Monday, January 30, 2012

Re: Considerations on Linked Data (Was: Showing birth and death dates)

On 1/28/2012 6:51 PM, Karen Coyle wrote:
On 1/28/12 9:03 AM, James Weinheimer wrote:
But concerning linked data: Accessing bits and pieces of bibliographic records in the cloud using URIs may be a good idea, or maybe not. Eliminating the need for multiple, redundant local databases may also be a good idea, or maybe not. There are many questions that would need to be decided before entering on such an arrangement. One of the most critical involves intellectual property. I think we all know that struggles over intellectual property are becoming more complicated and more intense as the internet grows and becomes more important in each person's life.
This is a mis-interpretation of linked data, IMO. There is nothing inherent in linked data that says that you must store your data 'in the cloud' nor that you must use cloud-based data. Linked data is used today in enterprise situations that are "off line." It is a useful data management method in itself.

Most organizations look at a multi-tiered data model today. There is the internal, highly controlled data that is used to manage operational functions, like warehousing, billing, service creation.

Then there is the linking that allows your data to take your users out to the world of Web-based information, or to lead people from the Web into your institution. These links can fail, but the important design decision is to decide where you can risk that failure (e.g. sometimes a user won't get from Wikipedia to the library and vice versa) and when you cannot (e.g. the FRBR Work data must always be available).

This is really not new; we already design systems to 'fail gracefully' for non-essential services, and to capture and control data where failure is catastrophic.

I think it's best to think about linked data like this: if I write a paper and put it on the web, anyone can link to it. This linking enhances discovery, but it doesn't change the content of my paper nor its solidity as a unit. If those people stop linking to me, nothing changes for me. If I link from my paper to other information, I know that information is not guaranteed to be there. If I absolutely need that remote information for the integrity of my work, I generally make a local copy of it. If the remote document disappears, I get a 404 message and I can decide if I want to change something. Much of this negotiation between links now happens as automated processes, and the use of URIs for linked data makes it likely that many links will be made, and un-made, without human intervention.

I envision that libraries will create a controlled pool of library data that is not dependent on the open cloud. This is where cataloging will take place, this is where inventory control will take place, and this is where library systems can pull data for library system displays if they wish. Whether or not we also allow others to link to this data (not changing it or its integrity in any way) is a decision we'll have to make. Meanwhile, library systems will link opportunistically to a wide range of information on the web.

We shouldn't be afraid of the web -- we all use it every day; our users live on it. There is no 100% guarantee that everything out there will be stable, but if it were terribly unstable we wouldn't be using it the way we are today. Use gmail? You have no control over that. Use Wikipedia? That's someone else's data. Use google or bing? Ditto.

Essentially, as a system for information discovery and exchange, the Web works. Yes, it could perhaps fail, but if it does, library linking to resources like Wikipedia or DBPedia will be the least of our worries.
I don't think I am misinterpreting linked data, I am just recognizing a reality on the web. In a theoretical world, everyone wants to share and share equally. But we are in a different world, especially in today's climate, where everyone is trying desperately to cut budgets and save money wherever possible, plus to actually generate funds.

Today, there is a tremendous movement among organizations to "monetize" their data and their websites. Step one is to establish "ownership" of this information. These organizations need to do this, so I am not criticizing them, simply recognizing a fact that is happening in the world of business, and the library world as well.

There are different types of links: simple links into a paper, links into wikipedia and so on. Those can come and go as they please. But in the linked data world as foreseen by w3c and especially the FRBR data model, not all links are the same. For instance, a library catalog can add into their records the user reviews from Amazon. Let's suppose Amazon will eventually want money for you to link into those reviews. A  library can dump those parts without much fuss, but if you have an FRBR data model and are relying on other agencies for work/expression and maybe even manifestation entities, that is a completely different matter. You are *absolutely dependent* on the agency that supplies this information, and whether you have the right to download copies to your own servers, etc. will have to be negotiated. But in the current melees over copyright on the web, it would be extremely naive for a library to
simply take such a right for granted.

I don't know what the future directions will be with library data: in the cloud or off the cloud, but "libraries" are not so monolithic and will probably implement a variety of solutions. Anyway, there is a world of difference between "being frightened" of the web and approaching it in a responsible, business-like manner, especially after some libraries have already lost rights to their own digitized resources.

Certainly the web is a great tool, but it is undergoing some fundamental changes right now in various areas, one of the most important is in the realm of rights. I am just saying that a simple belief that going to linked data will be the solution, could actually lead to nightmares.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Considerations on Linked Data (Was: Showing birth and death dates)

Posting to RDA-L

On 27/01/2012 22:47, Tillett, Barbara wrote:
ISBD came out of the card catalog environment and was a tremendous tool when we were exchanging bibliographic records. We are no longer exchanging catalog cards. "Exchange" is being replaced by "re-use" of data in environments that can access a shared database (think of the way many of us use OCLC or SkyRiver). We are moving on to accessing records in shared datastores or through web services in the cloud, hopefully saving a lot of time and effort of catalogers by sharing the workload to create descriptions that can be augmented over time and maybe eventually eliminate the need for our multiple, redundant, local databases.

Even better will be when we can move beyond MARC and use linked data with URLs to identify entities and then display whatever language/script the user wants. We have seen the proof of that concept with VIAF-the Virtual International Authority File.

This is a nice view of one possible future, but I do not see how this makes any difference with using "1978-" or "born 1978". I agree with an earlier post that stated the difference is more or less pointless. So if it's pointless, why change practices from what we have now? It only adds to complexity since people will be seeing "1978-" for a long, long time, just as they will be seeing [s.l.], [s.n.], [et al.] and so on forever because the abbreviations in the old records will never, ever change. At least I hope they won't be changed since projects to change those abbreviations would be the biggest waste of cataloging resources I could imagine, even after the economic environment improves. (I have mentioned before that it is a rather simple task to program the computer to render these abbreviations however we want automatically--so long as they are input consistently. Once the consistency goes away, it becomes much harder)

Abbreviations are some of the simplest parts of our catalogs. If people really do have such problems with abbreviations (and I have never seen any research demonstrating it), how are these same people handling the hard parts of our catalogs, such as subject access? Perhaps improving the harder parts of the catalog would have a greater impact on the public.

But concerning linked data:
Accessing bits and pieces of bibliographic records in the cloud using URIs may be a good idea, or maybe not. Eliminating the need for multiple, redundant local databases may also be a good idea, or maybe not. There are many questions that would need to be decided before entering on such an arrangement. One of the most critical involves intellectual property. I think we all know that struggles over intellectual property are becoming more complicated and more intense as the internet grows and becomes more important in each person's life.

In a linked data universe, intellectual property rights become garbled, so it seems to me that if you rely on another agency for critical parts of your records, you may not "own" those parts. For example, in an FRBR universe, what if your work and expression parts come from another agency, and all that is local are your manifestation and item records? That other agency then has tremendous power over you, therefore the relationship would have to be made very, very clear, so that the agency you relied on didn't decide to suddenly shut you down, or say that they need a bunch of money from you. Or start telling you what you can and cannot do.

