19 February 2014

New Developments in Library Cataloguing

So the Archives and Society had a seminar on 4th Feb and I decided to pop along. After all it is not every day you get to have a free taster session from the Cataloguing and Classification lecturer, Anne Welsh (UCL).

Having not come from a typical library school background I was expecting to be thrown into a world of jargon about all the new things in cataloguing, I would eventually have to adopt. However, to my surprise Anne presented an in-depth review of the history of cataloguing to bring the unbeknownst archive majority in the room up to speed. Oblivious to many in the library field the next move for cataloguers is RDA. Finally a move away from the cataloguing entry of MARC21, to a tool that allows linkages between various formats of the same items (e.g. book to film) and various authority headings.

For many cataloguers, that idea of #marcisdead comes with unfavourable change to those stuck in their ways of the absolute metadata standards of IBSD needed for cataloguing within MARC21. However, the developing benefits might just outway the negatives.

Anne stated what we have now is a monolithic record simply made up of an authority heading, bibliographic framework and holdings data. With the growing internet age, even with all this data given the provision for sharing worldwide through places like the Library of Congress (to reduce cataloguing from scratch) it is all still pretty much sitting in silos. This shouldn't be the case which is why SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organisation System) has been introduced. It provides the concept that anything can be related from classification system, to subject heading and given some sort of semantic relation. This sort of linked data concept is what really forms the bigger picture in the new cataloguing standard of  RDA (Resource, Description and Access).

So this basicly means that there should be some functional requirement for bibliographic records (FRBR) to allow catalogue users to find, identify, select and obtain a resource. This is concept is currently being tried with this conceptual model of WEMI.

Source: ALA

However, like anything new there are disadvantages. The main one being that there is no technology to really implement it through the Library of Congress. It needs to be simplified to not only provide consistany but increase extensibility, granularity and avoid marginality. There are also many questions as to how it would be work with the 20 different library management systems we use today?

I think the sost important thing I will take away from seminar is the ongoing questions that I have at work: What happens with the old monolithic data when the new linked data model is introduction? Do you just leave it as it is? Do you try and convert it? What are the risks a loss of data? How will cataloguers get access to training to not create poor metadata? Also, is there really a benefit for the user looking at a very long bibliographic record?

The fact that it is still being discussed as I write this, shows that the progress towards RDA (first introduced in around 2008) is still slow. However, it is making progress in creating something with interlinked content.

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