BIBFRAME Linked data

Ross Singer wrote:

Counterpoint: if libraries can do “anything they want” with their data and have had 40+ years to do so, why haven’t they done anything new or interesting with it for the past 20?

How, with my MARC records alone, do I let people know that they might be interested in “Clueless” if they’re looking at “Sense and Sensibility”? How do I find every Raymond Carver short story in the collection? The albums that Levon Helm contributed to? How can I find every introduction by Carl Sagan? What do we have that cites them?

How, with my MARC records alone, can I definitively limit only to ebooks? What has been published in the West Midlands?

You *could* make a 3-D day-glo print of a MARC record, I suppose – but that seems like exactly the sort of tone deaf navel gazing that has rendered our systems and interfaces more and more irrelevant to our users.

Why haven’t libraries done anything new or interesting with our data for the past 20 years? Is it because it has been *impossible* due to our formats, even though we now have XML? You ask an excellent and important question that I was hoping somebody would bring up. It deserves a separate discussion. But first I want to emphasize: I am not saying that we need to work with MARC records alone–never said that at all. What I am saying is that for the library community, that is, the people who already know and understand–and even control–MARC format, changing the format they already control to Bibframe will not give them any new capabilities over what they have been able to do with MARCXML. *Librarians* understand the MARC codes and that means they can work with MARCXML to fold in their records with what else exists on the Internet; they can do that now, and they’ve been able to do it for awhile. Changing to Bibframe/RDF will not change anything for librarians, but it will change matters for non-librarians who may want to use our data for their purposes. Nevertheless, a *lot* of work will remain to be done. It isn’t like after we change to Bibframe, we can fly onto the deck of the aircraft carrier festooned with banners that proclaim “Mission Accomplished”. It will only be the beginning of a vast amount of work and expense. It seems to me to make sense to talk about that now.

So, if we can already do anything and haven’t, the obvious question is: why will anything change with Bibframe/RDF? again, I stress: this concerns *the library community*. Non-librarians will have new options but there will not be any new capabilities for the library community. Perhaps Bibframe will be a catalyst for change among librarians, providing a needed kick-in-the-pants to get them to do something they haven’t until now. OK, I’d go along with that. But let’s be fair and say that it is just as possible that it won’t. Going back to the reason why we haven’t done anything interesting in the last 20 years: maybe it’s money, maybe it’s imagination, maybe it’s proprietary catalogs, maybe it’s power…. I don’t know, but there may be a whole host of other reasons.

Perhaps with Bibframe the non-librarian community will come riding to the rescue and they will figure out what to do. We can hope.

I wrote that message on Autocat to combat the popular idea that the reason libraries haven’t done anything new or interesting is because of the limitations of the format. That was true until MARCXML arrived and then it became possible to do all sorts of new things. MARCXML may be nasty and difficult to work with, but no matter: if somebody wants to, it *can* be worked with *within the library community*. And people have worked with it, such as we see in catalogs that utilize Lucene indexing (which is based on MARCXML) to create the facets we see in different library catalogs. (That is one thing that has been done in the last 20 years, and it is due to XML)

I gave the example of printing day-glo colors merely to emphasize that we can currently do anything we want right now, but of course, I was not suggesting we should waste our time on that. I want to try to open people’s minds to what *can* be possible. *Anything* is a tremendous concept that is difficult to grasp. Once we accept and begin to comprehend the idea that “anything can be done” the question of what would be better, or worse, uses of our labor and resources becomes far more complex and takes on different subtleties. Those who believe that the problems we have faced are because of the *format* so therefore, the solution is to get a “better format” and things will then be solved, will be sadly disillusioned.

Finally, in answer to some other posts, I repeat once again that I am FOR the library community’s implementation of linked data but we need to do it with our eyes open. I’ll copy that part of my original message:
“I want again to emphasize that libraries should go into linked data, but when we do so, there will probably be more question marks than exclamation points. Just as when a couple is expecting a baby and they experience pregnancy: at least when I experienced it, I imagined that the birth of my son would be an end of the pregnancy. But suddenly, I had a crying baby on my hands! Linked data will be similar: it will be a beginning and not an end.”

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