When I look at the famous diagram, with dbpedia in the center of the linked data universe, it has occurred to me: what if dbpedia disappeared or started demanding money to continue operations?

 And we shouldn't reply that nothing like that could ever happen, because we all know that it can. Many libraries (and librarians) have already been seriously burned by losing rights to scanned images of materials in their own collections--losing the rights to their own metadata would just be too ironic!

This is, or at least should be, such an important consideration, that I personally do not know if the linked data concept, although very nice and convenient in theory, is all that great once it is transferred into reality. I remain highly skeptical until this is resolved.

There are many other practical issues with linked data as well, but perhaps not quite so vital as this.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Re: Harvard Technical Services layoffs

Posting to Autocat

On 1/25/2012 6:44 PM, Billie Hackney wrote:
I have been surprised that no one has yet remarked on the articles about Technical Services areas at Harvard being targeted for layoff. Does anyone have any further information?

Feral Librarian: "What's Happening at Harvard?" (Jan. 19) Link:

LJ article: "After Furor, Harvard Library Spokesperson says 'inaccurate' that all staff will have to reapply" (Jan. 19) Link:

Article in The Crimson: No Layoffs for Harvard Libraries, yesterday: Link:
I would like to add another link to these, in the Daily Kos, no less: "The Great Librarian Massacre of 2012": a cataloging librarian's view

The news about Harvard shows that even the greatest libraries are unable to escape the changes that the rest of the information world is experiencing.

For my own opinion, this news makes me question once again, whether instituting RDA is such a great idea, especially in the current climate. The costs and general disruption will have serious impacts on catalogers, on other librarians and on libraries in general, from the smallest to the largest, and these impacts should not at all be discounted or ignored. When faced with fundamental problems of just maintaining current services, how are cataloging managers supposed to argue for the nebulous "advantages" we will supposedly get from RDA? What advantages will the manager be able to point to? Not additional copy records, not records that are simpler for catalogers to create, nor a catalog that is easier for the public to use. What is the responsible decision?

While I admit that there are immense problems with traditional library cataloging, and have discussed them at some length in previous posts, I still do not see how RDA solves any of them. "Cataloging reconsidered" does offer many solutions to problems of information management and retrieval--this I sincerely believe, and there should be an important place at the "solutions table" for catalogers but it will take some radical re-thinking for all involved.

It is hard to say how all of this will turn out.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Re: RDA and Flatlands

Posting to Autocat

On sabato 21 gennaio 2012 17:12:48, Marian Veld wrote:
On Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 3:29 PM, James Weinheimer wrote:
I have mentioned several times that the FRBR user tasks provide nothing essentially new, and that catalogs today can achieve those user tasks right now. Perhaps it's kind of a pain at the moment in some catalogs, but in Worldcat and other catalogs, it can be done now. With some programming magic, the public can very easily "find, identify, select, obtain: works, expressions, manifestations, items by their authors, titles, subjects". The undeniable fact is, our catalogs provide FRBR capabilities right now, they just haven't allowed it through keyword until relatively recently, but anyway, catalogs have always aimed to provide this kind of access.
"Perhaps it's kind of a pain at the moment..." EXACTLY. That's why change is needed. As for user tasks, your comments consistently show that you don't have public library patrons in mind. Easily over half of the reference questions at the public libraries I've worked at have been known item requests. Well sort of... As in, "I'm looking for this book about<supply subject here> but I don't remember the author or title. They're looking for a specific item they saw on tv, or heard about on the radio, or a friend recommended, etc... is the best reference resource for those kind of questions. Which shows just how much our catalogs need to change.
I have said repeatedly that change is needed. What is important to keep in mind is that *if* we want to take steps toward implementing the FRBR user tasks, then the most efficient and cheapest way is definitely *not* to institute FRBR data model and RDA. Computers can implement the FRBR user tasks and you can do it with open-source catalogs. Right now,

While implementing an open source catalog is not "free", I admit, it is much cheaper than retraining the entire cataloging community to implement rules that are much more complex than what we have now, and then to expect our library catalogs to retool.
But with the example you give, of someone looking for a book that they heard on TV or only by the subject, I've had lots of those questions too. How will going through all the expense of FRBR and RDA supposed to help answer those questions better than what we have today? Our  catalogs have always been specifically designed to answer known-item questions. They still do, and could do it better with better cataloging software. Here's an example of how powerfully it can work today for Shakespeare's Hamlet in Worldcat:

With this search, we are looking at the "work" of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Then look in the left column to see how it implements the FRBR user tasks. Quite brilliant.

With these new types of functionalities, undreamt of just 10 years ago, the searcher can limit this result for the work of Hamlet, by clicking on different formats, languages, dates, and other limits. This is incredibly easy for anybody once you have the right search for uniform title. This wonderful functionality can be improved tremendously and made even simpler for the searcher, but nevertheless, it demonstrates how someone can go through the user tasks right now, today.

Precisely this same functionality is found in the open source catalog, Koha, but other open source catalogs have it as well. So, there is no need to change anything we do today *if* the purpose is to implement the FRBR user tasks. It is a pain for the user *only if* your catalog
software does not allow it. Otherwise, as we see with the OCLC example, it's not such a pain.

Still, I have tried to point out that most people do *not* need the FRBR user tasks, but want something else, so just getting the FRBR user tasks to work solves very little. For instance, the Shakespeare's Hamlet search is nice, but does it provide the searchers with what they really need and want? I don't think anyone can answer that at this moment.

One of the first jobs of librarians should be to find out what the user needs of the public *really are*, such as Google and other big information companies are doing now. I still say that this is one reason why they are so far ahead of libraries--Google etc. are closer to giving the public what they want because those companies have done the work and have a much better idea of what the public really wants.

Once librarians get an idea of what the public is doing and what their needs may be, then we can really begin to move forward.

My suggestion: libraries should implement the facets in their own catalogs using the functionality as found in Worldcat and Koha, then declare that FRBR is implemented, so that they can move on.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Re: RDA and Flatlands

Posting to Autocat

On 18/01/2012 21:49, Mike Tribby wrote:
A question and a prediction pertaining to Aaron's posting: "People who fear an abolition of systematic cataloging and use of an HTML plain text format with no coding have no reasons to fear RDA/FRBR. What we need to fear is that a full implemenation of RDA/FRBR will be so complicated that our bosses will give up on the idea of systematic cataloging." I'm fairly certain the decision by many bosses to "give up on the idea of systematic cataloging" will take place and I think the ill effects of this will be far worse than most RDA enthusiasts imagine; and it will impact public and school libraries far more extensively than academic libraries, though the loss of a broader cataloging culture will affect cataloging across the board. OTOH it's more or less inevitable at this point.

Mike's comment has really concerned me. In spite of the way many of my comments may appear, my own opinion is that there are plenty of reasons for library catalogers to be optimistic even now, but our focus must be to provide the public with tools and methods that *they* need (not what librarians need), and these tools should exist nowhere else on the web. Can the library community do that, especially catalogers, or can they not do it?

