Monday, March 5, 2012

Re: Cataloging Matters Podcast, no. 14: Musings on the Linked Data Diagram

Posting to RDA-L

On 05/03/2012 03:39, Jdchronicler wrote:
It occurred to me while I was viewing a San Jose State Colloquium on New York Public Library's Biblion app ( which can found at Biblion) that this is a very successful example of a library using linked data to remain relevant to users. My blog post about it at Information Metamorphosis includes the role of metadata in the creation of the project. Cataloging mattered, even though it certainly wasn't MARC cataloging.
Thanks so much for sharing that, I listened to it too and it is quite a story. I would like to expand beyond that however, since the Biblion view seems to be primarily that of the archivist/curator, which is to make this special collection as widely available and as useful to people as possible. That is *very important* but for other librarians and researchers, this Biblion site becomes only one resource of a much greater whole. What is that "whole"? Is it the individual library where you work, that is, is it my task to create tools that will include this Biblion site among the rest of the materials on the 1939 World's Fair that are within *my library's* collection? That's the way it always used to be.

I think the task must go beyond, and for the typical patron, the real "information universe" includes everything on the web, and consequently, the materials within an individual library's collection are only a subset of that. With the web, that has become obvious to patrons and they see that for their needs on certain topics, their own library's holding are perhaps not a very important subset. Therefore, I have found several interesting things through a simple Google search, a site on the World's Fair from U Virginia, from the NY Times, from PBS, from Life magazine, but there is a lot in Google Books and Scholar (for free), in open archives, dissertations available electronically, lots of videos on YouTube, the list of useful information is endless. And yet, the amount of material that is not useful for someone wanting information on the 1939 World's Fair is even greater. Navigating all of that and making sense of it is probably beyond the task of the average patron. This is why they like the "relevance ranking" of Google so much. It's simple.

But, when at least I search Google for "New York World's Fair 1939", this wonderful Biblion site does not appear in the first 20 or so hits.

This is where the idea of the Semantic Web can be of immense help. At least the information *could* interoperate in a much more seamless fashion than the way it works now, where each site has to be searched separately. But that is just a very first step and on its own, will create a gigantic hash, as I mentioned in my podcast. This hash will not organize itself and I don't think technicians can engineer the "perfect algorithm" to bring these materials together automatically, although there are many technicians who will disagree with that.

But when trying to figure out practical solutions how to control all of this, we have to admit that doing things in the traditional ways obviously break down because of the tremendous loads. I don't have a solution to this, but as I mentioned before, I am sure will demand the efforts of the entire library working as a whole. The experience of selectors and reference librarians will be critical in a solution. IT solutions will be important. Cataloging will be an important part of the solution too.

And yes, cataloging does matter.

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