«Part II Submissions by: Judy Anderson Heather S. Miller Bryan Baldus Allen Mullen Deanna Briggs John J. Riemer Diana Brooking Karina Ricker Lloyd ...»
But there will still be a need to create citations, that's how the scholarly community works. That's how even non-scholars refer to resources. In fact it is very difficult to create citations on the fly based on elements in a bib record. (OCLC recently had to turn off their "cite this" function for non-book/article records in Worldcat.org, because the citations created were so bad.) Even if future systems can do a better job of that, at some point the connections between the identifiers and the real data need to be made. And that will be cataloging.
5. Describe a resource or just point to it? (Clifford Lynch's question again from May 9) This is related to my concern about citations above. People still need a way to refer to resources without having to show the whole thing, even in a digital world. Clifford asks "In a digital world, do we need bibliographic records to describe the full digital object or just to point to it?" First, not everything is or will become digital. And much digital content is not textual.
We can point to an image from our collection for instance, but it may be less then useful if you don't describe what is depicted for the user. A picture of a man and a horse, but no clue as to who that was, when or where the photo was taken, what good is that? It is a delusion to think that somehow just because things are digital that they will organize and describe themselves, that the need for metadata goes away* Sure, you can just point to something digital. But don't you at least need to name it somehow, otherwise how will the end user know what they are clicking through to see?
What is being pointed to? You at least need that. But if all you have is a pointer, you put the entire burden on the end user to take the time to view the resource and figure out what it is. Even if something is textual and digital and keyword searchable, there is still a need for user-friendly extras like an abstract, subject headings, an explicit listing of creators and their roles--all to save the time of the reader.
In conclusion, I do have fears that our new motto may become "waste the time of the reader." That is, have the end users do the work, not us. I often think that is part of what is behind the allure of social tagging. (I see social tagging as a supplement, not a replacement for controlled vocabularies.) I look ahead and imagine a future librarian not being able to find something, and a older, fellow librarian explains, "Oh, yes, that's from the early 21st century. Yes, anything created between 2010 and 2030 is almost impossible to find. That was the time when they thought that because lots of resources were digital, you didn't need to do any cataloging. So the metadata is really bad. We just can't afford to go back and fix it all though."
Don't let that happen.
Diana Brooking (206) 685-0389 Cataloging Librarian (206) 685-8782 fax Suzzallo Library firstname.lastname@example.org University of Washington Box 352900 Seattle WA 98195-2900 RE: Written testimony TO: Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control FROM: Lloyd Chittenden Visiting Technical Services Librarian
I see two ways the library community can efficiently maintain control of our bibliographic universe. We can either centralize, or cooperate, or some combination of both. This is the same as it has always been. The new technologies are great, but I do not see that they have changed anything on a fundamental level. Things look very different, but researchers still need to find material. They need to be sure that they find every relevant item on a topic. The library profession has spent the last hundred years developing and maintaining the current system that makes that possible. There are more casual researchers, such as teenagers and undergraduate students, who are happy with Googling and such. That is fine, but they are not the people for whom research libraries exist. In his presentation at the second public meeting of this working group, David Bade pointed out that libraries should have a system that meets the needs of their most demanding users such as researchers, scholars and scientists. I agree. Why is it worth the extra money and effort to meet those demands? It is because those users make use of our materials as a basis for the creation of new knowledge. By doing our best to serve them, we are doing our best to serve society. Research libraries such as The Library of Congress (LOC) would be making a fatal error to develop bibliographic control systems based on the needs, interests and abilities of teenagers and undergraduate students rather than researchers, scholars and scientists.
So, we can either centralize the work or cooperate to get it done. This has not changed.
Centralizing would be LOC doing everything. Cooperating would be everyone contributing a little bit following agreed upon rules and working together to develop those rules. What LOC did with its decision to stop creating series authority records (SARs) was to reject both. They said they would no longer create complete records and they would not discuss it in a cooperative manner. This working group seems to be a belated attempt to have that discussion.
LOC cannot be grouped with other libraries. It is very different from any other library. If all the other Association of Research Libraries (ARL) libraries are doing something, that does not mean that LOC should or will do that. LOC is different because everyone else depends on them, and they do not have anyone else upon which to depend. The ARL libraries have been cutting technical services staff; we have done the same at my library. The primary means the rest of us use to maintain a modicum of quality are systems and services, such as OCLC PromptCat, that allow us to get quality Library of Congress records in a quick and efficient manner. Such services are only worthwhile if there are quality records to be provided. If I can be confident that those are going to be quality records, then I can have a student worker or even volunteer download them into our system. The lack of SARs and the reductions in cataloging staff at LOC have led me to conclude that I cannot rely on LOC records. If I cannot rely on those records, then I have to have a more qualified, more highly trained, and more expensive worker check them and fix them. Repeat that in thousands of libraries around the country and you see that this is an inefficient and costly system. It is best if things are done correctly the first time, and when it comes to cataloging, they are generally done the first time by LOC. Therefore, it is important to have LOC doing them right.
I suppose a third option is to lower our standards. Few libraries can long afford to keep up standards higher than those of LOC because it means changing many records locally, again requiring expensive workers. When justifying the SAR decision, LOC claimed that keyword searching could replace the controlled vocabulary of those authority records. The result is a severe deterioration of standards that I find unacceptable.