I think that libraries actually do provide many services that all members of the general public, ranging from children and their parents to the best researchers, need and want very much. Libraries provide selection, which people are constantly asking for. People also don't want to believe that everyone just wants to pick their pocket at every opportunity. Libraries provide that as well since we are trusted by the general populace. People do not want to get only one side of an argument, such as they find every single day with writings from blogs, think tanks, newspaper articles, and information from other organizations. Libraries seek to provide all sides of issues.

These are just a few of the strengths found in the library community. There are many, many others, often still waiting to be discovered. They are some of the things that people want and we should capitalize and build on them. To do so will take the cooperation not only of catalogers, but also of selectors, reference librarians and the entire library field, including well-wishers from the general community.

But unfortunately, our strengths are not to be found in the so-called FRBR user tasks. Perhaps going into the universe of linked data will help, or perhaps not, but we should not put our faith in such vague hopes.

We need to reconceptualize what it is that libraries genuinely provide that is found nowhere else on the web. Of course libraries provide--or could provide--many of these unique services, but we should not allow our resources to become side-tracked into marginal areas such as RDA promises to do. 

I do not think it is too late at all. Somebody, sooner or later, will provide these services that are wanted so badly by the public--of this I have no doubt at all. I just hope librarians are a major part of these developments.

Re: RDA and Flatlands

Posting to Autocat

On 1/18/2012 4:10 PM, Aaron Kuperman wrote:
The classic book "Flatlands" deals with how beings existing in a 2-dimensional universe function, appear to and can interact with beings such as ourselves who exist and perceive in 3-dimensions. [...] I am suggesting that for those of us who have spent their entire professional lives in an AACR/MARC universe, we are unable to comprehend an RDA/FRBR universe, just as 2-dimensional beings can't perceive "normal" human, and humans can't perceive a 5-dimensional universe. To understand an RDA/FRBR universe, whether for training purposes (my concern), or making policy decision (something I only "kibbitz" on), requires adopting an RDA/FRBR mindset, which I suspect will lead to very different perceptions than when a "2-dimensional" AACR/MARC being trys to follow the RDA rules. Learning the new rules is an aspect, but the big part of the change in learning about the new dimensions.

Well, I am the eternal skeptic. From my point of view, all of this assumes quite a bit. First, it assumes that the FRBR structure of entities, etc. are necessary to achieve the FRBR user tasks. Second, that the FRBR user tasks provide what the public *really* wants. Third, that in order to enter the linked data/semantic web/whatever-people-call-it-today universe, you need FRBR. And fourth, that the linked data universe itself is something that the public *really* wants. Therefore, to get into this lane, we have to adopt RDA. None of this is logical to me.

I have mentioned several times that the FRBR user tasks provide nothing essentially new, and that catalogs today can achieve those user tasks right now. Perhaps it's kind of a pain at the moment in some catalogs, but in Worldcat and other catalogs, it can be done now. With some programming magic, the public can very easily "find, identify, select, obtain: works, expressions, manifestations, items by their authors, titles, subjects". The undeniable fact is, our catalogs provide FRBR capabilities right now, they just haven't allowed it through keyword until relatively recently, but anyway, catalogs have always aimed to provide this kind of access.

Next, I have personally seen no evidence that for most people, it is vital for them to be able to do the FRBR user tasks, so calling them "user tasks" is a misnomer. Sure, some people want to do all of that occasionally, but this represents only a small percentage of the population, and on top of that, it is a small percentage of the total searches that small percentage makes. In fact, I have seen quite the contrary where people, including myself, have completely different needs other than those in FRBR. It seems only logical to ask: if the public really did want to find, identify, select, obtain: works, expressions, and so on and so on, then why do they overwhelmingly prefer tools such as Google where they can't even begin to do any of that at all? You can't even limit a search to a person's name! And yet, people like it a lot.

Third, FRBR is also not needed to enter the linked data universe. All you need to do is open up your data in a decent format and link it. You don't even have to have RDF which is incredibly complex and there are far simpler ways of doing it. But I admit that you cannot do it with MARC21/ISO2709 records that are shut away in databases.

Finally, there is an unspoken assumption that the public wants the linked data universe, and that when everything is linked, something wonderful will happen, although it is unclear exactly what that something wonderful is. Nevertheless, the Holy Grail for information developers is "Linked Data". And yet, I have never seen any research that shows this is what the public wants at all. Of course, it would be really difficult to do research on "linked data" because it barely exists as yet, but once again, we are left with promises of a radiant future without any evidence that it is what anyone wants. All that we have left is sheer faith that this future state will be a major advance, but I lost my faith quite some time back.

I think that FRBR does not envision anything new and to follow your analogy, merely seeks to impose a 2D universe onto a 3D universe that we still barely understand. Some parts can be salvaged from our 2D universe, but we must find new paths forward or risk being left further and further behind.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Lubetzky's "Development of Cataloging Rules" and Principles vs. Rules

Posting to Autocat
On 17/01/2012 21:31, SHEPHERD, MATTHEW wrote:
Good afternoon! I've been following this list for over a year since I took a technical services course in my MLIS program. I am breaking my silence today because of a 1953 Seymour Lubetzky article included in the readings for my cataloging course. The article, "Development of Cataloging Rules," begins as a historical summary, but Lubetzky concludes with a statement that seems quite relevant to recent discussions about RDA, AACR2, and LCRI:
"There is a school of thought which maintains that economy in cataloging requires a code of rules which could be applied without the exercise of judgment by the cataloger. Judgment, they say, is expensive because it requires highly paid people and takes much time. It is questionable whether this theory was ever valid in large and scholarly libraries. It certainly cannot be so where catalogers are confronted with a vast and mounting variety of publications on the one hand and a growing maze of rules on the other. It also is detrimental to the future of a profession which will require a generation of catalogers able to cope with greater cataloging problems than their predecessors have faced. Such a generation could not be brought up on a cataloging diet rich in rules and poor in principles, and on a preparation in cataloging which involved the use of rules without the exercise of discretion and reason."
It seems that Lubetzky is picturing a future world in which cataloging is done via flowchart (which I've seen in use for cataloging sound recordings), and in which seemingly trifling decisions are elevated to matters of great importance (which reminds me of MARC, ISBD, and AACR2).

I find it interesting that Lubetzky made these observations in a largely print-dominated environment. I think that the development of electronic formats in particular (both to be cataloged and to use for cataloging) has perhaps made the application of basic principles a more difficult prospect. The minutiae of descriptive cataloging must also be considered with respect to machine-readability, as well (such as standardizing terminology in the 300 field for faceting searches). In short, I'm not surprised that there is currently a greater emphasis on detailed rules and procedures than on underlying concepts.

