This topic, some threads on various lists, and a talk on youtube (that I suggest all librarians should watch): “E-Books Do Not Exist (and Other Conundrums of Digital Asset Management)” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ5sSUHJagg, all of these discussions have all really made me think.
Posting to various lists
The task of adding non-MARC metadata to the library catalog is absolutely huge and fabulously important–there is no doubt about that. It also doesn’t seem to be discussed much, especially when compared to RDA, WEMI or which relator codes to use. But the challenge is exponentially larger and has the potential to sink the catalog, and some apparently think it already has.
Still, I question whether adding non-MARC metadata (or in other words, non-standard records) is really a new problem or not. Libraries have always had files to all kinds of materials that did not make it into the library’s catalog: finding lists for archives, journal and newspaper indexes; lots of analytics, all kinds of subject bibliographies… this list can go on for a long time. It was always too much work for individual libraries to catalog everything that came into the library, so that isn’t new. What is really different now is that these things can go into the catalog–that is, if you receive some kind of delimited format, it is possible to convert it into a type of MARC where you can load it into the catalog without the catalog noticeably blowing up. It can be done, but I question: should it be done? And if so, how should it be done?
Zillions of problems arise when adding them to the catalog. The problems of incorrect headings, as discussed by Julie, plus the numerous problems laid out in the youtube talk make me think that adding those records causes as many problems as it proposes to solve. Still, the public wants to be able to search “everything” in one search, and I accept that. Does that also mean we have to destroy the consistency in our catalogs that our predecessors (and me!) have worked so hard to maintain through the decades, and even longer in some cases? I don’t think so. The power of today’s systems could offer a solution. For instance, with federated
searching, searching “everything” does not mean that it all must be in one database. The information can be almost anywhere, in any format.
There are several open source tools now, such as MasterKey (demo at http://mk2.indexdata.com/). In this demo, you are searching library catalogs, OpenCourseWare, Wikipedia, and PLOS. There is also Wheke http://wheke.org, made by an acquaintance, based on Drupal. Most of the documentation is in French however. There are probably other similar tools as well. Anyway, these will search MARC and non-MARC databases all at once, then sort and even merge the records it finds. The MasterKey demo is very impressive. Of course, when you install it yourself, you can decide what you want to search and how to do it.
What is the advantage? Well, in Julie’s case with the “free” Dublin Core records, she would not have to put them into the catalog but she could put the records into another local database, perhaps a very simple mysql one or something similar. It could be searched along with anything else she wanted using the federated searching tool, and the users wouldn’t even know the difference. But the real advantage is: the records would be in their own database, you would have additional tools not available in a MARC database, and you could continue to work update/edit/completely overwrite them separately without worrying about how it affects your own catalog records. The result would be that a lot of the terrible headaches mentioned in the youtube talk would disappear.
And, in the spirit of sharing, if Julie were kind enough to let other libraries and catalogers use her mysql database of those records, the entire workload could be shared out, for instance, updating headings or using URIs. Everyone would benefit.
Records for electronic documents are fundamentally different from records for physical items because they are all pointing to exactly the same files in exactly the same places. Although you may need specific permissions to access the files, that is a separate issue, and fully solvable as well. So, I don’t see why each library needs separate records in its catalog that all point to exactly the same things–why not share it if you can, and do it efficiently?
This does raise other questions however, but I’ll talk about those in other posts.