[See Program Description for a brief summary of the topic covered and for the names and titles of the speakers, moderator and program chair.]
The future can’t be that bad with a session that opens with quotes from Tom Russell and Buffalo Springfield:
“You ain’t got no future Hank, I believe your future’s all used up.” (Tom Russell, Borderland)
“There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” (Buffalo Springfield)
Thus was the discussion on the future of the catalog and cataloging introduced by the moderator, Robert Wolven, Associate University Librarian for Bibliographic Services and Collection Development, Columbia University. The point is knowing less about catalogs and cataloging and understanding more about what the future might be. “To create the future,” he says, “we have to have some ideas about it.” “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”
Now, this 4-hr, 5-big-name-speaker program with a snappy moderator attracted an audience that overflowed into the aisles (est. 400+) which in turn attracted some utility men who had to interrupt the program to remind them librarians about building safety codes. I must confess, I don’t know how to organize my notes so what follows might be the longest blog post you’ll ever read or won’t read.
“Library Catalogs at the Network Level” – Roy Tennant, Senior Program Officer, RLG Programs, OCLC.
“This is me,” says Roy Tennant, pointing to a picture of him and then pointing to a picture of Sylvester Stallone, says “and this is Rambo.” He had to first point out the difference in case there was any undue expectations generated by Tim Spalding’s comment on Thingology about not “attacking OCLC as much as I otherwise might. Roy could disarm Rambo.”
Sorry, there was no fistfight or fireworks to report here. Instead, Tennant, as did all the other panel speakers, gave us mental exercises in looking to the past and looking to the future.
Then: users built workflows around libraries.
Now: libraries must build services around user workflows.
The Way It Was: Card distribution service by LC – bib records to local card catalog where catalogers (represented in Superman image) added value.
The Way It Became: Bib Utility – OCLC – bib records to local catalog – catalogers are still adding value to the local systems
The way it can be: Union catalog locally tailored and skinned – WorldCat – catalogers add bib records and value to this aggregated store.
And then he took us to where this user-centric workflows will be built: the network ecology, where two processes, concentration and diffusion, work together to help us mine data better and bring services to where people are found.
Concentration – scale matters – webscale presence – mobilize data
Diffusion – spread matters – syndication – disclosure of links
“eXtensible Cataloging: Opportunities Presented by the eXtensible Catalog (XC) Project” – Jennifer Bowen, Head of Cataloging, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester
Jennifer Bowen first shared her journey from starting as a specialist cataloger (music) to cataloging manager to RDA developer and now software development project leader with the eXtensible Catalog (XC) Project. Bowen’s slides are available online so I will not repeat it here. Pay attention to the diagram of the XC network in which metadata is taken out from closed environments and into the web. Metadata moves all over the place from diverse data sources to diverse interfaces but the comings and goings are controlled by a metadata hub. The XC is a set of tools that can empower catalogers and libraries to design local applications tailored to their needs but which can be shared at the network level.
After Bowen’s presentation, Wolven assumed his moderator role and asked the remaining speakers what can they say about the topics covered so far. This started a discussion about open data and what do we mean by “local.”[Note: DH=Diane Hillmann, JB=Jennifer Bowen, MY=Martha Yee, RT=Roy Tennant, RW=Robert Wolven, TS=Tim Spalding.]
DH: data has be allowed to move freely
RT: OCLC a collective asset built in decades and by thousands of people – how to make that into the best advantage for member libraries.
MY: when mining data in OCLC you’re not mining just data – the intellectual aspect of data in OCLC came from catalogers.
RW: not all people want data to move around freely – what it means for data to move around freely.
RW: Notes on “local” – when users search, they find “about” an item, not the item itself. How much do I need to do to have my hands on what I’m trying to find? Movable framework.
RT: last mile – key issue – where the flow breaks down – what people go through to get something – how to get your hands on something – concentric circles – what’s in their region – different ways of presenting their options – Amazon option as well as ILL option – what’s the most effective way from the user’s perspective.
