BIBFRAME creating/writing bibframe data

Posting to Bibframe

On 2/19/2016 10:15 PM, Tennant,Roy wrote:
You created a plausible outline that I’m afraid is missing a rather large and important step. For the lack of a better term I’ll call it “entification,” which is what we call it around here. …
I get the sense sometimes that the library community doesn’t fully grasp the nature of this transition yet, and it worries me. We need to shake off the shackles of our record-based thinking and think in terms of an interlinked Bibliographic Graph. As long as we keep talking about translating records from one format to another we simply don’t understand the meaning of linked data and both the transformative potential it has for our workflows and user interfaces as well as the plain difficult and time consuming work that will be required to get us there.
Sure, we at OCLC are a long way down a road that should do a lot to help our member libraries make the transition, but there will be plenty of work to go around. The sooner we fully grasp what that work will be, the better off we will all be in this grand transition. No, let’s call it what it really is: a bibliographic revolution. Before this is over there will be broken furniture and blood on the floor. But at least we will be free of the tyrant.

I completely agree that the library community doesn’t fully grasp the nature of the transition. We are only at the beginning of a “long, strange trip”–and the resources of some libraries (and librarians themselves!) are almost exhausted already.

All of this in the pursuit of a highly abstract goal: an interlinked bibliographic graph. I haven’t come across that term before, but I guess it is a take on the “Giant Global Graph” of Tim Berners-Lee that many people consider to be the ultimate goal of linked data. To achieve this goal of an interlinked bibliographic graph, we see that much will have to be sacrificed, but the revolution will be worthwhile because we will be free of the “tyrant”. Once again, I am not sure precisely what you mean here, but I assume the tyrant is the MARC record, which is a “unified bibliographic record” that contains all of the information for a bibliographic item. (I prefer to call it the “unit record” or the traditional catalog card, which was made to deal with the 19th-century transition from the earlier book catalogs, which were structured quite differently)

The unified bibliographic record found in MARC must undergo “entification,” which again, I assume means to turn as much as possible of the current, unified bibliographic record into entities, i.e. URIs, that in turn can be linked to–by anyone, I guess. (that is, if it is to be linked OPEN data. Linked closed data is an entirely different matter) In any case, if all this is done, I completely agree that the data that is now in our bibliographic records will become almost infinitely flexible.

There are a few questions of course. Chief among them, the obvious one:

1) Is this what libraries signed up for? What will be the final costs in terms of budgets, careers, redoing so much yet again? And how long will it take?

2) It remains to be seen whether any of this is what the public wants. I guess I’m just an old-fashioned kind of guy, or maybe just naive, but it seems to me that when people come to a library (either virtually or physically) they come to use the items in the collection, and not to use the catalog. In other words, people do not come to a library, or the library’s website, just to look up something in the catalog and then…. go home. They use the catalog to get into the materials in the library’s collection. If they already know what they want and where it is, they ignore the catalog. (Maybe they shouldn’t but they do)

The best catalogs are those that I can use as quickly and as easily as possible so that I can spend the least amount of time with the catalog and spend the most amount of time in the items I find in the collection. This is why I personally prefer Google. It is not that I spend a great deal of time on Google, but paradoxically, I spend the least amount of time there compared to the other search engines. That’s why I prefer it.

So, even if we make the “100% entified, interlinked bibliographic graph tool” that brings in information from hither and yon, that gives me charts from the IMF and images from Flickr, videos from YouTube, the latest news from Bing, plus of course, all the Wikipedia info, along with the library materials–and I’ll assume here that it will even be on the specific topics I want, that might be great. Pardon my skepticism: I think lots of people would still like to see it in action before concluding that it really is great.

It may be that the idea is to get rid of or replace the catalog completely, but I think the public will continue to demand a quick and easy-to-use list to get into the materials in a library’s collection. The proposed linked data tools do not provide this but only adds complexity to the catalog by adding more and more stuff into a search result. It seems to me that we can entify things until Doomsday and it still won’t make it one bit easier for the public to find materials in library collections.

