Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blog posting to "RDA – Not Everyone is a Fan…"

Blog posting to "RDA – Not Everyone is a Fan…" in turn mentioning a post on Bib Blog "James Weinheimer Asks “Is RDA the Only Way?”

I'll comment on this here, since it seems I would have to set up a separate account on "Bib Blog" and I don't see how to do that immediately. As preliminary remarks, my paper also appears in my own blog at http://blog.jweinheimer.net/2012/02/is-rda-only-way-alternative-option.html. Also, to continue my argument, there is a paper I gave in Oslo in February http://blog.jweinheimer.net/2012/02/revolution-in-our-minds-seeing-world.html, and finally a podcast on the Linked Data universe at http://blog.jweinheimer.net/2012/03/cataloging-matters-podcast-no-14.html. These all kind of go together. There has also been discussion on various lists about all of this, and my postings are on my blog.

Again, the pro-RDA people believe, "RDA represents a transitional phase leading the cataloguing community to something like linked data where our bibliographic data will be able to more easily connect up with other data already on the web instead of trapped in traditional catalogue records and library information systems" (from the Bib Blog posting). I agree with this to a point, but the simple fact is, neither RDA nor FRBR are needed if the purpose is to get into the Linked Data universe. All we need are either RDF or various microdata formats, but we do not need to restructure our records fundamentally, or adopt the tiny updates to our catalog rules that RDA envisions.

But yet again, it must be demonstrated that going into the Linked Data universe actually will accomplish something useful for libraries. Right now, no one--and I want to emphasize NO ONE--knows if our records in the Linked Data universe will indeed be useful. It is only an article of faith. Having faith is fine, and I have nothing against it, but faith is not a lot to rely on when you are making substantial bets.

Once again, my suggestion has been to get into the Linked Data universe as quickly, as easily, and as cheaply as possible to get at least some kind of an idea whether it would be worth the additional effort to restructure our records, which RDA and FRBR foresees. Personally, I have serious doubts as to how useful our records will be to the public if and when they are in the linked data universe, but I am very willing to be proven wrong. Of course, such a demonstration would have been an important part of a genuine business plan to argue in favor of RDA, but creating a business plan has been ignored and apparently discarded as superfluous and unnecessary(!).

Finally, in Bib Blog, he mentions "No matter what the size of your library I don’t think the commitment to implement RDA should be as economically challenging as Weinheimer suggests in this presentation. Although the situation would be so much better if RDA had been offered openly free for all to use." I respectfully disagree, and have seen that there are many small libraries literally on the edge. It is my suspicion that many administrators will take advantage of their inability to fund training and access to the rules, along with the lack of any business plan that demonstrates any tangible desirable outcomes, as an opportunity to "save money" by shutting down local technical services, and just outsource cataloging and as much of their technical processing as possible, since that is a genuine possibility today.

At the same time, there is so much for librarians to do, if we would only have a "Revolution in Our Minds: Seeing Things Anew" as the title of my paper in Oslo put it. The future could be very bright.

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