Re: The Process of Cataloging in the Future

Posting to RadCat

On 29/05/2013 15:35, Flynn, Emily wrote:

The way I see it, librarianship and libraries are constantly changing and adjusting to stay relevant. For librarianship, that means more “I(nformation) Schools” and adding more computer science and technology to the curriculum. UMich increased a lot of my tech skills, including database management, HTML, etc. Many of the students in my graduate class were younger, most coming right out of undergrad into the library program at UMich.

But this only accentuates the point: it should not be the task of librarians to do the job of systems people. I have mentioned before that I have built things, and other non-systems people have built things but you can’t remain current on everything, so you can only be a dilettante on these really technical matters. As a necessity, anything you build will be pretty lame, just like when a non-cataloger tries cataloging something, they will make pretty lame records.

Yet, if something you build is considered valuable enough, those who have a budget will pay others to turn it into something good. Therefore, anything the non-specialist builds can only be some kind of model for what the experts will build later. The importance of building these models should not be minimized since in my experience, models provide a wonderful “proof of concept” for things that would otherwise remain far too abstract for anyone to see the value of your idea.

So I don’t think the task is for librarians to become more like IT people. There are plenty of highly willing IT people out there who can be hired as necessary. The task of the librarian is to be aware of the ever-changing capabilities of systems and to imagine new ways to appeal to the public. IT people are builders; librarians are the architects. Both are needed.

… It’s not just our generation who is taking on and encouraging change throughout librarianship. In cataloging, LC, Zepheria, the German national library, etc. are working on BIBFRAME in order to make RDA relevant in catalogs and to users. It’s meant to make the catalog data linked to the Internet broadly so that our information appears in Google and Bing, and other search engines so that more people realize what libraries offer.

There are other things that libraries are doing to bring more people in and helping them become actual library users. Within the last year, I’ve heard about fellow librarian friends creating iPod Touch tours of the library scavenger hunt style, providing 3-D printers to students to recreate a snake skull for student research…

I know that we are supposed to believe that Bibframe and RDA are necessary to make libraries relevant, but it just isn’t true. First, the idea that RDA is necessary for users is at least extremely doubtful and has never been demonstrated.

If the idea is to put our information into Google, Bing, etc., then the decision is already made. You do not do it with Bibframe. You do it with

Google … [et al.] already decided that a few years ago. Any library can do it today and it’s pretty simple. There are problems with of course since libraries had little control over it, but if libraries want to extend it, they can, and there is a group attempting this now at

I remember how surprised I was when Google dumped OAI-PMH in favor of I had really thought OAI-PMH would be the solution but it wasn’t, and just as important: it wasn’t libraries that made the decision. That is the reality of the 21st-century information world. It was a huge project and almost nobody talks about OAI-PMH today.

After all of those years of work on Bibframe, will Google … [et al.] embrace it for some reason, or will they say: Use, as they did with OAI-PMH? As I have said before, although there is no doubt that our format must change, I still do not understand the ultimate purpose of Bibframe. It looks as if it will be too complicated for the general public to use; it will have little to do with RDA/FRBR. Still, it is good that the format will finally change since that will be the first step into the new world.