Reflections upon an LJ story

It could be reasonably asked why this is in text when it could have been on the podcast. There are reasons for such. Unfortunately I cannot let loose with spoilers at this time.

Norman Oder reports at LJ online about Karen Calhoun speaking at ALA. I wish I could have been there. I do not relish the thought of asking on AUTOCAT how acrimonious the session was or was not.

The OCLC data policy has created quite a bit of consternation. This is understandable. When I was last working in libraries, my specialty is as a cataloger. I have worked at an OCLC member and at a non-member that relied heavily on Z39.50. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I've cataloged under both and have real-world experience in the past three years.

In this age of community, WorldCat is not the appropriate mechanism. There is plenty of utter crap in WorldCat that libraries freely share. The structure of cooperative cataloging now more closely resembles a command-and-control economy rather than a community. Outside AUTOCAT, catalogers cannot interact. WorldCat's structure already makes it quite difficult to remove errors. This new data policy has the practical effect of making mistakes immortal.

Z39.50 by itself does not allow interaction either. Used in conjunction with a listserv, though, collaboration can be possible. Z39.50 also allows for quality control by voting between differing record versions to find the one that fits best. Working this way would force the fostering of community as trust in records would be built on the reputations of those creating them. There would be no red tape to hide behind if you were not able to catalog materials up to par.

I am torn. In some respects, OCLC really is not fit for purpose as presently constituted. Years of mission creep have resulted in an agglomeration of functions that are not completely connected. Stripping away functions to where OCLC's only purpose is resource sharing would be a good step. The research office as well as the offices of Roy Tennant, Karen Calhoun, and Lorcan Dempsey are nice but are more appropriate in an academic setting or think-tank than where they are now. The contract services portions could just as easily be sold off to an established commercial vendor or two. OCLC is already going madly off in many directions while focus on core functionality is lacking.

My favored solution that few would likely agree with would involve a dismembering of OCLC and an expansion of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging. The PCC already offers some means for communication and interaction. As an umbrella to more local community networks it would allow for potentially simpler structure of a community. Similar organizations already exist with such structures like the American Radio Relay League and the International Amateur Radio Union. This would not be an earth-shattering kaboom but something that has precedents elsewhere.

If memory serves, there is nothing internal to WorldCat in MARC21 but in Dublin Core instead. For the purposes of inter-library resource sharing, minimal-level records would conceivably be sufficient. Full records would only be necessary at the local level. The minimal-level records in would make such a topological shift fairly simple to implement with minimal records linking to more full local records.

The data policy revisions are not a case of cranky catalogers grumbling at other folks in the cataloging realm. The policy instead relates to the topology of the knowledge ecology all librarians care for. OCLC's changes have implications not only for catalogers but also front-line reference librarians. If OCLC owns the data and provides its own discovery tools like, what manager in this economy could justify the outlay of a salary for a degreed professional that would seem to be duplicating a "free" web tool?

I have thrown some ideas out in this post of ways things could adapt to our changing economy. I do not doubt somebody might feel such to be wrong or ill-informed. Hopefully some discussion can result from this.

LibraryThing and CIG—the deal!

LibraryThing and CIG—the deal! LibraryThing has just partnered up with Cambridge Information Group, which owns Bowker, AquaBrowser, ProQuest, Serials Solutions and RefWorks.

Why you can't find a library book in your search engine

You might expect forward-thinking libraries to put their databases online, to encourage people through their doors. But they can't. Even though they created the data, pay to have records added to the database and pay to download them, they can't.

"It's safe to say that the policy change is a direct response to Open Library," says Aaron Swartz, the founder of Open Library (, a project to give every published book its own Wikipedia-style page. "Since the beginning of Open Library, OCLC has been threatening funders, pressuring libraries not to work with us, and using tricks to try to shut us down. It didn't work - and so now this."