I'm admittedly a greenhorn here, so I don't have much experience to weigh in very strongly on this point. I am interested in what members of this list think about Lubetzky's conclusion. Is cataloging theory and/or practice too heavily focused on low-level issues to consider the larger perspective? Have developments such as those associated with FRBR and RDA been working toward or against the establishment or application of principles?

I realize there's a lot to digest in the above, but I would enjoy reading your thoughts. The full Lubetzky article is available online at the following address:

Thanks for giving me the impetus to read this famous article once again. I too read it first in library school I believe, and at least one time since, and now, once again. It's interesting how my attitudes have changed since the first time.

Today, I ask myself: what does "cataloger's judgment" really mean? Of course, we can say that, based on the cataloger's experience, he or she makes the best judgment and moves on. The problem is, the term "experience" itself means many things as well, so someone with a great deal of experience with, e.g. audio-visual may not have much experience with maps, or someone with experience in legal topics may have none or practically none with theology or art. The experience of any cataloger, even over many decades, is still narrow compared with the totality of the bibliographic universe (although Mac's incredible knowledge may be a fantastic exception). As a result, any cataloger, when faced with a dilemma and having no rules to resort to, must make a decision on something where they have no experience. What is he or she to do?

I have seen two basic methods, each of which I think, are equally valid.

The first is to conclude that because there is no rule and I have no direct experience in this area, pretty much any decision will be satisfactory. Therefore, I will make a quick judgment and continue on.

The second is to conclude that because there is no rule and I have no direct experience in this area, I must spend time to search the catalogs I have for similar examples. After all, I am sure that someone before me has dealt with this problem or something similar--I need to discover how they handled it. So, this cataloger will spend time to get the needed experience before making the judgment, which only then will become satisfactory.

Lubetzsky, I think, suggests that catalogers take the first option in his article, although I confess that I have always tended toward the second one.

But, we are living in the 21st century, so there are additional aspects when considering Lubetzsky's article that didn't exist in his day. One is that tremendous strides have been made in online documentation. I have a certain experience with putting cataloging documentation online, and have discovered that in many ways the problems are not that there are "too many rules" but rather, the problem is one of computer-human interaction. In this case, the question becomes: What is the best way of recording cataloging decisions? In the example above, what if there were a very quick and easy way for either cataloger to record the decision they actually took, so that another cataloger could find that decision just as quickly and easily? So, if the question to any cataloging question could be found within three or four clicks because the rules are so wonderfully organized, then less "judgment" is needed and the results will be more consistency in the catalog along with greater efficiency for the cataloger. From this viewpoint, the answer is to build such a system that allows for a tremendous growth of rules and procedures but ensures easy navigation. There are all types of documentation in various fields online, and consequently, a lot of experience people can draw upon.

Another point that is just beginning to be used now in some fields but not cataloging, is the possibility of online collaboration. In my opinion, this is one of the most exciting possibilities today. Systems can be built, and exist now in different professions, where you can post a question and get responses from catalogers with expertise in specific areas other than your own. Autocat works slightly this way but there are far more powerful systems available. Wouldn't it be great if you could call an expert on Skype, discuss the problem and share the resource you are dealing with live? The expert may want to discuss it with other experts before giving a verdict. The verdict and all the discussions behind it could be saved for others later. These are some of the possibilities available today. And almost all the technology is open source.

So my own opinion today: I don't believe that the problem is that there are too many rules. Although in a print environment, having thousands and thousands (and thousands!) of pages of rules and procedures would make you faint, those days are over, and they are over forever. The problem today is to make the rules and procedures as useful as they need to be to allow for the greatest efficiency and as easy to navigate as possible, while the possibilities of truly online collaboration are amazing.

Sounds kind of like what the catalog itself could become, doesn't it?

Re: Cataloging Service Bulletin discontinued?

Posting to Autocat

On 14/01/2012 16:33, J. McRee Elrod wrote:
James said:
The LCPSs will not be available openly over the web, but only through subscriptions to the RDA Toolkit or the Cataloger's Desktop.
I've had no difficulty accessing them here: I wondered why you did not have a link to them on your cooperative cataloguing site.

Thanks for that. I didn't know they are available to everyone! I'll put in some links, unless someone else would like to do it. It is a wiki, after all.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Cataloging Service Bulletin discontinued?

Posting to Autocat

On 14/01/2012 06:22, Hal Cain  wrote:
On Fri, 13 Jan 2012 14:28:58 -0600, Geoffrey Hooker wrote:
Not an answer to why they aren't being published, but I did find this information dated 8 July 2011 at indicating that they are not : CATALOGING PRODUCTS Discontinued: - *Cataloging Service Bulletin* (CSB) - The last issue was #128 (from the 2010 subscription). All back issues are available for free at
Publication ceased at the end of 2010, coinciding with the highly deserved but much lamented retirement of the editor, Bob Hiatt, who also edited LCRIs.

My understanding is that the LCRIs are completely replaced by the LC Policy Statements (LCPSs) The LCPSs will not be available openly over the web, but only through subscriptions to the RDA Toolkit or the Cataloger's Desktop.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Re: [alcts-eforum] RE: Cataloging eresources and catalogers' future

Posting to alcts-eforum

On 12/01/2012 18:56, Rodriguez, Sandy wrote:
YES! Programming is a skillset that I see more and more catalogers acquiring as they transition out of working in the traditional library catalog. We see this evidence with the ever-growing community of Code4Lib, and in the most recent post of the popular Cataloging Futures blog, Christina Schwartz announced a new direction for her blog--a focus on using XQuery.
I have found this entire discussion most enlightening. Thanks to the moderators and all the participants for doing such a great job!

On this topic, I don't know if catalogers need to learn to program, although they do need to become much more tech-savvy. What is critical is to know the capabilities of new systems, and definitely not stay limited to knowing only what your own ILMS can do, since this can be highly limiting in many ways. So, you need to know, e.g. that once a file is in XML (including a MARC record), that you can then transform that file into anything you want. Anything should be taken literally here. Once you begin to realize and consider the possibilities around "anything", it can be liberating to your mind and the ideas can begin to flow.

Being able to actually program what you envision is rather irrelevant, in my opinion, since that expertise can always be outsourced to many people out there, including--yes--volunteers who may be more than willing to participate in a worthwhile project in exchange for nothing else but to share in the glory.

It is also important to understand that there are an outrageous number of software programs out there with all kinds of capabilities (including among them many open source software programs that can be downloaded for free) that can be used in conjunction with your own ILMS, so that you can, for instance, export your records and use them in a Drupal system where the sky is quite literally the limit. As another idea, I believe that collaboration among professionals is only in its infancy in the internet, and more importantly, within the library community--especially among catalogers--true collaboration has yet to be born. The possibilities in cataloger/cataloging/metadata collaboration are endless.

So much of what is needed today, in my opinion, are enlightened and informed innovative ideas that can be realized by technicians, while the catalogers should be closely involved. But actual programming skills are much less important, except as a way to "widen your horizons" and perhaps to give you additional ideas.

