Saturday, December 16, 2006

If you love something, set it free...

Here's some radical ideas...
  • What if users don't care where their library material comes from?
  • What if they are happy if they get what they want, when they want it, in a timely and friendly manner?
And more...
  • What if users don't care where our catalogue records come from?
  • What if instead of a "no holdings" screen, we told users if an item existed in another library and gave them a "yes/no" option to start an interlibrary loan?
  • What if individual libraries got out of the business of running catalogue information, centralised that bit..and then we focussed on just getting the material to user?
  • How many people work at Amazon keeping their bib data accurate? Could we harness the hours and hours of people power, chewed up in library cataloguing departments, to keep centralised records accurate?
  • What extra could we do for our users if, instead of just interrogating and uploading/downloading our own data from union catalogues, we could manipulate and repackage records from other libraries too?
These are some of my thoughts after listening to the latest Library2.0 Gang podcast from Talis called The Mellon rewards WPOpac...and opens an Open Data door? It discusses Casey Bisson's Mellon Award for his work with WPOpac...and his library's decision to use the USD50 000 award to buy Library of Congress Records and redistribute them under Creative Commons liscence. It then ranged further to discuss what would happen if we all pooled our records.

I've already admitted to not fully understanding the implications of this. Although the podcast made a few things clearer, I think that I need to see more from Casey about what his plans are, and whether he plans to value add, before I really "get" it.

Some of the points I noted were:
  • The barrier MARC poses to sharing our records with "non library" people. Converting the records to XML would be make them much more accessible.
  • Libraries could probably have shared records in this way before, but just haven't.
  • What would be the motivation for an agency with lots of data to share it? ...there was a long silence and then someone tentatively suggested..."Hugs??"
  • Often in-house standards or the ILS used determines which fields of a MARC record are loaded on a library's system. Often data that cannot be immediately used is not uploaded, so restrospective use is impossible.
  • What if libraries just went ahead and pooled our records, and then coped with legal ramifications later?
  • Why do bloggers link book references to Amazon and not a library?
  • The United States does not have a National Library like we have in Australia. The Library of Congress is there foremost to serve the elected members.
  • What we could do with pooled records remains to be discovered.
Amy Ostrom's laundry list of features she'd like to see on OAPCs (from the NGC list) dovetails nicely in to this...and no doubt also influenced my thoughts.


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