Keyword searching alone is simply not adequate and I do not see how it ever will be. Yes, users can now search for terms within content, and that serves as a wonderful complement to our system of controlled vocabulary, but it is not an adequate replacement. In the case of series titles, far too many different series have very similar names, or even the exact name. If you search a large library catalog on the series title “Bulletin,” you will see many titles that are only “Bulletin.” Currently, we are using SARs to keep track of which one is which. Also, series titles change from time to time. SARs are what we use to link them together despite such title changes. Keywords would completely fail to pull together all issues of a series when the series title changes. I see no replacement for SARs that will solve these problems for library users. I have no doubt that it is true that library users do not actually search on those series titles, but they do still read books in series. Whether it is A Series of Unfortunate Events or Lectures in Mathematics, people read books in series, and they look for books in series. While most may not use the catalog directly for that, they often ask the librarian for the next book in a series, the librarian then uses the catalog. The catalog needs to be able to perform the function of finding books in series.
Maybe there is a way. Maybe there is some new technology or system that will solve the problem of bibliographic control faster and cheaper, but I have not seen it, and it certainly has not been tested and proven. It is very foolish to abandon a system that works, when there is no proven system in place to take over. User tagging is one replacement that has been suggested.
User tagging is certainly cheap, but I do not think cheapness should be the primary criteria for something this important. The ability of future generations to access the record of our culture is at stake. The ability of researchers and scientists to find the relevant inquires that came before them is at stake. If a system like user tagging were used for several years in a research environment, studied thoroughly and proven as effective as the current system for researchers, then I might consider it reasonable for research libraries to use it to replace the current system, but none of that has happened.
What about vendor records? The fact is that vendors could supply high quality records. The question would be whether that would undermine our system of collaborative cataloging. Would it be cheaper for the entire library community or just LOC? If LOC buys a record from a vendor, will they then be able to share that record with others or will the vendor insist on the ability to sell that record to other libraries to maximize the profit gained by creating the record? At the most recent American Library Association (ALA) meeting in Washington, I attended a very small meeting with LOC music catalogers. At that meeting, I learned that LOC was working on an agreement with allmusic.com to get metadata. However, allmusic.com did not want LOC to share that data with other libraries.
I do not think it matters whether LOC creates records themselves, or pays private vendors to do it, as long as their records are high quality. However, those private vendors will want a significantly higher price to allow LOC to share the records. Essentially LOC would be paying the vendor to allow all libraries to use the records. This is a case where the interest of LOC diverges from the general library community. What would be in it for LOC to pay that extra cost?
What can the library community do to make it worthwhile for LOC to continue to provide us with quality cataloging services? At the third meeting of this working group, Dianne McCutcheon made an excellent suggestion that OCLC pay contributors per use of the records they create. That would be a great help. However, I think it would also be worthwhile to consider the political situation of LOC.
We should understand what motivates a government agency like LOC. There is a symbiotic relationship between a government agency and the clientele it serves. The agency provides services to the clientele, and the clientele provide political support for the agency with its governing body. If the agency cuts services, the clientele may reduce political support. Also, if the clientele does not provide political support then the agency may be forced to cut services.
LOC is such an agency. Like any other agency, it must have political support to survive and grow. In the case of LOC, there are at least three groups of clientele: Congress, other libraries, and the general public. If forced to make cuts it seems clear that the Library will cut services to that clientele that are the least politically helpful to it, and the library community has not been helpful to it. The library community has taken for granted that there would always be quality cataloging services from LOC and the continuing reductions in cataloging staff and the decision to stop creating SARs are the results. Instead, LOC puts on awards shows and creates nifty web products for the public. I cannot fault them for that. The public is where they see their political support coming from, and like any agency, they need that political support.
If the library community wants to receive better cataloging services from LOC, then they need to give LOC what they need, which is political support. I would like to see the lobbyists of ALA working to persuade Congress to provide LOC the funding they need to maintain our current,
During the recent Economics of Bibliographic Control program at the Library of Congress. Karen
Calhoun made this significant statement:
"In the fifteen years leading up to the year 2000... new hires to cataloging positions fell 45%.
During that same fifteen years, the hiring of newly-degreed librarians to cataloging positions fell 64%... The retirement wave for a generation of bibliographic control experts is expected to build to full strength starting in 2010. After the exodus that is coming, it seems to me unlikely that the role of librarians in technical services departments will continue in the same way, considering the competing pressures on the salaries and wages budget and new hiring patterns described previously. I fear that research libraries will be unable to sustain the traditional practices and staffing patterns of bibliographic control, whether they wish to or not."
I think Calhoun may be correct in her projection. The trend she lays out does seem to be a natural extension of what has happened. But the question is: what role do our current decisions play in future trends? This may be somewhat similar to the projection of 60 million people in California by 2050. This increase of about 80% in California’s population over the next 43 years is apparently an extension of growth patterns over the last 43. But would a population of 60 million be a desirable or even possible state of affairs? California already uses considerably more water than can be found in the state. I think such a growth of 80% would be an environmental catastrophe, not just for the state’s natural environment, but for that entire part of the continent.