Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Innovation and being brave

In an attempt to make this blog accessible to all types of Libraryland people, I rarely dive deep in the minutiae of cataloging. But I have something I want to say about the Future Of Cataloging.

cue the ominous music

Even if cataloging is not your jam, I think there's something in here for you about the bravery that innovation requires.

There is quite a buzz online this morning as word reached Twitter that the Oslo Public Library implemented RDF linked data as its "core metadata format." The fine print on this decision is that RDF linked data will replace MARC for description of traditional library resources. This blog post from June 2014 lays out some of the reasoning behind the change, including the fact that describing both physical and digital resources using RDF linked data provides continuity in description between physical and digital collections.

After reading what other people had to say about this decision, I tweeted:
As with the jump from using AACR2 as a descriptive standard to using RDA, there will come a point where more libraries will move from using MARC as an encoding standard to using whatever replaces it. It's already starting to happen at the bleeding edges with the development of use cases for BIBFRAME  and with the momentum that LibHub seems to be generating.

And while the future that's being built is exciting, it also feels a little bit scary sometimes.

I think that in some bleeding edge folks, the reaction to hearing people admit to being a little afraid of the post-MARC future is to call catalogers change averse. But I don't think that the fear is a symptom of change aversion. Not entirely, anyway. For many catalogers, MARC is the only encoding standard we've ever know. And even though we can rationally agree that MARC is antiquated and needs to be replaced, considering the post-MARC future means learning new skills and creating new workflows. I don't think it's wrong to feel afraid of letting go of something old, even as we embrace something new--in cataloging or any other area of librarianship.

I am here to tell you that it's okay to be scared, as long as you don't let that fear keep you rooted in the past instead of embracing the future.

Choosing to innovate means choosing to be brave. For catalogers, it means learning more about the post-MARC world and finding your voice in conversations you don't entirely understand. It means learning to code so that catalogers can speak the same language as the people who design the systems and services that use the metadata we create.

Being innovative means sitting with our discomfort and moving forward, not in spite of it but with it.

Stay positive,


Anonymous said...

Hi Erin,

As a cataloger, I love this post. Do you have any post MARC resources you would recommend?

Ethan said...

I also really liked this post. To above Anonymous, check out these pages directly from one of the key gurus on the bleeding edge, Karen Coyle, http://kcoyle.net/metadata/

I only question one aspect of this, "[Choosing to innovate]..means learning to code so that catalogers can speak the same language as the people who design the systems and services that use the metadata we create."

While that's true to a degree as part of the innovation, I take a small issue with it. We don't code into MARC (or Marc21). We have systems that make it easy for us to do that. As catalogers, we learn the rules and then struggle through the interfaces to varying degrees. Part of innovation does require investing in, embracing, and often demanding improvement in our tools to lower the cost of entry for learning new methods of description. If we're clamoring for these tools, they'll come from the big vendors (or else smaller players).

Libhub, as you mention, is a good example of this but there must be others, too. All that said, learning to code helps in nearly any career that expects its people to leverage computers.

Overall, I'm firmly in your choir. Preach on.

Cynthia Bowen (calimae) said...

As a cataloger (and reference/instruction/serials/electronic resources librarian), my biggest concern with moving from MARC to something else is the time and hassle involved in converting the existing records to the new format. And then there's the issue of being able to get records in the new format for copy cataloging if not everyone makes the same move... I mean, we have undergrad students doing the basic cataloging at my institution, for heaven's sake.

So yeah, I'm not brave enough to even consider switching until our consortium makes the decision collectively, and even then I'm going to dread the work involved. Call me change averse if you like, but that's my reality.

Erin said...

I think you're right--the reality of changing for MARC to whatever comes after it will be really challenging, just as the change from AACR2 to RDA has been challenging. We're asking catalogers to make a whole lot of changes to how they do things in a very quick span of time. I suspect that we'll all settle into this new reality at our own paces.

Erin said...

I second Ethan's recommendation to look at what Karen Coyle is doing. Also, the BIBFRAME site (http://www.loc.gov/bibframe/) has a lot of great resources.