Re: Some comments on the Final Report of the FRBR Working Group on Aggregates

Posting to RDA-L

On 12/01/2012 12:12, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
No matter, however, how excellent Ms Oliver's product will turn out, the major roadblock on RDA's way to success will remain its closedness as a subscription product. So, under the circumstances given, how big is the chance of RDA succeeding anyway? I think the MRI business of Mac and Michal Gorman, together with the Open Cataloging Rules approach of Jim Weinheimer, have all the potential to lead into a future for cataloging that is both affordable and sustainable, open for more,  inviting for collaboration across borders, and down to earth. The "circumstances given" will not change significantly, I think, before there is a new data model plus codification in a manageable, learnable, implementable, and efficient MARC replacement. Under the present circumstances, RDA implementation - if not going way beyond the test data! - could hardly justify the expense.
And this expense comes at a highly critical time. I am still in a state of shock about the finding of poverty in the United States! In such a climate, I think we can all safely assume that finding additional money for libraries will probably take a back seat to more vital concerns for quite a long time.

There is currently a very interesting email discussion going on, on the alcts-eforum list, talking about "The Incredible Shrinking Cataloging Department," where people are talking about how they are dealing with less staff for more work. On the bright side, there does appear to be some hiring, and replacement of cataloging staff is going on, but the major trend seems to be outsourcing through shelf-ready copy. One interesting observation was that when a cataloger leaves or retires, in many libraries there is not the previous automatic response to replace the position, but to reconsider what are the needs of the library as a whole. Also, there appears to be an increase in the use of students, when possible.

Naturally, the new data models and methods and rules should be tested (should have been long ago) to discover if they meet the needs of the *public* better than what we have now. Still haven't seen it, but I won't bore everyone with going over that ground again.

Re: Bibliographic Control: A Meeting Between Educators and Practitioners

Posting to Autocat

On 08/01/2012 18:21, Aaron Kuperman wrote:
I have never taught cataloging in an academic setting, but have participated in training at work, and frankly, I don't think that cataloging per se is all that complex, and to the extent that it is complex the priority should be to simply the rules.

What is critical, are language and subject skills. It isn't all that hard to teach someone the necessary skills to catalog (especially if we simplify the cataloging rules), but it is very hard to catalog (especially subject cataloging) without a working knowledge of the language and subject.

Cataloging is not rocket science, but if you want to catalog a book on rocket science in Chinese, it is best to understand rocket science and to be able to read Chinese.
While I agree with this, especially the part about needing the language, I have often thought about what exactly the term"understand" means in "understand rocket science" or "understand [add any subject you prefer]". It doesn't have to mean that you actually are a practicing rocket scientist, or a farmer or sailor or poet or whatever. In fact, in those areas where I am more or less of an expert, when I have cataloged something, I have found myself getting angry that the subject headings and classification are not better. So, I suspect that having genuine expertise in a field may actually be a hindrance. Besides, no person can be an expert in everything, but often you find yourself cataloging books on almost anything.

Also, I have found that subject analysis is much more difficult than it appears. Just because you are the author of an article or book does not mean you can automatically analyse the subject. I have cataloged many articles that have had keywords supplied by the authors (who you would think would be the experts on their topics), and I discovered that the keywords the authors assigned were normally much too general. And they do not understand the principle of "exhaustivity" at all.

So, I would say first comes a knowledge of the language and second, you need time--at least enough time to learn enough to furnish adequate subjects by finding similar books on those topics to use the subjects there, searching other books by the same author, or items in the bibliography if there is one. Finally, if nothing else, to go outside the library and ask an expert about the parts where you need help.

This takes time, though.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Re: Some comments on the Final Report of the FRBR Working Group on Aggregates

Posting to RDA-L

On 06/01/2012 20:34, J. McRee Elrod wrote:
<snip> James Weinheimer said:
Probably, the issue of aggregates is also more related to physical materials than to virtual resources.
Absolutely not. While we first encountered the aggregate work problem with papers given at continuing education symposia, we now encounter it with constituent parts of websites. Many electronic publishers have parts of their websites for particular series, subjects, types of users, etc.
But if it is just the conference papers etc., everything can be handled as they have always been done, as you point out.

What I meant was that with physical materials, it is much easier to know what actually is the "aggregating entity" because you are looking at a book with lots of conference papers, the journal issue with different articles, and so on. From my experience, it is much more difficult for the cataloger to discover precisely what is, or is not, part of the same website, especially if you are looking at specific parts. The webmaster of the specific site knows this much better than anyone else.

I am still trying to find better examples, but here are a couple that should illustrate it. You may catalog an electronic document such as this, but you remain completely unaware that it is actually part of this: Many times because of the structure of the site, you are looking at a specific article or section, and there is no indication that the item is part of a series.

Here's another example:, is actually part of "The Spunk Library", but you would not know it except through creatively playing with the URL.

Frame sites (i.e. using the <frameset> or <iframe> coding) can be especially confusing, since it can turn out that you are only looking at one part of a whole. Here is an example. You see this page and everything looks OK, but it is actually designed to be seen in this way:

With printed materials, the "aggregating entity" will almost always be much more obvious but online, can easily be hidden. And, to return to dynamically-created mashups, while it may be theoretically possible to catalog them according to FRBR, to do so in reality would be more tedious than finding needles in a haystack and probably not worth the effort.

So, in a case of an online conference with multiple papers (all virtual), the current methods can be used. But the methods can fall apart for many materials online.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Re: Some comments on the Final Report of the FRBR Working Group on Aggregates

Posting to RDA0L

On 06/01/2012 15:41, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
The entities exist whether they're brought out in the cataloging as significant or not. In RDA, many such entities and their relationships are captured in unstructured descriptions or transcribed elements, without any mechanism for identifiers (separate records, authorized access points, URIs, control numbers, etc.).

I beg to differ about "existence" of the entities. What FRBR did was to take out of the catalog an *arrangement* of the cards, which had been transferred into the computer, and then to transform this arrangement into an "entity" with all of those attributes. In this sense, saying that a "work" exists is just like proclaiming that a royal flush "exists" in poker, and therefore the royal flush has various attributes.

The royal flush does not exist as such, it comes about only through a specified arrangement of the playing cards which in fact, *do* exist.

The reason for the arrangement of cards in the catalog was for retrieval. That's all. Over many centuries, librarians discovered through trial and error that people wanted to find the books in their collections in specific ways and they used the arrangements of the cards to provide that. A library would get another version/copy/edition of the Bible and would need to include it intelligently into the catalog. (Compare this to the lack of any intellectual arrangement in that catalog of the Rev. Prince I mentioned in my previous post) It wasn't philosophical, it was totally pragmatic. The philosophical view grew out of the pragmatic basis. But the pragmatic basis should always take precedence over theory.

