Monday, November 7, 2011

Re: [RDA-L] Offlist reactions to the LC Bibliographic Framework statement

Posting to RDA-L

On Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 8:00 AM, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
Jim, ISO2709 is a nuisance, agreed. And I dislike it no less than you do because I'm a real programmer and know what it feels like. But don't let's get carried away and rush to premature conclusions with inappropriate metaphors. Rather, consider this: Would you tear down your house and rebuild it from the ground up if the old wallpaper gives you the creeps?

For that's what ISO2709 is: mere wallpaper. Easily replaced or painted over. Nothing serious, nothing that affects any qualities of the building.
I wish that were true. ISO2709 is the standard way libraries exchange their records, and this means that anybody who wants library information must work with ISO2709. ISO2709 was designed to make catalog cards, and that is what it still does today, only the cards are not printed on card stock, they are printed on the computer screen. Certainly, they can be searched in ways different from a card catalog, but this is because of the mere fact that they reside in the computer--not because the format is any more amenable to searching.

Today, most web developers I know do not want to copy and reformat and maintain duplicates of records that are on different systems. They want much more to interoperate with them, and they can do this through various APIs. For instance, I can add a Google Books API that will search--in the background--Google Books in all kinds of ways and return one record, or multiple records. It does not give me the entire Google metadata record, nor do I want it. (as ISO2709 does--by definition) I want to work with the Google metadata *on the fly* so that I do not have the responsibility to keep the record current, reformat it and have to do all kinds of additional work. Keeping the record current is Google's responsibility--not mine and I shouldn't have to do it.

With ISO2709, it is designed to transfer a complete catalog record from one catalog into another catalog. It is not designed for interactivity. Here is a practical example. At LC, they have lots of sets of records where you can interact with them So, I could have a local catalog on e.g. dance, and I could search behind the scenes--if I set the machine correctly--the records for LC's dance instruction manuals. I can display these records as I wish because they are in XML. I would not have to download all records in ISO2709, convert them in MARCEdit, put them into my own database, where the URLs and other information may change in the future, since potentially it is a ton of work to maintain records for materials on the web.

Another example is the Worldcat Search API There is no mention of ISO2709 there. Plus, I implemented the Worldcat Citations API when I was at AUR:
and an example: In the right-hand column, you will see "Get a Citation". When you click it, you will see citation formats (in XML, not ISO2709) taken on the fly from Worldcat and reformatted by the system I created. This is a simple example and matters could become much more complex, if someone desired.

The fact is, most developers want to work with APIs in these kinds of ways instead of having to download, convert (mostly an extremely difficult job to come out with anything coherent), upload into your own system, and then maintain those records. That is horribly inefficient, and unnecessary, today.

Why don't more developers work with library metadata? To me, the answer is absolutely obvious. We are not making APIs that developers want to work with, and one reason is that we keep maintaining that if somebody wants our information bad enough, it is "easy" to work with ISO2709 records by downloading, reformatting, etc. but that is wrong. Working with APIs is what is easy and if you use ISO2709 you absolutely cannot do that.

Developers don't want--or need--to jump through all of those hoops when they don't have to, and they prefer to work with other systems. So they don't use our records and prefer, e.g. Amazon, which has all kinds of APIs.

Unfortunate. But perhaps it is something that the Bibliographic Framework will address and our metadata will be more usable in the information universe.

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