Perceptions 2008: An International Survey of Library Automation

This report describes the results of a survey that Marshall Breeding conducted to gather data regarding the perceptions of libraries toward their automation systems, the organizations that provide support, and the quality of support they receive. It also aims to gauge interest in open source library automation systems.

This year, Marshall received 1,450 responses from libraries in 51 different countries. The countries most strongly represented include the United States (1,150 responses), United Kingdom (49), Canada (99), Australia (44). As with the general demographics of the lib-web-cats database, the respondents of the library primarily come from libraries in English-speaking countries. Survey results were gathered between October 31, 2008 and January 16, 2009. Mobile Service Pilot Launched

OCLC announced today via e-mail and the relevant website a new service. In partnership with purported industry leader Boopsie, OCLC is launching a mobile-optimized platform for searching The service requires the download of a client package to your mobile phone or device for optimized searching. There is a list of supported devices available that appears to lack the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the G1 as the more recent Palm Centro devices as well as any tablets from Nokia or similar vendors.

LibraryThing Calls for New Cataloguing Scheme

With all the talk of Dewey or Don't We...

Gawd I'm getting tired of that phrase.

Anyway, with all the talk of whether or not libraries should use DDC, LCCN, BISAC, or something else for their collections and then the possibility of using open databases instead of OCLC, it seems like cataloguing is on everybody's mind.

It is over at LibraryThing too, where they've issued a call for the creation of OSC, or the Open Shelves Classification. They're looking for a few librarians who are of a mind to create a system that's free, "humble," modern, open source, and crowd sourced. Indeed, they want something that the library profession has needed for a long time - a modern system capable of changing, and changing easily.

So if you're of the cataloguing bent, check it out. and the future of cataloging and the future of cataloging: Not to be confused with just “Biblios“, which is LibLime’s new open source cataloger’s editor. That’s cool too, but Jonathan Rochkind is talking about, which is basically a shared metadata store. That is, technological support for ‘cooperative cataloging’. That is, what we used to call a ‘bibliographic utility’. The Biblios editor uses the shared metadata store, but it’s not restricted to use by the Biblios editor, anyone can use it.

Chances to stop and think about the future of library catalogs

Chances to stop and think about the future of library catalogs: From WorldCat to Google, the way we use catalogs and other metadata services is changing rapidly. John Mark Ockerbloom hopes we’ll have a chance during ALA, and during OCLC’s policy review period, to think carefully and creatively about how we should change these services to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s information seekers. And then he hopes we’ll make those changes happen.

OCLC to convene Review Board of Shared Data

Good News! OCLC Board of Trustees and Members Council to convene Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship...
OCLC Members Council and the OCLC Board of Trustees will jointly convene a Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship to represent the membership and inform OCLC on the principles and best practices for sharing library data. The group will discuss the Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records with the OCLC membership and library community.

The purpose of this Review Board is to engage the membership and solicit feedback and questions before the new policy is implemented. In order to allow sufficient time for feedback and discussion, implementation of the Policy will be delayed until the third quarter of the 2009 calendar year.

Why libraries must reject the OCLC Policy: A Call To Action

A proposed OCLC Policy got Tim thinking about compiling all the arguments against the Policy. He wants to start with the process and legal ones, which have gotten very short shrift. OCLC spokespeople are persuasive personalities, and OCLC's "Frequently Asked Questions" allay fears, but the Policy itself is a scary piece of legal writing and, as it explictly asserts, the only writing that matters. He finishes with a call to action:
Librarians and interested parties have only a month before the OCLC Policy goes into effect. It is time to put up or shut up.

* The New York Public Library is hosting a moderated discussion with OCLC Vice President Karen Calhoun from 1-4pm on Friday, January 17. Show up and make your displeasure known.
* Visit and link to the Code4Lib page on OCLC Policy change.
* Sign the Internet Archive/Open Library petition to stop the OCLC Policy.
* Sign librarian Elaine Sanchez's petition.

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