Re: Some comments on the Final Report of the FRBR Working Group on Aggregates

Posting to RDA-L about Aggregates, based on the Working Group's Final Report and Heidrun Wiesenm├╝ller's paper

A few thoughts of my own:

First, I suspect this issue is of relatively little interest or use to the public, so this is probably more related to internal management of the collection. Cutter implies as much in the Appendix to his Rules (p. 81), where he discusses tools needed only for the librarians to manage the collections. He mentions the "Tract-catalogue", which is "a list of the tracts contained in bound volumes", or in our terminology, aggregates. He goes on to say, "You may see collections of pamphlets on various subjects by various authors recorded under a made-up heading "Tracts" or "Pamphlets," a style of entry that is nearly useless. The whole of the Prince catalogue of 1846 was made in this absurd way."
 [Incidentally, I guess he means the "Catalogue of the library of Rev. Thomas Prince", which is indeed a strange one, providing a bizarre listing of the books by size, without any discernible order at all. Completely useless. An example of what Cutter mentions is found in no. 856, p. 58 "Tracts" I just can't hold myself back from sharing these things! I can't get over that I can do all of this online, and for free!]

Probably, the issue of aggregates is also more related to physical materials than to virtual resources. Since each library has been dealing with these matters for a long, long time, each will have its own methods. Now that FRBR mandates that everything we catalog must have separate work and expression entities (something that cannot be questioned), we see another example where the workload and complexity goes up while access stays the same.

I also wonder how individual journal articles play into this model.

The Working Group report at least mentions mashups but doesn't really discuss them. I don't blame them one bit since working mashups into the WEMI model will probably make dealing with aggregates in the printed world look like child's play.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cataloging Matters #13: Thoughts on Open Development

Cataloging Matters #13:
Thoughts on Open Development

Hello everyone. My name is Jim Weinheimer and welcome to Cataloging Matters, a series of podcasts about the future of libraries and cataloging, coming to you from the most beautiful, and the most romantic city in the world, Rome, Italy.

In this episode, I want to discuss something a little different: I have already talked about open archives, (part 1, part 2)  but there are lots of other types of open. Here, I want to concentrate on some of the technical aspects of open source development and how people have managed to get these kind of projects under control. Finally, I would like to suggest a possible future where the cataloger can play a major role.

Before I begin, I would like to dispense with a point of grammar. In this podcast, I shall use the term “open” as opposed to the term “openness.” I realize that using the simple term open is rather awkward, but I do so to emphasize its difference from openness, which is similar but has additional meanings attached to it. This follows what I did in another of my podcasts where I maintained that search is actually quite different from searchingI will return to this later.

And by the way, there are links to everything I discuss in the transcript. 

What does OPEN mean? We seem to come across this term more and more often: open source, open education, open systems, open government, open relationships, open season, open mike, open marriage... The list can go on and on. I do not intend to analyse all of these types of open here, which are quite varied, but the sense in which I want to discuss it is that open is in reality a philosophical view, and this view can be shown in many levels of our society, not only within computers and their systems. 

Nevertheless, to get a clear initial idea of what open means, it is probably easiest to think of it in terms of computer software, and to discuss the differences of open source and freeware vs. proprietary software.

Here we go! 

Proprietary software is the simplest to understand: a program was created by Microsoft or Apple and is their property. Although you have bought your own copy, those companies still retain several rights. No one can change the copy of that program or do anything with it except what the owners allow. These programs may even be free to install and to use, such as ITunes, but mostly you have to pay for them, as we do for Microsoft Office. The basic point is that if you would like the program to work in ways other than the owners allow, you must ask them to make the changes and they can choose simply to ignore you. Even if you have the technical knowledge, you are still not allowed to change the program.

Have you ever wondered how these owners prevent people from working on the copies of proprietary software that developers have in the privacy of their own homes? If you owned a copy of a book, you could take it apart to discover how it was made and so on. But you can’t do this with a software program. But let’s face it--who is going to know if you do it at home in your study anyway? After all, the companies aren’t spying on everybody--are they? No they aren’t, but they do something else: they do not give you the source code.

What is source code? The source code is what computer programmers write using special languages such as Java or C or C++ or perl or php or any of the other programming languages that are completely incomprehensible to the layman. But what’s more important is that these languages ARE comprehensible to an expert. Still, the source code on its own will not get the computer to do anything because to the computer, the source code is just as incomprehensible as to the layman. The only thing computers understand is what is called machine language, that is, all those 1s and 0s of binary code. Therefore, after the human programmers write the source code, they must use a special program to convert the source code into machine code.

With proprietary software, you receive only the machine code (that is, the 1s and 0s) and not the source code. While it is theoretically possible to reverse engineer the source code from the machine code, it is a massive amount of work, and it is illegal to do so anyway. Looked at this way, the source code for a program is similar to the Rosetta Stone, which allowed Champollion to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. Before the discovery of that stone, everyone was pretty much helpless.

This is what people mean when they talk about open source as opposed to closed source: open source makes the source code publically available and closed source does not.

Both freeware and open source are very similar, yet there are still some subtle differences between the two. What are those differences? Not very much, as it turns out. The real differences are actually more on the philosophical side, and the final products are essentially the same.

Freeware concentrates on the idea that the software is not free as in free kittens or free beer, neither of which are without costs to you or somebody somewhere. Even though the software is free to download and to use, it will need some resources, such as a server, someone to do maintenance and so on. Freeware concentrates on a different meaning of the word free, considering it free as in freedom, that is, you do not have to ask permission from anyone to edit the program to function however you want it to, for whatever reasons you might have, and then to share it with anyone you wish.

Open source software means the software that you can download for free and install legally, can look at the actual source code, and you are free to edit it for your own purposes, plus to share your own version, if you wish. Therefore, open source software is focused on the process.

So today, open source software concentrates on the advantages of so-called crowdsourcing to develop the software, with the result that you can have developers quite literally all over the world working 24/7 on the software in all kinds of ways. Freeware is more ideologically opposed to proprietary software, which disallows anyone, except the company who owns it, to be able to change a software program in any way, even if you do so only for your own purposes and do not share it with anyone at all.

The subtle difference can probably best be understood in the titles of two of the important works on this topic. Richard Stallman, who was one of the very first people to begin this way of thinking, entitled his work “Free as in Freedom” and he describes how the freeware movement (freeware in this context now takes on a different meaning) began with an encounter he had with a feisty Xerox printer! This book is available for free on the web

One of the basic tenets of freeware is “The freedom to run the program”:
“The freedom to run the program means the freedom for any kind of person or organization to use it on any kind of computer system, for any kind of overall job and purpose, without being required to communicate about it with the developer or any other specific entity. In this freedom, it is the user's purpose that matters, not the developer's purpose; you as a user are free to run the program for your purposes, and if you distribute it to someone else, she is then free to run it for her purposes, but you are not entitled to impose your purposes on her.” (From the GNU philosophy
Quite a statement when you think about it. To get a better understanding of this mentality, you might want to watch the films Tron and especially Tron Legacy!

