Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Re: [RDA-L] Part 2: Efficiency of DBMS operations Re: [RDA-L] [BIBFRAME] RDA, DBMS and RDF

Posting to RDA-L

On 15/05/2012 17:53, Jonathan Rochkind wrote:
Frankly, I no longer have much confidence that the library cataloging community is capable of any necessary changes in any kind of timeline fast enough to save us.

Those that believe no significant changes to library cataloging or metadata practices are neccesary will have a chance to see if they are right.

I believe that inaction -- in ability to make significant changes in "the way our data is currently recorded and maintained" to accomodate contemporary needs -- will instead result in the end of the library cataloging/metadata tradition, and the end of library involvement in metadata control, if not the end of libraries.  I find it deeply depressing. But I no longer find much hope that any other outcome is possible, and begin to think any time I spend trying to help arrive at change is just wasted time.

I think many share your fears. I certainly do, but it is important not to give up hope. The problem as I see it is that while everyone agrees that we should move "forward", we don't even know which direction "forward" is. Some believe it is east, others west, others north, others up, others down. Nobody knows. Is the basic problem in libraries "the way our data is currently recorded and maintained"? For those who believe this, then it would mean that if libraries changed their format and cataloging practices, things would be better.

But this will be expensive and disruptive. That is a simple fact. And undertaking something like that during such severe economic times makes it even more difficult. So, it seems entirely logical that people ask whether this *really will* help or whether those resources would be better used to do something else. In fact, this is such a natural question, not asking it makes people raise their eyebrows and wonder if there really is an answer. This is why I keep raising the point of the business case. It is a fundamental, basic task.

And another fact is, if we want to make our records more widely available in types of formats that others could use, it can be done right now. Harvard is doing it with their API: They say their records are now available in JSON using, in DC or in MARC, although all I have seen is MARC so far. Still, Kudos to them! It is a wonderful beginning!

So it is a fact that the library community does not have to wait for RDA, FRBR or even the changes to MARC to repurpose their data. Would it be perfect? Of course not! When has that ever had anything to do with anything? Everyone expects things to change constantly, especially today. A few years of open development using tools such as this would make the way "forward" much clearer than it is now. Then we could start to see what the public wants and needs and begin to design for *them* instead of for *us*. If we find that there is absolutely no interest in open development of library tools, that would say a lot too.

To maintain that RDA and FRBR are going to make any difference to the public, or that they are necessary to get into the barely-nascent and highly controversial "Linked Data", is simply too much to simply accept. Each represents changes, that's for sure, but theoretical ones that happen almost entirely behind the scenes, and all whose value has yet to be proven. All this in spite of the incredible developments going on right under our noses! Therefore, it seems only natural to question whether RDA, FRBR and "Linked Data" truly represent the direction "forward" or are they actually going in some other direction.

On a more positive note, I think there are incredible opportunities for libraries and librarians today.

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to thank you for so succinctly summarizing the issues and options in this complex (and often meandering:)topic.