Monday, July 5, 2010

RE: Copernicus, Cataloging, and the Chairs on the Titanic, Part 1 [Long Post]

Posting to NGC4LIB

Stephen Paling wrote:

So, even with these ~very~ generous adjustments, we're still faced with a better-than-hundredfold increase in our workload. That's not 100%, that's 100-fold. For every book we catalog now, we would have to catalog an additional 104 items. If a cataloger currently catalogs a book every 15 minutes, give that cataloger some coffee, because she or he will have to catalog an item every 8.6 seconds. Holy hot sauce! Raise your hand if your cataloging department can absorb that extra work load.

Thanks for these statistics. It gives me a chance to refer to them in the future. A couple of problems with this analysis is: it has no room for selection (a topic I raised a while back). If we have blanket selection then yes, I agree there is simply far too much, but much of it is simply not worthwhile.

But once the task of selection is included (and how we can select from this mass I do not know. I have a few ideas, but it is a huge problem that must be solved, I think, before anything else), the numbers will fall drastically.

Then comes the problem of coordination of work. I have written several times that workflows in libraries are still based in the 19th century, as if each library were completely alone. Libraries have cooperated and coordinated to an extent through cooperative cataloging, but still with tremendous duplication every step of the way. Perhaps there is a reason for each library duplicating metadata when each library has a separate copy, but when everybody is looking at exactly the same things on the web, the reasons for duplication evaporate.

Plus, there are possibilities of unimagined cooperative efforts, not only for selection, but for other cooperative projects. If each library were supposed to do everything on its own, it would be a thoroughly hopeless task, *but if* we could imagine that other metadata creators, working around the world: all in Europe, Asia, and everywhere, *plus* non-library metadata creators, also from around the world, I would bet that suddenly the 100-fold problem, and even more, would easily fall into the realm of the possible.

This could be done technically. I think everyone on this list knows it. The problem that would then arise would be getting people to follow more or less the same standards, to change and to agree on these changes. If there are no standards of some sort agreed to, and not just for the coding such as dc.creator, but for the more important information that goes inside the coding, everything that comes out will be gobbledygook.

Is it impossible to believe that everybody could agree on some standards? Of course not. People have agreed to lots of international standards in lots of areas. The reason they agree to these standards is to eliminate duplication and increase efficiencies exponentially.

I fully realize that this is idealistic. But these sorts of impossibilities have happened before, and somebody, somewhere has to envision the impossible before it can finally come to pass.

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