The other major book is The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Raymond, which discusses how freeware/open source products can be built: from the bottom-up (the Bazaar) where the process of development is open for everyone to see and even participate in, or from the top-down (the Cathedral), which makes only the final product open and free to all but not the process of development. The Linux operating system is built on the Bazaar model and is a great example of a success. Raymond's book, by the way, is apparently what convinced the Netscape Corporation to release its code and allow development of the Mozilla project with Firefox and Thunderbird and other programs, which now follow the Bazaar model of development. For anyone who hasn't used Firefox, it is probably the best browser available and Thunderbird is a great email program. If you haven't worked with them, especially Firefox, I suggest that you try them. After all, it's free and if you don't like it, you haven’t lost any money and you can use something else. That is one of the beauties of freeware.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods of open source development: the Cathedral model can be very efficient and new releases can be brought out rather quickly when only a few people are involved and work closely together. The Bazaar approach could only be successful once the networked information web we have today was created. Now, many people from around the world can be involved in a single project. The basic philosophy can be summed up in the statement “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”, which means that the more people who work on a program, the quicker that any problems can be discovered and solved than where there are only a few people.

It is obviously difficult to manage such huge projects with participants from literally anywhere, so developers created software programs specially designed for open-source development (these are also available as freeware) and can bring order to what would otherwise be a completely unmanageable situation. One of these programs has the curious name Bugzilla, which allows people to file problems and to track the progress of how computer bugs are being corrected. ( There are lots of other programs for doing this however.

An example of the Bazaar model is Firefox, since people can involve themselves in the development process, while Android, the operating system for mobile devices owned by Google, is an example of the Cathedral model since Google shares their code only after it has been developed.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar is also available for free on the web

What Happens When There is a Difference of Opinion?
What happens when various groups want the software to develop in different ways? Several solutions are possible in these situations. One way is to have a kind of guru, who is generally accepted as such, so that he or she can just make the decision. Linus Torvalds, who developed the Linux kernel, sometimes does this with Linux. Another way of solving this problem is through voting and the bug-tracking software can handle this.

But what if these solutions fail and the disagreements are just TOO far apart? This is when something called a fork may occur and although ideally, forks should be seen as good developments since it allows different communities to do as they wish, the reality is completely different and some have compared forks to religious schisms. Forks occur when different groups want to develop different pieces of software; in other words, the groups will no longer cooperate and the software each group creates will no longer be able to exchange their code. Therefore, it is a huge decision fraught with many responsibilities to embark upon a fork. Linux has forked many times in many ways. In the transcript, I provide a link to an image that shows the timeline of the forks that have occurred in Linux. Many lasted only a short time.

One recent example of a fork is OpenOffice, which has been free software for around ten years and developed by Oracle according to the Cathedral model. Many, including myself, find it better than Microsoft Office for their own purposes. It turned out that some of the developers got concerned that OpenOffice was not being developed actively enough by Oracle and in 2010, they created a fork called LibreOffice to ensure development. They asked Oracle to participate in the project but Oracle was not at all happy about it, refused to participate and demanded that the fork be shut down. Those developers continued and wound up creating their own organization called “The Document Foundation”.
(OpenOffice and LibreOffice

LibreOffice is now adopting the Bazaar development model but the founders of LibreOffice maintain that LibreOffice actually is OpenOffice but since they cannot use the OpenOffice logo as it is owned by Oracle, they changed the name—kind of.

To get around many of the pressures to create new software forks, the main programs are becoming more flexible. Today there is the possibility of creating add-ons, plugins or extensions in various ways. These are pieces of software that cannot be run independently, whereas a fork is an independent program. Add-ons are designed only to enhance another program and will not run on its own. I won't discuss these in detail since there are so many different kinds for so many different programs, but let’s just say that they have become wildly popular and there are hundreds if not more, for all kinds of programs. As a rule, add-ons are much simpler to make than altering the source code of an existing program, and the developer can remain relatively independent, and yet because add-ons are still based on the main program, there is also the danger that your add-on may become inoperative when the main program is updated. So, anybody who has used Firefox with add-ons has discovered upon updating Firefox, that half of your add-ons no longer function and need to be updated as well.

Since add-ons are so popular, some proprietary programs allow them--programs such as Internet Explorer. But dependence on proprietary software is by definition even more difficult since because of the closed development model, the developer of the add-on can do nothing until after the new version of the proprietary program is released.

Consequently, we can see that those who create add-ons assume a major responsibility to keep current with the programs they are dependent on.

Wild West?
From this discussion, it may seem as if open source development is like the wild West of the 19th century, and that what we really need is a tough sheriff who will take charge, clean up the town, and bring some bit of order to it, someone like Gary Cooper as Will Kane in High Noon.

While that may be true, there is a different way of looking at it: imagine we are in one of those nasty little western towns we see in the movies, where everything and everyone is owned by the local cattle baron who spends his time drinking and gambling in the brothel he owns, and the little homesteaders (i.e. developers) are almost helpless in the face of all that wealth and power (imagine Microsoft or Apple or Oracle or whatever company you prefer in the role of cattle baron). Since the cattle baron is interested only in adding to his own money and power, he must stifle all competition wherever he sees it. In this sense, open source seems more like Alan Ladd as Shane, who saves everybody from the cattle baron, and each homesteader can become a genuinely productive citizen.

Alan Ladd thereby cleans up the town in quite a different way from how Gary Cooper does it.

By the way, if you haven't seen these movies, you should do so. 

I confess that much of this is of limited interest to people who are interested only in using the programs—except that the open source/freeware ones cost them much less money, if anything at all! What does this have to do with catalogs?

Open Source Library Catalogs
First, there are several free, open source library catalogs available. Now we understand that they are not free in the sense of free puppies, but they are free in quite another way. This, I think, brings something that is literally brand-new, or at the very least well-forgotten, to the library cataloger community. For a long time now because of the nature of the library catalogs we have purchased, catalogers have been told how to do their work. You ask: “How do I add a serial issue?” The answer is that in proprietary library catalog X, you add a serial issue this way. In proprietary library catalog Y, you add a serial issue this other way. In other proprietary catalogs, it may be different. It doesn’t matter if you like any of those ways or not, or what you think about them. It is their way or the highway, and there is no discussion. Sure, the library can ask the companies to change something, but we know where that normally leads. 

With open source library catalogs, it is completely different. While there is usually a default method to do anything, such as adding a serial issue, when dealing with an open source library catalog, the real answer to a question such as “How do I add a serial issue?” should be “How would you like to do it?” Sometimes, a change you suggest can be quick and easy, while at other times, it can be more intensive. You can hire out a computer science student to do the work if you don’t have the expertise internally. But the amount of labor and costs are beside the point. The main thing is: you can change it, that is if you want to. This is the freedom that freeware promises.
As we have seen, there are all kinds of methods for making a program, or in this case, a library catalog, work the way you want it to: from changing the code, to simply adding some links, or creating an add-on. You can even take out your entire catalog and put it into another software program, as the eXtensible Catalog does, at least as I understand it. (

The only limit is your own imagination, but this is easier to say than to genuinely accept. Open source catalogs can be quite different from proprietary catalogs--they don’t have to be but they can be--and it takes some time to get used to, but once you do, it opens new possibilities and is quite liberating.

