Professional Development

Steve at ALA Midwinter 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013 2:10 pm

Although my trip to Seattle for the ALA Midwinter Conference had a rough start (flight delayed due to weather, nearly missed a connecting flight, my luggage didn’t arrive until a day later), I had a really good, productive experience. This Midwinter was heavy on committee work for me, and I was very focused on RDA, authority control and linked data. If you want a simple takeaway from this post, it’s that RDA, authority control and linked data are all tightly bound together and are important for the future of the catalog. If you want more detail, keep reading.
My biggest commitment at the conference was participating in two long meetings (over four hours on Saturday afternoon and three hours on Monday morning) of CC:DA (Cataloging Committee: Description and Access). I’m one of nine voting members of CC:DA, which is the committee responsible for developing ALA’s position on RDA. The final authority for making changes and additions to RDA is the JSC (Joint Steering Committee), which has representation from a number of cataloging constituencies, including ALA, the national library organizations of Canada, the UK, and Australia, as well as other organizations. ALA’s position on proposals brought to the JSC is voted on by CC:DA. Membership on this committee involves reading and evaluating a large number of proposals from a range of library constituencies. Much of the work of the committee has so far involved reviewing proposals regarding how to form headings in bibliographic records, which is, essentially, authority control work. We’ve also worked on proposals to make the rules consistent throughout RDA, to clarify the wording of rules, and to make sure that the rules fit with the basic principles of RDA. It has been fascinating to see how interconnected the various cataloging communities are, and how they relate to ALA and CC:DA. As I said, I am one of nine voting members of the committee, but there are about two dozen non-voting representatives from a variety of committees and organizations, including the Music Library Association, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging, and the Continuing Resources Cataloging Committee of ALCTS.
During our Monday meeting, we saw a presentation by Deborah Fritz of the company MARC of Quality of a visualization tool called RIMMF, RDA In Many Metadata Formats. RIMMF shows how bibliographic data might be displayed when RDA is fully implemented. The tool is designed to take RDA data out of MARC, because it is hard to think of how data might relate in RDA without the restrictions of MARC. RIMMF shows how the FRBR concepts of work, expression and manifestation (which are part of RDA) might be displayed by a public catalog interface. It’s still somewhat crude, but it gave me a clearer idea of the kinds of displays we might develop, as well as a better grasp on the eventual benefits to the user that will come from all our hard work of converting the cataloging world to RDA. RIMMF is free to download and we’re planning to play around with it some here in Resource Services.
I also attended my first meeting of another committee of which I am a member, the Continuing Resources Cataloging Committee of the Continuing Resources Section of ALCTS). Continuing resources include serials and web pages, so CRS is the successor to the old Serials Section. We discussed the program that we had arranged for that afternoon on the possibilities of using linked data to record serial holdings. Unfortunately, I had to miss the program due to another meeting, but I’m looking forward to seeing the recording. We also brainstormed ideas for our program at Annual in Chicago, and the committee’s representative to the PCC Standing Committee on Training gave us an update on RDA training initiatives.
The most interesting other meeting that I attended was the Bibframe Update Forum. Bibframe is the name for an initiative to try to develop a data exchange format to replace the MARC format(s). The Bibframe initiative hopes to develop a format that can make library data into linked data, that is, data that can be exchanged on the semantic web. Eric Miller, from the company Zepheira (which is one of the players in the development of Bibframe), explained that the semantic web is about linking data, not just documents (as a metaphor, think about old PDF files that could not be searched, but were flat documents. The only unit you could search for was the entire document, not the meaningful pieces of content in the document). The idea is to create recombinant data, that is, small blocks of data that can be linked together. The basic architecture of the old web leaned toward linking various full documents, rather than breaking down the statements into meaningful units that could be related to each other. The semantic web emphasizes the relationships between pieces of data. Bibframe hopes to make it possible to record the relationships between pieces of data in bibliographic records and to expose library data on the Web and make it sharable. At the forum, Beacher Wiggins told the audience about the six institutions who are experimenting with the earliest version of Bibframe, which are the British Library, the German National Library, George Washington University, the National Library of Medicine, OCLC, and Princeton University. Reinhold Heuvelmann of the German National Library said that the model is defined on a high level, but that it needs to have more detail developed to allow for recording more granular data, which is absolutely necessary for fully recording the data required by RDA. Ted Fons of OCLC spoke of how Bibframe is an attempt to develop a format that can carry the data libraries need and to allow for library data to interact with each other and the wider web. Fons said that Bibframe data has identifiers that are URIs which can be web accessible. He also said that Bibframe renders bibliographic data as statements that are related to each other, rather than as self-contained records, as with MARC. Bibframe breaks free of the constraints of MARC, which basically rendered data as catalog cards in electronic format. Bibframe is still going through quite a bit of development, but it is moving quickly. Sally McCallum of the MARC Standards Office said that they hope to finalize aspects of the Bibframe framework by 2014, but acknowledged that, “The change is colossal and the unexpected will happen.”
Actually, I think that’s a good way to summarize my thoughts on the current state of the cataloging world after attending this year’s Midwinter, “The change is colossal and the unexpected will happen.”