JB: need a specific facet – the “I only need what I want now” facet.
RW: still on “local user” – no local user – everybody’s on the web – designing for the local user.
JB: local user may not be the right word – particular discipline maybe – niches of information – e.g. opera
DH: local in a funky way – small historical societies – how about those who moved out of the local geographic location – who would be interested in the photographs and who can say something about them? Being able to focus people’s attention on specific niches of information – local in the sense of interest in the resources that you have – people who have interest in a niche of info can be all over the place.
TS: centralization has squashed localization – what the local cataloger can put to the catalog record that won’t hurt everybody else.
RW: product placement – the idea of institutional aggregation – is it a sensible way to aggregate data – is there something between the network and the local catalog.
RT: local catalog – inventory mgmt – where it breaks down is where we conflate inventory mgmt with access – institutional aggregation doesn’t provide all that’s available – can’t stop at the boundaries of an institution.
DH: piece of commonality that we are trying to handle and that we are trying to pass on to the user – most are in the wings – haven’t integrated a lot of stuff in our discovery systems yet – underestimated the problem of access to the diversity of resources – where is the access being managed from?
MY: elephant in the room – every library or museum has a backlog – not bec. catalogers are slow but bec. admin is acquiring more than can be processed – tying acquisition with processing resources. [applause] DH: true, if you haven’t started changing your processing workflows – can’t all be done by humans – integrate machine processing – changing processing to deal with backlog.
RW: What’s in the World – found it on Google or Internet Archive – not in an institutional catalog or repository.
“What I Have Found Out from an Attempt to Build an RDF Model of FRBRized Cataloging Rules” – Martha Yee, Cataloging Supervisor, UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Starts by saying she is dead wood as the younger generation calls them. But what she wants to do is scale up what’s good about the intellectual work of catalogers within the structures of the semantic web. Acknowledges that much of what catalogers currently do is at the clerical level.
Yee’s presentation is organized into definitions (RDF; XML; RDFS; OWL; SKOS), the vision (instead of records, URIs for entities.), and the experiment (see her site). Yee’s presentation is also available on her site.
Wolven to panel members: Any reaction to Martha’s presentation?
DH: praise to MY for delving into this stuff. Diane’s problem: MY’s issues are strawmen issues. Are we going to do things as transcribed or as linked? Both. It’s a transition – jump into the pool. Who says what about what – instead of thinking in terms of records.
JB: credit to MY. Address one thing: distinction bet. granularity and complexity. What we need is interoperable granularity – granularity is not a problem, the problem is the confusion about what is granular from the user’s point of view.
The Future of Cataloging (as seen from LT) – Tim Spalding, Creator of LibraryThing
What is LT? (450K registered users, 25 million books…I couldn’t copy as fast, I believe they will soon post their presentations on the ALA Wiki – but check LibraryThing for yourself )
The ladder of use (from personal cataloging comes social networking comes social cataloging which could either be implicit or explicit). Gives several examples of metadata creation in LT (novel by TS wife – Lisa Carey – LC record – cataloging not by someone who knew the book as compared to the LT record, Huckleberry Finn – how are the editions combined – by regular users – combining works everyday. Tag: e.g. cooking, cookery. Paranormal romance. Tagmash: france,wwii – some of the power of hierarchy.
Declaration: the tag war is over. Time to come out of the jungle…Finding things, not asserting ontological reality. The end of intellectual structures.
The physical basis of classification (A book has 3-6 subjects. Subjects are equally true. Subjects never change. Only librarians get to add subjects. There is only one answer. Someone wins. You don’t get a say in how books are classified.)
Cataloging can’t be done in underpants. Wookieguy72 can’t help you. But most librarians can’t help you, each other, themselves.
– the world ends – you are paid less, the programmers still get paid.
– you move up the stack – an IT-industry analogy – demand increasing – you move higher, get paid more.
