Users and uses of bibliographic data meeting

A “brief” summary was posted at the Library of Congress website of the March 8, 2007 meeting of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control. Roughly, the summary highlights the tension between the dual nature of library metadata, its use in a consumer, user oriented, environment and that of the management, library technical services, environment.

Much of what was presented at the meeting resonates with me as both a library user and a person managing and working with library collections. We have over a hundred years of library metadata in our systems which we have a rich body of experience and a large amount of frustration dealing with. Its pretty obvious that many of our current practices are unsustainable and alot of what we’re going to be seeing soon is a shaking out of what is important (subject analysis? classification? controlled access?) and what maybe considered unsustainable (useless MARC fields, detailed notes, fixed fields).

One frustration that I have as a practicing cataloger is the huge amount of cruft that practice has built up in the cooperative framework. Now this isn’t necessarily an attack on the cooperative nature of cataloging, obviously the goal of having one good record for everyone is a good one, but the standards as they are now are expensive, have a low benefit, complicated and really difficult to coordinate in a consistent manner. One example of a reaction to these things is the CONSER core level standard for continuing resources. Of course there has been resistance to adopting “lesser standards. If your institution wants to go beyond these standards its expensive and time consuming to adapt records done in such a way, and in a way the “free riders” want to have it all. This makes a huge pressure to not accept “dumbing down” cataloging.

So what to do? There is a huge tension between the various stake holders … and one thing is pretty clear … its not going to stay the same. What will it look like when the smoke clears, I have no idea. One question that runs continually through my mind is, what parts of bibliographic control work, and which parts don’t work.  Its funny that Oren from Ex Libris didn’t think that uniform titles were something that worked.  This breaks down in the cooperative environment since, pardon the pun uniform titles aren’t very uniformly used (heck they are optional as far as AACR2 is concerned) in situations where they probably should have been used.  On top of that with respect to series uniform titles, the current state of affairs is to do away with them since as far as some people are concerned the controlled access to an authorized form of a title is unnecessary.

Anyways, enough nattering.  Bibliographic control, hard.  Bibliographic control with stakeholders with very different users and uses, really hard.

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