RE: WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities for the OCLC Cooperative

Posting to Autocat

Allen Mullen wrote:

“RDA has the potential to open up the closed cataloging model and deliver more relevant, useful (both for humans and machines) and efficient (more bang for the buck) bibliographic information than the silo model that we are accustomed to.”

I think this is such an important point that it must be seriously addressed. It has still to be demonstrated that adoption of RDA really does have the “potential to open up the closed cataloging model…” I personally do not believe it at all. I haven’t seen it in the slightest. The FRBR/RDA-inspired displays I have seen do not answer to the needs of any of my patrons, or of my own. When I see reports on new methods of information use, I don’t see how any of them are addressed by adoption of RDA or FRBR.

There are many reasons for the closed cataloging model, and I agree that those models must change to become open, but the reasons for this closed model do not lie in the cataloging rules, but in our MARC formats, the completely obsolete Z39.50 method of transferring records that the library community–and only the library community–still relies upon, the unwillingness to openly share our cataloging standards, and finally but perhaps the most important: the unwillingness of libraries to openly share their cataloging information. I don’t think these are controversial points, simply statements of fact.

The problems of the closed cataloging model is certainly not at all in the cataloging rules: new rules for how to input the title, how to count the pages, what to do when there is no place of publication and so on and so on. That is only a matter of shining up your buggy and combing your pony when everyone around you is driving cars or flying in airplanes.

As I have said before, even if all the libraries in the world adopted 100% RDA, everyone were perfectly trained, all our records were converted to RDA (whatever that really means–I can’t imagine what that would actually be)–and such a scenario will never happen anyway–I still maintain that it would make absolutely no difference at all to our current problems, and our patrons wouldn’t even notice a difference.

How long do we continue waiting for FRBR and RDA (instead of waiting for Godot) to come and save us? Even if and when they do actually show up, what can they do? How will they change anything at all? I don’t have the faith.

Where do the answers lie? To me, it seems simple. The first step would be to let our authority and catalog records out in a useful format such as MODS making sure that we have linked the catalog records to the relevant authority records. It would be nice to have some kind of semi-useful interface for people to really understand what is there. If that’s too much, l et it all out anyway and let the world link it for us. Next, see what the public does with all of this. What they do will be impossible to predict. Finally, reevaluate from what you have learned and go from there.

I don’t think this will happen, at least not in the English-speaking world, although it might in other places. For example, the Hungarian National Library recently let everything out in an open manner, using linked data to boot. Other libraries, such as CERN, have done similar things.

I understand the reasons for the actions that institutions and organizations take can be very difficult and complex, but sooner or later we must face some facts. Although I want to emphasize that I have the greatest respect for OCLC and my colleagues who wrote the draft policy, I feel I must speak out to say that I think it is heading in a seriously wrong direction.