Library of Congress

Bibliographic Future

The Library of Congress > Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control > Past Meeting Resources

May 9, 2007

American Library Association | 50 E. Huron Street | Chicago, Illinois 60611

written by Nancy J. Fallgren, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland
Consultant to the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control

The purpose of the second public meeting of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control was to promote discussion of the structures and standards that frame bibliographic control, i.e., the rules, guidelines, models, and structural schema on which we rely and the means by which they are created and maintained.  This brief summary reviews some of the highlights of the meeting, both from invited speakers and from public comments.  Several themes that were often repeated were the importance of collaboration/consultation with other communities in developing standards, the end goal of supporting users in fulfillment of their information needs, the importance of maintaining (if not enhancing) the quality of bibliographic data, and the need to facilitate mutual learning, data sharing, and data interoperability with other communities by transforming the library community’s structures and standards into Web resources.  Further to the latter point, the discussion concerned not only the need to have interoperability and sharing of bibliographic data, authorities, terminologies, and other structures, but also how this should be accomplished.  Specifically, the value of the library community’s metadata and information tools can be released on the open Web by aligning them more closely with the architecture of the Web.

David Bade’s opening presentation emphasized that libraries are concerned with communication of information (both how and what) rather than mechanical transportation of data.  The practice of bibliographic control requires interpretation and evaluation of resources by catalogers in order to communicate useful information to users.  The information being communicated is framed by the context in which it is created.  That is, the goals or purposes of an institution and its user needs (e.g., graduate programs) should guide the creation of bibliographic records within that environment in terms of user-oriented access and the subject expertise of the cataloging staff.  Therefore, in order to improve quality, Bade suggested that catalogers should be subject experts capable of understanding the purposes for which the resource in hand might be used by other experts at that institution.   Perceived economies in cataloging, such as shared records, often result in records of poor quality which impede the user’s ability to find relevant resources.  Highlighting this point with examples of erroneous bibliographic records, Bade stressed the need for higher quality standards, including careful review in cataloging.

In the second presentation, Diane Hillmann focused on making changes to the structures and standards in bibliographic control by creating an RDA element vocabulary and application profile.  In particular, Hillmann reported on a recent meeting between RDA (Resource Description and Access) and DCMI (Dublin Core Metadata Initiative) to investigate a new data model for bibliographic control.  This new model could benefit bibliographic control by allowing flexibility in how the rules are used, explicitly incorporating FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) relationships, and improving extensibility.  Hillmann raised the prospect of “Webification” as a means of removing the barriers that restrict sharing, manipulation, and further enrichment of the data and vocabularies created and used by the library community.  Easier access to library community data, structures, and standards will make their value and utility more apparent to other communities that may have a need for such tools in their own environments.

Jane Greenberg approached structures and standards from the perspectives of need, use, development, and new applications.  Beginning with the use of standards, Greenberg recommended improvements in the ability to share the library community’s store of rich data, without compromising quality and goals, as well as the need to share the standards and structures themselves.  Specifically, she noted that converting to open interoperable standards enhances accessibility and sharability, citing the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) thesaurus links as a successful example.  While acknowledging that all concerned communities should have input in standards development, Greenberg emphasized that the library community, as “information custodians,” should take the lead in creating collaborations to bridge the gap between “us” and “them.”  Finally, in regard to new applications, Greenberg suggested that a relationship should be built between the traditional and evolving applications, such as harnessing social tagging into a more standardized and usable form, and that standards may need new emphases, such as tracking the lifecycle of digital objects rather than just providing description and access.

Expanding upon earlier remarks regarding collaboration, Jennifer Bowen discussed in depth consultation with other communities in the development of standards, based on her experience with RDA.  She suggested that thoughtful consulting with other appropriate communities can result in improved metadata interoperability, a broader vision of possibilities, broader learning opportunities, and an improved standards development process.   Citing a successful collaboration between programmers and catalogers at the University of Rochester, Bowen recommended that catalogers should be collaborating with information technologists in the development of automated cataloging tools and information systems.  Information systems, in turn, could be improved by the conversion of data to more interoperable formats to facilitate sharing among different communities and computational manipulation.   In closing, Bowen provided the Working Group a wish list of leadership activities that are needed now to provide for the future of bibliographic control:  positive, decisive future action; clear redefinition of roles and responsibilities, particularly the role of the Library of Congress; explanation and justification of what is lost and/or gained by change; and articulation of a positive vision for the future of bibliographic control to engage the audience in its future.

Several members of the audience made comments following the presentations.  Some of the remarks are paraphrased below:

  • We need more structure, rather than less.
  • Cataloging is a public good which should be supported regardless of economic concerns.
  • System development focuses on the OPAC rather than tools for catalogers.
  • Bibliographic data are the core of library services in that they provide the connection between users and resources.
  • There are standards for content (data) and standards for containers (systems).  While there is a lot of emphasis on improving the container, the container is only as good as its content.
  • There needs to be support for multilingual data.
  • Public, special, and school libraries need to be represented in discussions regarding the future of bibliographic control.

Michael Norman spoke of bibliographic control issues that he is encountering in a large digitization project at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign:

  • They have the opportunity to augment and enhance old bibliographic records (e.g., by adding indices and bibliographies); however, there is no provision to add such data in the current MARC structure.
  • How can MARC be integrated with new/developing standards, such as structures and standards for tag clouds?
  • Bibliographic records for digital objects are doubling the size of the catalog because separate records for electronic versions have to be uploaded into OCLC.  What can be done to resolve the problem of multiple records?
  • Some portions of the MARC record can be generated automatically; however, automating subject access is problematic.

Finally, in his summarization of the meeting, Clifford Lynch raised several questions regarding quality and noted several issues that were not discussed:

  • How do we measure quality?  Can we consistently measure quality?  Can user communities be involved collaboratively with quality control?  What are the trade-offs between the economics of quality control, requiring large investments of time, funds, and human resources, and the benefits of quality control?
  • In regard to the existing vocabularies in the library community, there was no discussion of re-thinking what is in those vocabularies, such as author identifiers for name disambiguation.
  • How do we define a bibliographic record?  For example, do we want to include tables of contents, indices, and bibliographies in the record?  In a digital world, do we need bibliographic records to describe the full digital object or just to point to it?
  • What is the interaction between the capability of our tools and systems and how we view data?  That is, systems can limit the data that users see and, therefore, the data that are usable.
  • How can we make it easier for people to contribute to improve collective metadata?