Thursday, December 30, 2010

RE: Amazon's ONIX to MARC converter

Posting to Autocat

For those who are interested in this discussion, I suggest you look at the related postings on NGC4LIB under the topic "ONIX data" (starting at;%2BYRDJw;20101222155441-0500). A couple of postings I made were comparing actual records for some books (the postings are easiest to read on my blog at: and but the entire discussion has been interesting as well.

I would like to emphasize that ONIX data represents only one type of metadata with which we need to interoperate. There are all kinds of metadata out there from journal articles to open archives to statistical information, and on and on. Somehow, all of this metadata *will* be searchable in a much easier way than it is now--of this I am sure. It will happen either with the cooperation and coordination of the various metadata creators, or without it through "metadata mashups" that will be more or less crude.

"Cooperation" does not mean that everybody else does what I say, but it means that *everybody* will have to change to cooperate. For example, if we are to cooperate with the ONIX metadata community, we will have to change, but of course, so will the ONIX community. So, I don't think that focusing the argument on "good" and "bad" metadata, or "better" and "worse" is a productive direction. Everybody can point fingers in this way, since each metadata community has its own purposes, and the purposes are not necessarily the same in all communities, while the metadata standards and practices of each community reflect that.

A more productive direction, I think, is to focus on the advantages of cooperation that will result in greater efficiencies and increasingly easy access for our users (and their potential customers). This is how we might be able to get the communities to want to change in the first place. If we cannot show advantages, there will be no cooperation, and everything we do will just be mashed up without us in a process according to what the computer technicians and administrators want.

Can we demonstrate any advantages for the ONIX community to want to change? I think so, but we must keep in mind that they will not provide AACR2 (or RDA) records, because that would be doing what we say. We must concentrate on cooperation.

I think we can show such advantages to the ONIX community, but we should concentrate on providing reliable ISBD information, which is based on transcribing the information from the item itself, especially the 245-title/statement of responsibility information. For example, I cannot imagine anyone arguing that the information in the <title> field should *not* reflect what is on the resource.

We might all have to change some of our rules for publication information and physical description because publishers will often have more information than we do. For example, publishers, who have access to the files, could easily provide word counts.

Would this work? I don't know because it's unclear whether the metadata communities are willing to accept these types of changes, but we would have to be flexible, just as they would. Creating shared standards is very difficult work. Then, something new and advantageous to everyone may emerge. But as I said before, I have no doubt that if nothing changes, everybody's records will be mashed up, as is happening now in the Google Book metadata.

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