Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control

With the expanding variety of formats required for effective storage and retrieval of information in libraries coupled with the rising level of expectations of patrons, the future of bibliographic control is of utmost concern for all types of libraries. The following material from the Library Journal Academic Newswire for November 15, 2007 discusses the work of one group, The Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control and its recommendations.

From the Library Journal Academic Newswire;

Some big changes may be coming from the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, convened by Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for library services at the Library of Congress (LC). The extent of those changes, however, remains unclear, as LC did not actually release its report on bibliographic control and how the library community and LC can move forward. That release is now expected on November 30. LC did give attendees at an in-house session Tuesday a copy of a PowerPoint presentation. Also, a webcast on the Working Group’s session was downed by a technological problem, frustrating many eager to watch it.

What to expect? According to an unofficial summary posted by Karen Coyle, a consultant to the group for the writing of the report, the working group concluded that there are three major “sea changes” needed in the library community. Notably, the excerpt from Coyle below reflects the message on page four of the PowerPoint presentation, also going beyond the PowerPoint presentation to acknowledge the role of for-profit organizations and non-library institutions.

Coyle’s summary:

To redefine bibliographic control broadly to include all materials, a widely diverse community of users, and a multiplicity of venues where information is sought.

To redefine the bibliographic universe to include all stakeholders, including the for-profit organizations that are involved in information delivery and digitization.

The role of the Library of Congress must be redefined as a partner with other libraries and with non-library institutions, to achieve the goals of the library community.

The power point presentation mentioned earlier relates to the Interim Draft Report Recommendations of the Working Group on Bibliographic Control. To see this presentation, click here

The following are comments on the findings of the Working Group from Deanna Marcum of the Library of Congress and research expert Thomas Mann:

LC’s Marcum: “A Vision That Can Be Achieved”

Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for library services at the Library of Congress (LC), convened the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, but even she hasn’t seen the report, now due for release on November 30, with two weeks for comments to follow and a revision to be submitted by January 9, 2008, before the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting. She did talk to the LJ Academic Newswire today about what she’s learned so far from the presentations by chair, José-Marie Griffiths, and Brian E.C. Schottlaender and Olivia M.A. Madison, both Working Group representatives from the Association of Research Libraries.

LJAN: What’s your initial reaction to the Working Group?

DM: The PowerPoint presentation I think did an excellent job of giving us a sense of what they’ve learned, some of their preliminary conclusions. It has been, as I understand it, a unanimous decision-making process. When we met the first time, it seemed there were so many perspectives and different frames of reference, I didn’t know how the group would work together. I think the report will go into great detail about how they reached the conclusions, and what the implications are. They are making recommendations for the Library of Congress, for the library community broadly, some for specific organizations, and some aimed at all parties.

What’s the most important aspect?

That they’ve taken a very broad view. They’re really recommending an approach to bibliographic control for the future. It’s not what the Library of Congress should be doing, but a vision of how bibliographic control can be worked on and achieved by the entire community over the next few years.

Is there consensus on how to spread the costs and benefits?

One thing they said over and over in the presentations is that economic models need much more attention. Brian even went so far as to say it would be good to commission another group to look at the economic implications of all these recommendations.

ALA president-elect Jim Rettig has warned about precipitous changes to cataloging practice could hurt citizen access and also raise costs.

One point the Working Group made is, that in the ALA testimony, there seems to be a view that all the things we’re doing now should continue to be done. They suggested we should think about what actually needs to be done. Their first conclusion is we ought to start earlier in the process to identify bibliographic data. That changes what libraries do. If we get some portion of the record from publishers, creators, or vendors, that changes the cost equation for libraries.

There seems to be a new push to get unique materials cataloged.

We focused at the Library of Congress since the days of MARC on cataloging those materials that are most likely to be acquired by other libraries and to make those bib records available as quickly as possible. The result of that has been that special collections have grown as mediated collections. They’ve developed internal bibliographic apparatus, either finding aids, or card catalogs. They’re designed for the library to work with the user, but those are not in the online catalog.

What will happen to subject headings?

They talk about, in their presentation, the need to optimize the LC subject headings, and to think of them as ways of pulling like materials that can be used both by other libraries and also to be used more in a machine environment, so that search engines can find ways to use these terms we’ve developed.

Will there be increased incentives for sharing bibliographic records?

I think they were really talking about thinking about the entire system of libraries as contributors to bibliographic records. They talked about the need to look both at the Congressional requirements that are placed on the Library of Congress, about cost-sharing, cost-distribution, and looking more broadly at what are the advantages for libraries participating more broadly in this record-creation system, identifying the barriers and finding ways to increase the incentives.

The report recommends temporarily suspending work on “RDA: Resource Description and Access,” the successor to the “Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules.”

After the presentations here, I think they all agreed they need to go back and be more specific about what they mean by that. They were saying that FRBR has not been tested adequately with real live bibliographic records. There has been a lot of theoretical work on it, and there need to be practical pilot projects, to see what actually happens. Their original thought was that we need to know more about how records from different sources behave in a FRBR world before we say we’re going to embrace RDA. But they realized, I think, after talking to several people that they would need to be more specific about what do they want tested.

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