Concluding tangent: a new shelf order
– replaces Dewey (free, modern, humble). Decided socially. Level by level. Tested against the world. Assignment is distributed. I write the code. You be Jimmy Wales.
“A Has-been Cataloger Looks at What Cataloging Will Be” – Diane Hillman, Director of Metadata Initiatives, Information Institute of Syracuse[Copied from Diane’s slides which should be available on the ALA wiki soon.]
– more catalogers work at the support staff level than as professional librarians
– more cataloging records are selected by machines
– more catalog records are being captured from publisher data or other sources
– more updating of catalog records is done via batch processes
– libraries continue to de-emphasize processing of secondary research products in favor of unique primary materials.
What are our choices?
– behind door #1 – the extinction model
– behind door #2 – the retooling model
How It’s Done
o keep cranking about how nobody appreciates us
o assert over and over that we’re already doing everything right – why should we change
o adopt a “chicken little” approach to envisioning the future
o considers what catalogers already do
o look for support
o find a new job
What catalogers do
-operate within the boundaries of detaileD standards
– items described one-at-a-time
– items intended to fit carefully within a specific application – the catalog
– ignore the rest of the world of information
What Metadata Librarians Do
– think about descriPtive data without prEconceptions around descriptive level, granulaRITY or descriptive vocabs
– consider the entirety of the discovery and access issues around a set or collection of materials
– consider users and uses beyond an individual service when making design decisions – not necessarily predetermined
– leap tall buildings in a single bound
The New Metadata Librarian
– aware of changing user needs
– understand the evolving info environment
– works collaboratively with technical staff
– familiar with all metadata formats and encoding metadata
– seeks out tall buildings – otherwise jumping skills will atrophy
The cataloger skill set
-AACR2, LC, ETC.
The metadata librarian skill set
– views data as collections, sets, streams
– approaches the task as designing data to “play well with others” – no matter
Characteristics of our new world
– no more ILS
– bib utilities are unlikely to be the central node for all data
– creation of metadata will become far more decentralized
– nobody knows how this will all shake out
– but: metadata librarians will be critical in forging solutions
More: Disintegrated Library Systems, Role of Bibliographic Utilities, New Models of Creation, New Models of Distribution, More on Open Data
Panel Reaction to DH’s Presentation
RT: [to DH] so glad to hear your call to TS to give away his LT tags and metadata
TS: some paid; some free
MY: back in the 50s. free TV bec. of ads – things that are free are not really free.
JB: to TS and to DH – LT basically user-generated metadata – dealing with odd-ball things – with OAI-PMH – you know exactly where the metadata is coming from – not the end of the free world – we need to start thinking in a new context – if you know where it’s coming from then you can evaluate it.
TS: frbrized but binary model can’t handle everything acc to frbr model
DH: recognizing and characterizing point of view;
RW: point of view and identity – multiple identities
MY: people out there who know more than we do who can help in differentiating edtiiton from manifestation
RW: Kelly Freas – looked up in LT and Wikipedia – specific tag – Kelly Freas-related tag. Also in WC. The world is not as monolithic as we think.
TS: open data; what scares him about RDF – overengineered solutions. Importance of opening up data to the availability of programmers out there.
DH: semantic religionists
RW: a role or a niche environment – where catalogers fit into this
DH: is that a long-tail question – not spending our time on secondary products – more on primary sources
MY: economic aspects – good metadata is never going to be free – paying for the common good – not likely to be paid by a corporate – for profit.
TS: covers – becoming a non-economic good – publishers have an economic interest in it.
DH: different ways of paying for things – you don’t get paid directly for it. Exchange of values
RW: how we place value; inverse relationships bet cost and use. User-generated metadata brings cost and value together.
MY: archives community – serving the elite – important elites. Implications for democratic based funding – how to measure benefits.
DH: making decisions on incomplete info
Questions from Audience and Answers from Panelists
[Ok, I’ll stop the stream here. I promise, I’ll get this post summarized and organized soon. In the meantime, the rawness might serve those who want a post on this session now.]