pertinent, and then compare it with the library authority records. If you imagine you are someone who is interested in learning about the writings and life of Jonathan Sacks (not just as a cataloger working on one of his books) which would you prefer to use? The one with links to his home page, pictures and on and on, or our records?

I understand the purposes of these records is different. Our records are primarily for filing the bibliographic records with author or subject of this individual, while the purpose of the dbpedia record is different. Still, the collating function could be achieved simply by using the URI http://dbpedia.org/page/Jonathan_Sacks. The cross-references work now in dbpedia with rdf:label dbpprop:redirect_of and owl:sameAs.

This is representative of some of the obvious problems that people outside the library world point to when they say that libraries need to reconsider what it is they are doing. Why not operate with tools such as this? It's free for downloading, after all! We could fix up the aesthetics, since it is rather ugly, but that's a simple enough thing to do. I'm sure that dbpedia would love the input of thousands of deeply experienced librarians from around the world. But, this would be a serious break with the past and would represent a genuine change from the traditional idea of the "authority record" and of the catalog itself.

I am sure there are and will be many other projects with similar functions, and I believe that in such an environment we could become highly important. If we do not become involved in these types of projects however, I don't know what will happen.

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