Saturday, March 18, 2006

What exactly is the "catalog"?

From reading UC's Bibliographic Services Task Force report on "Rethinking How We Provide Bibliographic Services for the University of California," and participating in an initiative to write a similar white paper at MPOW, I've been thinking a great deal recently about what people mean when they talk about the future of the "catalog" or the "OPAC" in libraries.

Many people, when referring to the future of the catalog, mean the future of MARC. These arguments tend to center around how we can adapt the MARC record to handle new types of materials. Others mean the cataloging/metadata creation system present in the library's Integrated Library System. Many vendors (and OCLC) are talking about including metadata formats other than MARC in these systems. This sounds like a reasonable idea on the surface, but given the track records of ILS vendors, I'm not holding my breath for this one to work out very well. Another common usage is to mean "those things which the library owns," but this model has become problematic with the advent of licensed and free online resources, so this meaning is falling out of use.

I do think we need to figure out what systems locally-created metadata will go into. However, it's not realistic to expect we're moving towards an environment in which everything our patrons want access to is in a single database. As I'm fond of saying in this context, "That ship has sailed." Consider article-level access to the journal literature as the "elephant in the room" example of this phenomenon. Many vendors provide databases for this purpose that we happily subscribe to. It would be madness for libraries to try to replicate this information. We need to focus our attention instead on systems to make all the various information sources (including the catalog!) work together to provide seamless access to our users. Federated searching products on the market today are a step in this direction, but I've been decidedly underwhelmed by their functionality. We have a long way to go, one step at a time.

After all of this, I'm still not sure what my definition of "catalog" in ten years will be. I toyed briefly with the idea of "metadata records we created locally," but our current models with my library having a local copy of a shared record don't really fit with that definition. It could be something more like "records we manage locally" but that seems to administrative to be useful to anyone other than ourselves. Perhaps we should just bite the bullet and call the as-yet-still-imaginary single front end to all resources of possible interest to our users the catalog.

We're starting to tackle these issues in a big way, and I hope we can continue to make progress by agreeing on some semantics so we're not constantly talking past each other.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

RSS feed gone

For some reason the conversion from the native Blogger Atom feed to RSS via 2RSS for Inquiring Librarian (and a bunch of other Blogger blogs, I see!) seems to be down. I haven't had time to look into this yet, unfortunately. So in the meantime, you can subscribe to the Atom feed. 'Course, if you read this via the RSS feed, you won't be seeing this note...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

More of four

Yikes! I'm way behind in my blog reading. As I start to catch up, I find I was pseudo-taged for 4 things by Kevin two weeks ago. Congrats on the new addition to the family, Kevin. Seems like there must be something in the water up there in Princeton! ;-)

I see a variety of categories floating around out there. I'll pick my favorites.

4 Jobs I’ve Had

Metadata Librarian, Indiana University Digital Library Program
Circulation Supervisor, Indiana University Cook Music Library
Phone answerer/order taker, TIS Music Catalog
Camp counselor at the Brevard Music Center

4 Places I've Lived
Bloomington, IN
Coral Gables, FL
Marietta, GA
Satellite Beach, FL

4 Movies I Can Watch Over & Over
When Harry Met Sally
The Empire Strikes Back
Moulin Rouge (I have no idea why.)

4 TV Shows I Love To Watch
The Simpsons
Baseball (does that count?)

4 Novels
Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
The Stand by Stephen King

4 Places I’ve Been On Vacation
Gatlinburg, TN (it's a family thing…)
The Grand Canyon
Las Vegas
Walt Disney World (the Florida one)

4 Favorite Dishes
Pasta primavera (that's with veggies)
Potatoes, cooked any way
Salads with nuts and dried fruit
Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Fontina and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce (mmm…)

4 Websites I Visit Daily
Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection
The Onion (well, maybe weekly, not daily)

4 Places I’d Rather Be
Hanging out with my puppy (aww)
The Grand Canyon
Camping in the middle of nowhere
Right where I am

4 Bloggers I’m Tagging
This tagging thing has really made the rounds in the biblioblogsphere, but here are 4 blogs I read I haven't seen 4 things on. My apologies if you've already been tagged and I missed it.

Vampire Librarian
Audio Artifacts
The FRBR Blog

FRBRizing Find in a Library

Wow! I go traveling for a while and find all sorts of interesting things have happened while I was gone! OCLC's Open WorldCat now has FRBRized results. This is pretty darn cool. But I can't help but thinking, yet again, it hasn't quite gone far enough. I know, one step at a time. I have to do that in my job too. But I like thinking big, and I know the folks at OCLC Research like thinking big too. They've done a great job with Open WorldCat so far, and I hope they keep pushing the envelope.

Soooooo, how about limiting not just by format? What about language? There are probably other options I'm not thinking of right now in addition to these as well.

Also, as an extension to that last idea, how about mechanisms for moving about between related works? Do a search on "Gone with the Wind" in Google, limiting to the Find in a Library service. The novel, film, film score, etc., are all separate search results and once you pick one, I don't see a way to know the others exist. Yeah, I know there's no consensus on whether or not the novel and film version of Gone With the Wind are separate Works or two Expressions of the same work. Regardless, shouldn't we let our users move between them? Please?

I'm a huge FRBR fan as I think it gives us a very useful model for thinking about the relationshiops between things. But I think perhaps right now we're getting a bit too bogged down in the terminology when we start building services like this - a Work is selected, all Expressions are displayed, etc.- and we can forget that the exact definitions of these things aren't useful to our patrons. We should take full advantage of these relationships, and make sure our patrons can get between a film and a novel, even if they're separate Works related to one another. This leads me toward my current favorite rant about FRBR seeming to sideline Work relationships with this "Aggregation" idea, but I'll save that one for when I have more time...