MB @ ALAMW in Seattle

Thursday, February 7, 2013 4:57 pm

ALA Midwinter in Seattle was about making connections (and sometimes missing connections). I had an endless travel day on Friday, along with Carolyn McCallum (the result of a missed connection) preventing me from attending sessions on the Future of the University Library, a disappointment. I focused on sessions related to assessment and building planning. The ACRL Metrics User Group Meeting provided a forum to discuss the capabilities and limits of using ACRL Metrics. The demonstration highlighted key capabilities including peer group comparisons, built-in report templates. Utilizing data supplied through NCES (National Center for Education Statistics), ALS (Academic Libraries Statistics) and IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) the demonstration focused on how utilizing these metrics would help demonstrate value to our institution in ways that no single group of statistics can.

Roz, Susan and I all a session with the Medium Sized Library Discussion Group, that had the tantalizing discussion topic of “Giving up the Old to Do the New.” One library reported that they had stopped providing electronic reserves services, and instead just gave the responsibility over to faculty to scan documents directly into their Course Management System. She said that usage was declining precipitously. When I brought up how everyone was managing the transition to ebooks from print books, (if they were) there was a general belief that slow and steady was a wise pace to adopt. I exchanged email addresses with one librarian who had been doing a pretty consistent job of tracking the acceptance of ebooks by having focus groups with users over a period of 3 years. She shared her procedures and questions with me after the conference and we hope to do something similar soon. That was a very valuable connection.

I always enjoy the Speakers I hear at ALA conferences. While I found Steven Bell inspiring, I was entranced by Caroline Kennedy. She related a story of a public library in New York that was devastated by Superstorm (Hurricane?) Sandy. After the storm, the library opened in a makeshift building because their building was full of 4 feet of mud and filth. Their only collection was from the material that had been lent out to patrons during the storm that had since been returned. The hearty librarians soldiered on. I also attended a speech by Temple Grandin, prolific author and professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State. Being the most famous adult with autism in the world her talk enlightened me not just on what she thought about the differences between visual and auditory learners, but also on HOW she thought. It was fascinating, and a little disorienting.

Lastly, I spent a good deal of time going to sessions related to Academic Libraries and how users use them. Not surprisingly, everyone recognizes the same need for more outlets, the same constrictions of space, the same desire to have spaces that are very flexible. Themes include: Information Commons, retractable cords, a certain level of acceptable messiness, variations of group study space (small, large, group, silent), group study v. individual study. More relevant to public libraries than academics was the idea of a Maker Space, that are flexible activity spaces that allow for continuous programming. The idea of Maker Spaces added to my “to do” list for what else the library has to become!

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