Fwd: Re: [NGC4LIB] Repeat request for review of W3C LLD Report

 From another list... forwarding here so it can be linked to our comments.

Karen Coyle
kcoyle@kcoyle.net http://kcoyle.net
ph: 1-510-540-7596
m: 1-510-435-8234
skype: kcoylenet

Forwarded message 1

  • From: James Weinheimer <weinheimer.jim.l@GMAIL.COM>
  • Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2011 12:42:26 +0200
  • Subject: Re: [NGC4LIB] Repeat request for review of W3C LLD Report
  • Message-ID: <4E313D12.20807@gmail.com>
On 17/07/2011 18:13, Karen Coyle wrote:
> Friends,
> we have gotten very few comments on the W3C LLD report [1], yet there 
> are very clearly things that merit discussion in that report. I would 
> really hate for the report to be finalized "unexamined" by a wider 
> audience.

I have done some thinking about the report and I am not sure how to 
include these comments on the site, so at least I'll do it here.

First, I very much appreciate this report and agree that linked data 
could be one of the main solutions for libraries, yet I think the report 
itself lacks a certain reality. One of the main problems that I see here 
is the apparent assumption that the "library community" really is some 
kind of a single entity, when actually, it is not and has never been a 
single community. There are huge differences in the skills, labor and 
system needs among different kinds of librarians, from selectors to 
acquisitions librarians, to catalogers, to reference librarians, to 
special collections, to conservation; from librarians in public 
libraries vs. those in academic libraries vs. special libraries; from 
librarians in big libraries vs. smaller libraries vs. very small 
libraries; RDA libraries vs. non-RDA libraries (perhaps); U.S. libraries 
vs. European vs. the rest of the world, and so on. In my own opinion, 
even considering that this incredible number of communities, who often 
do not talk with one another and when they do, rarely understand one 
another very well, can constitute a "single community", simply beggars 
the imagination. This single "library community" exists only in utopian 

Strangely enough, it is probable that the librarians who have the best 
understanding of the entirety of the library field are those in the 
smaller libraries because there are less opportunities (some may prefer 
substituting "fewer pressures") for the specialization that occurs in 
the largest collections. Considering that all of these communities are 
the same is a similar mistake made by FRBR that lumps all users together 
("user tasks").

Another point I would like to make becomes clearer from a short 
understanding of some history. In the beginning of computerization, 
there were no off-the-shelf library systems, and consequently libraries 
had no choice except to try to create their own catalogs. Some of these 
latter became for-profit companies such as NOTIS, but even though some 
of the local efforts were good and had energetic people behind them, far 
more often the difficulty and expense to libraries that created their 
own systems slowly forced them to abandon their own efforts and buy 
ready-made systems--in other words, libraries have been seriously burned 
when they have tried to do their own development.

It's true that the situation of open-source, cooperative development 
going on today is a totally different story and it has been proven to 
succeed, but memories are very long in librarianship and even a lot of 
the younger librarians have heard the highly painful recollections of 
those earlier times. As a result, many are extremely reticent to begin 
such a terrible process again. In any case, out of the aggregate, very 
few libraries have ever been able to afford any kind of development and 
the vast majority have been more or less forced to rely on others. 
Buying a ready-built ILMS was also always a good solution for 
bureaucratic reasons: you could say, "if it's good enough for LC [or 
Columbia, or the Bibliotheque National, etc.] it's good enough for us!"

Libraries are now expected to be creative and innovative in areas of 
cataloging rules and system development--a rather new mentality, and 
without any tangible benefits as yet. Of course, staffing levels will 
remain flat at best for a long time to come and catalogers are already 
overwhelmed. Therefore, libraries present a very difficult environment 
to expect a great deal of development.

I suspect that the locale for genuine, open source library system 
development may--strangely enough--wind up taking place primarily in the 
smaller libraries, who will be forced by budget crunches to give up 
their expensive ILMSs and to give open source catalogs a genuine chance. 
Once they see the many advantages, development may really take off.

Finally, the problem of rights becomes incredibly important in a linked 
data environment, but I see it somewhat differently than what I read 
here. Linked data is, in traditional library terms, a disassembled 
record where information can come in from anywhere. As a result, if an 
essential part of the record that is to be finally assembled disappears, 
the entire structure becomes useless. Therefore, whoever controls those 
essential parts will have a certain amount of power and it will be vital 
to determine the rights for those parts of the data. To put this in 
concrete terms: in a WEMI/linked data environment, the (W)orks and 
(E)xpressions parts absolutely must be available, since otherwise, 
everybody's (M)anifestation and (I)tem parts would become useless and 
could be held hostage to monopolistic practices: "Pay me x amount of 
money or I will shut off access to the Work and Expression records." The 
Google Book project already has taken library materials, digitized them, 
and if matters work out (perhaps), they could end up charging the 
library community to access its own materials. Something similar could 
happen with linked data.

Creating a linked data system for WEMI-type records will be expensive 
and if this may demand payment, it could easily morph into a "linked 
data rupture" between those who can pay and those who cannot. Those who 
cannot or will not pay must understand their rights because once in, it 
may be extremely difficult to opt out.

James Weinheimer  weinheimer.jim.l@gmail.com
First Thus: http://catalogingmatters.blogspot.com/
Cooperative Cataloging Rules: http://sites.google.com/site/opencatalogingrules/

Received on Thursday, 28 July 2011 14:54:43 UTC