It can even be incredibly creative.

One of the basic assumptions that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere in all of the discussions of open source is: for any of it to work, people themselves must be open, and here I want to explore openness. By this I mean that the information you share with others who are working on similar projects must be truthful and honest, and consequently, you must share your progress and your successes, as well as your setbacks and your failures. Information about failures is essential.

For open source developers who are private companies, much of this may be considered to be sharing business secrets. But even for individuals, such openness can be exceptionally difficult and especially for the organizations they work for. 

Although people have been taught from the time they were children that they should share their problems and their failures along with their successes, there is something within us that rebels against such openness. I have never met anyone who enjoys admitting failures or pointing out inadequacies within himself or herself. When the pressures and competitions found within organizations and between them are added into this scenario, it can be very difficult indeed to find openness. For instance, I have had many private emails from librarians around the world who tell me of the difficulties within their organizations, or between competing—oh! Excuse me! That should be cooperating organizations. They tell me the problems, but there is almost always the proviso that I can use the often invaluable information they give me, but only so long as they and their organizations remain anonymous.

It turns out that many of the problems these people are facing are in essence, the same everywhere except for the details: similar problems with systems, similar friction among competing--excuse me again!--cooperating divisions, similar problems of understanding and so on and so on.

Of course, I will always keep everything anonymous when asked to do so. I completely understand the need, but I will state that it is truly unfortunate there is such a need to do it. The result is that officially, all matters appear to be under control, but in reality, individuals often suffer from a tremendous lack of information and at times this may lead them to believe that he or she is the only one facing these difficulties. This makes them feel inadequate, they may consider themselves to be failures, when often, almost every other organization is dealing with the same problems, yet there remains this need to pretend to the outside world that everything is OK.

Associated with this is something very interesting I have discovered that has to do with people in academia, who very often have tenure or its equivalent. Of course, one of the major justifications of tenure is to ensure open discussion since those with tenure are not supposed to worry about losing their positions if they say something they believe sincerely, but happens to be unpopular with upper echelons. In this sense, openness is codified by tenure itself.

Naturally, matters are rarely so simple and it turns out that many who work in academia and are protected by tenure-type securities still do not feel very secure when speaking their minds.

There is no need to go into this any further. Let me state openly that I am very much 100% pro-tenure and wish it could be extended far more widely outside of academia, but nevertheless, tenure still has its faults. The lack of openness even for those with secure positions, something which appears so perplexing on the surface, is truly an unfortunate consequence and retards progress.

Why am I talking about Open Source development in a Discussion on Cataloging?
The reason I am discussing open source development is because it is a genuinely new business model (or as I suspect, it is more correctly a rediscovery of a very old model, but that is still another topic I won't discuss at this moment). The fact is, open source development has a very active history both of proven successes and of failures, along with a huge number of problems accompanied by all kinds of solutions that have shown themselves to be more-or-less successful.

It is my feeling that by using something very similar to open source development, especially following the Bazaar model, we could come up with new cataloging rules, or an open cataloging standard. If many--very many-- librarian/metadata creators were involved in the development of these standards, and matters were correctly worked out, plus I suspect, by using the add-ons concept which would allow the development of a very basic core set of rules, while different specialized communities, such as legal, cartographic, theological, musical, Slavic languages, along with other communities I cannot even imagine right now, could be “added-on” in some fashion, we could build comprehensive rules branching out from the core to include many, many communities.  

Could cataloging rules be built on such an open model? There are already several examples of ”open standards” (although there are several definitions of what that means). Wikipedia has a number of open standards listed.

Most of these standards deal with computer standards of coding, but I see no reason why the basic model could not be extended to other tasks such as cataloging rules or perhaps even to other types of standards as well. The main ideas are that everyone--and I repeat everyone--can participate equally in the development of the standard if they wish. This is something new.

Even the equivalent of add-ons for each specialized community could evolve into associated or subordinate standards. Marvelous tools such as Skype, presentation software, Google Translate, and even that weird Second Life are available, which allow for unparalleled international cooperation today. Of course, the final product would be free to use, to consult, and download for each person’s own purposes. Yes, each of these could be changed as well, but I would hope that if matters were set up correctly, all could work together, at least to a point.

Does this envision a wild west environment, or one of newfound freedom? I have my own opinions, but each person would have to answer that question individually.

The facts are: We know that these development models and tools have succeeded in the past and they continue to succeed today. They can help to create some extremely important projects in the world, but for these models to work, there are certain responsibilities required, primary among them, a willingness to cooperate in genuine ways—not only passively, and not only in words, but in deeds. As Linus Torvalds has said, “Talk is cheap, show me the code.”

Can librarians do something like this? That this kind of a system could succeed, I have no doubt because there is such a record of success in other projects. Whether it would succeed is an entirely different question of course. Could the Cooperative Cataloging Rules be a part of such an open standards system? I would hope so but I would happily see it all forgotten if something better and genuinely useful came along.

Open is Not Good for Everything
In a recent article in the London Review of Books, Jenny Diski talks about modern publishing practices of literature that closely resemble the open model in her article titled either Short Cuts or The Future of Publishing, I can’t figure out which is the title. The author describes how in modern literary writing, websites are often set up today where the authors post drafts of their novels, people comment on those drafts (sometimes the people pay for this opportunity), and the authors can change their drafts based on the comments from their readers.

This can also be described as an open-source development model for a novel. As the author says,

“Unbound [one of these websites] suggests itself as a radical move away from commercial publishing, but instead of an alternative, it’s the concentrated essence of marketing. No one is taking any risks or making a leap of faith. This is a crowdsourcing model that is as crowd-pleasing as populist publishing, but on a smaller, safer scale. Readers control what the authors can write. In the past, libraries and bookshops were places you went to to find excitement. The excitement Unbound offers is that of a horse-race with a chance to feel up your horse’s fetlocks before it runs.” That’s it for now. Thank you for listening to Cataloging Matters with Jim Weinheimer, coming to you from Rome, Italy, the most beautiful, and the most romantic city in the world.
Although I too, have a natural desire for money, this article makes clear that when it comes to personal, creative efforts, the open model can be carried much too far. At least it does for me. 

To end this podcast, made during a winter in central Italy, I can think of no better music selection than from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the famous first movement from the fourth concerto, the one labelled “Winter”.

It turns out that Rome gets a lot of rain in the winter, but very rarely gets any snow at all. When I see satellite photos showing all of Italy blanketed under snow, sometimes rather deep, while the little area around Rome is clear, I always think that those old Romans really knew what they were doing when they chose this spot for their city.

This recording is from the Internet Archive, where you can find different versions of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in their entirety. This is a recent performance, from November 3, 2011, by the Wichita State University Chamber Players.

That’s it for now. Thank you for listening to Cataloging Matters with Jim Weinheimer, coming to you from Rome, Italy, the most beautiful, and the most romantic city in the world.