The problem is: our catalogs have never been easy-to-use, and they blew out even worse when they went online with keyword. There are tons of problems and those issues have yet to be addressed. But just because the public doesn’t like to use library catalogs doesn’t mean that they do not want a “listing of materials” in the collection they are using. And that list should be made as simple to use as possible. Such a listing is also called a catalog. A lot could be done to make it easier to use than it is today. But nobody seems to be talking about that.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the public doesn’t want an easy-to-use listing of materials in a library’s collection. Like I said, maybe I’m just an old-fashioned kind of guy, or just naive.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m still not sure how a search will occur in this new catalog. If there are only links will a key word search have to travel all the links in the catalog and bring back a results from hundreds of thousands or millions or perhaps billions of these links? One query will result in thousands and thousands of hits against the VIAF, Wikidata, OCLC APIs, LC terminologies and other sites. Because my KW search for Harry Porter will travel all the links in the whole catalog. There is no way to know it is a series or a character, so genre and geographic links will have to be followed as well. Will the machines being hit be robust enough to take many millions of searches at one time? If every search from every library in the world generates millions of requests from those data stores how will those data stores manage? What will that mean to the speed of our catalogs as they wait for the replies from all those distant data stores? This is many times the scale of federated searching or Z39.50. Will the speed be acceptable? What if a hub goes down? LC shut off some services during the government shut-down. What if that happens again? Or Wikidata is hit by a DOS attack?

    March 23, 2016
  2. You ask some fabulous questions. Yes, linked data will end up with lots of hits from those data stores libraries decide to link to. It will mean a greater or smaller load on those systems and they will have to be able to deal with the greater loads. The entire linked data system must be robust enough to handle the stresses thrown at it.

    There actually are ways of dealing with these problems, but they all involve money. Lots of money. To put it another way, these are all problems that money can solve. The problems are not so much technical, or human, but from getting enough money to buy and maintain systems that can deal with the ever-growing demands of a linked data system.

    Can that be done? Absolutely yes. I remember a similar problem in the 1990s about something called “bandwidth”–in essence, the Internet was interesting for people but awful to use. When the World Wide Web appeared (i.e. browsers made using the Internet much easier) if the Internet was to grow, the communications had to be faster. Why? Because at that time you could click on a link but it could take FOREVER for a page to load. This was because there were too few fiber optic cables to handle the huge growth in the numbers of people using the Internet. That was not a technical problem and it was also not a human problem. The problem was that there were not enough fiber optic lines, and that could be solved by laying more of them. Lots more of them. But that would cost money.

    It turned out that business became very excited about the prospects of making more money from the Internet, and they actually were willing to invest in the fiber optic cables and pretty soon, the serious “bandwidth problem” simply disappeared. Something similar could happen with the libraries’ ideas for a linked data system.

    But to do that, libraries will have to come up with a vision that creating the linked data system will be worth the expense. This vision must be very convincing and exciting, and full of possibilities, much like that of solving the bandwidth problem.

    So far, what I have seen of the vision of linked data, and especially the vision of it in library catalogs, is completely vague and thoroughly unconvincing. It is anything but exciting. For instance, what is so great about adding a link to id.loc.gov? How can any non-librarian possibly get excited about that? The most useful information someone might be able to discover would be “See also” cross-references, but most people no longer understand how any of that works.

    Besides, one of the basic ideas of “linked data” is to add links, and the overwhelming majority of records in id.loc.gov and VIAF have no links from them. For instance, here is the link to my own record in id.loc.gov (http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/no97049454.html). My record is like most records: there is no real information except for usage. And certainly no links to anything. What good comes to the user from linking to this record?

    So this is the problem: I think there would be plenty of money to solve everything you mention, SO LONG AS an exciting and convincing vision of the future is made to those who control the money. What I have seen so far is NEITHER exciting NOR convincing.

    March 24, 2016

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