Since part of what we're about here in the Unified Library Scene is learning and growing, I wanted to follow up a post that I wrote with some new insight I stumbled across during my time in Chicago at ALA Midwinter.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how transitioning from MARC to a post-MARC world would require us all to be brave. I still believe that, by the way. I still believe that being innovative means sitting with our discomfort and moving forward with it.
But even after I wrote it, I didn't feel like it entirely addressed the hum of anxiety I was feeling in the cataloging community. Yes, change is hard. Yes, innovation requires discomfort. But I didn't feel like I'd gotten to the heart of what that anxiety was in my post.
I went to a session at ALA Midwinter and heard a presentation on BIBFLOW. The BIBFLOW project seeks to understand the academic library technical services environment and how the move away from MARC has the potential to impact any number of technical services workflows.
The presenter, Xiaoli Li, made an excellent point that quantified that anxiety that catalogers feel about what lies beyond the edge of a post-MARC world. She asked us to consider how many applications and workflows are reliant on records created in MARC.
Think about that: How many applications and workflows as your library are reliant on records created in MARC? Chances are, it's a lot. And this is why the move from MARC to BIBFRAME is more of an evolution than a simple data conversion. It means rethinking everything.
In that moment, a light bulb went on and I suddenly understood that hum of anxiety I'd been sensing in the cataloging community. It's hard to consider changing those workflows and changing those applications. Those things are difficult and require time and money that you may not feel you have. And what if things aren't perfect? What then?
I guess this is where we circle back to the earlier post about innovation and being brave. Reconsidering how and why you do what you do isn't a bad thing. Yes, it's time consuming. Yes, it's frustrating. But you get to have a lot of amazing 'aha!' moments along the way. And you get to figure out where the pain points are in the processes you often run without considering them.
So, yes. Sit with your discomfort and bravely and boldly move forward. But maybe that first step for you is smaller. Maybe your first step is analyzing a workflow or cleaning up some data. Maybe it's identifying obsolete MARC fields and converting the data. Or maybe it's finding a book that explains Linked Data concepts in language you can understand.
Whatever it is, start today.