Sunday, April 1, 2012

Steps being taken towards the new bibliographic framework too narrowly focused?

This week the Library of Congress, issued a survey as a next step in their continuing efforts to define the next generation bibliographic framework.  The cover message states:  
The survey is: “..studying the value and use of Library of Congress' bibliographic data and cataloging products. The.. survey results as part of a strategic study to guide its response to this changing environment, supporting the Library in its goal to effectively define its future role, adapt a sustainable financial model, and better serve its mission in the years ahead.” 
"The survey is directed at:  1. managers of cataloging and technical services units 2. catalogers 3. vendors and distributors of bibliographic data and tools”
I’ll admit that in reading this, I continue to worry the focus is too narrow.  I know that Karen Coyle has posted on this previously and again yesterday. Todd Carpenter of NISO has also noted the need for more participants, as have I in a previous post.  

While I think all agree what the Library of Congress is doing is very important and we applaud them for doing it, there remains a concern for all to remember this is important because it represents the chance to define the overall future usability of library bibliographic data across the entire Web.   

To truly enable that, we need to make sure we’re directing requests for input to communities like the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI), and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), as well as a broad number of national libraries from across the international community.  In LC’s original announcement, they noted: 
“The Library of Congress’s process will be fully collaborative.  We will consult our partners and customers in the metadata community, standards experts in and out of libraries, and designers and builders of systems that make use of library metadata.”
If you look at this survey, there truly seems to be some inconsistency between what the statement above says and what this survey is asking (and to be honest, I’m having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what they DO intend to derive from the questions being asked?).   It certainly does not appear to be the case that they want to hear from: a) all the parties interested in using the data or, b) to provide an open dialogue that one would think is needed for a deep understanding of all the possible user needs?  If so, one must question this process.

Like many of you, I fully understand the mission of LC is “ support the Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties and to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.”  Understood.  However, the Library of Congress does function, and clearly wants to function, as our de-facto national library.    For instance, note the word “and” in that mission statement when they’re talking about furthering knowledge and creativity for the American people. So if they want to further knowledge and creativity, they have to work towards making library data cleanly and easily integrated across the rapidly unfolding Semantic Web.    

It is also painfully apparent in this call to answer a survey that we’re not being given a clear indication of how this input will factor into the final decisions.   Surveys can have a significant impact on the results or none at all, depending on the weight given the results in the total decision making process.  That weighting needs to be shared with all who are responding so they’ll know if it is even worth their time to respond.

Personally, I believe this very important step deserves wide input from the all the communities I (and others) have mentioned and it needs to be conducted in a way that provides open discussion (in other words, some face-to-face discussions).  The end result should be a clear understanding of the needs of the primary providers and users of library bibliographic data.  Yes, this will cost more to do and it will probably require a number of interested parties to step up and help provide that funding, because I’m sure our Congress will also be too introspectively focused to see or understand the larger needs at play here.  However, it would seem to be a very wise investment with a very good return.

Along this line, I was very encouraged earlier today when I saw that one of the upcoming European Library Automation Group (ELAG) sessions is by Lukas Koster on Linked Library Data in the New Bibliographic Framework  and that they intend to provide a copy of the results to LC.  Bravo!  This is precisely the kind of input LC needs but seems reluctant to gather. Of course, that doesn't mean LC will weigh or use the input.  If that remains the case, then I agree with the closing remarks in Karen’s blog post where she says: 
“If we don't step up to this task, for many years to come we will continue to see library data housed in frameworks and silos that are invisible to most information seekers.  That would indeed be very unfortunate.”  
Very, very unfortunate.