Thursday, February 7, 2013

LC's Bibframe appears to be an exclusive club. The question is: How do you get a key?

I'm growing increasingly uncomfortable with what I'm seeing happen on the Bibframe listserv.  One could even say that Bibframe is a Bibcage with valuable information being held inside.  However, only by some undisclosed method, can you get the key.  Why do I say that?

It appears that not all documentation about BibFrame is being shared openly, nor are the opportunities to engage in actual experiments using early BibFrame data.  For instance, if you review this document you'll find a list of institutions that are "experimenting" with Bibframe.  This list includes:  British Library, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, George Washington University, National Library of Medicine, OCLC, and Princeton University.  LC says in the document that: "this section reflects these observations that are based on a combination of personal experiences working with these initiatives..".  That certainly seems to imply they are working directly with these organizations.  

The problem here is that it's not clear how these institutions were selected. I can find no open call on the LC website, or the Bibframe Listserv asking for an expression of interest to be considered as an experimenter. There is no list of criteria an organization must meet to qualify as an experimenter.  So, it appears this happened by "invitation".   While I personally find the lack of transparency in this process deeply disturbing, the larger problem I see is the inclusion of OCLC.  On one hand this might seem entirely logical.  On the other it screams unfair competition for those privately held companies that must compete with OCLC in order to sell their products and services.   Let me detail that concern. 

Let's just say you're a company competing against WorldShare, OCLC's library services platform.  As I've noted in other posts, many of these library services platforms are being newly created and as such, represent major investments and risk on the part of the companies developing them.  OCLC, of course, as a non-profit entity, already has an advantage the other firms do not have available to them, i.e. no taxes to pay. But now, it would appear that they might well be getting another major new advantage, courtesy of the U.S. Government.  For instance, let me just speculate for a moment on what that might look like.  As many of you will likely know, there is a lot of work going on in the area my guess would be, if you look at this page that OCLC’s interest in is directly related to getting ready for Bibframe.

So, if you’re a vendor competing with OCLC’s WorldShare, you might think: I’d better be sure I’m all up-to-speed on BibFrame and prepare a path forward for my product to handle this as well.  To do that, you might want to see all the documentation.  Good luck.  

Note this message posted just this week by an OCLC staffer:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject:[BIBFRAME] Newspeak
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2013 21:05:18 -0500
From: Young, Jeff
Reply-To: Bibliographic Framework Transition Initiative Forum
In the original MARCR mockup, “Book” was defined as a sensible class: 
This was carried over into the BIBFRA.ME mockup:

In the BIBFRAME.ORG mockup, though, “Book” appears to be gone:  
What’s going on? 
Jeffrey A. Young
Software Architect
OCLC Research, Mail Code 410
OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.
6565 Kilgour Place
Dublin, OH 43017-3395
Voice: 614-764-4342
Voice: 800-848-5878, ext. 4342
Fax: 614-718-7477
Note:  If you click on that first link for vocabulary and you’ll be greeted with a request for a username/password login.  

Jeffrey asks: “What’s going on?”  Indeed. I too ask: WHAT’S GOING ON?  Why is this information not available to all?   

If you ask LC for access to this documentation, as numerous people have done on the listserv, there is NO reply.  WHY??   If as an earlier experimenter, OCLC is gaining advance knowledge of BibFrame that they’ll be able to use with WorldShare as well as their numerous bibliographic services, isn’t this giving OCLC a very serious competitive advantage??  If so, this would seem blatantly unfair to the other firms that are developing competing products.

I think I’m strongly on record as stating that OCLC is an important and necessary part of the library ecosystem.   However, at the same time, they should be made to compete fairly and openly with private and publicly owned firms.  What’s happening here smells strongly of unfair competition. It lacks complete transparency and openness.  

Both librarians and competing organizations should raise their voices in protest of what is happening here.  It simply isn't right. Now maybe I’m not correct and I’ll be glad to have someone tell me why that might be the case.  However, if I am correct, this is setting librarianship up to deal with products and services developed in an unfair and uncompetitive environment. 

We know how those kinds of situations usually turn out for the buyers, in this case libraries.  It isn’t good.  This needs to be corrected.  Immediately.

NOTE:  Please be sure to click on the link for the comments below and read those comments as additional information has been supplied by key involved parties!