Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Emerging Cataloging Future: RDA, DCMI, and the Semantic Web - Diane L. Hillmann

Diane Hillmann, Research Librarian at Cornell University and former project manager and Metadata Specialist for the National Science Digital Library Project presented an intense overview of RDA and FRBR, or at least it was for me, so forgive me for "dumbing down" this presentation, to summarize for those who are just beginning to learn about these changes in descriptive cataloging.

Hillman gave a brief history of the development of the emerging technical infrastructure which will carry library information from one stage to another, in other words from AACR2 to RDA and FRBR. She mentioned that the final full draft of RDA (Resource Description and Access) will be distributed in a Beta version soon, since it is difficult to review as text.

Hillmann mentioned that this transition is still in the planning stages, that the youngest librarians in the audience will gray during this process, and that there is no prototype to view. She mentioned that to start on this journey, it is essential to "give up an enormous backpack of past practices" but "bring the legacy of cataloging forward".

The FRBR model, the terms, and the approach are all incorporated into RDA. The new system emphasizes the relationships between a work, its manifestation, its expressions, then links to items owned, people who have some relation to the work, etc. The new system will have more machine-friendly linkages by managing text strings and URIs. Catalogers need to envision new descriptive structures, using software.

To learn more, I'm suggesting a visit to a few websites:

During Hillman's talk, she received a question from the audience:
"Since few of us are now doing original cataloging, but relying on cataloging sources, are those who provide us with cataloging, for example OCLC going to adopt this and when?"

Hillmann didn't know whether this is going to be adopted by large vendors, although she knew a few were exploring. There are many questions that need to be answered.

A graphic shown by Hillmann illustrated that text strings would be replaced by placing URIs in the typical MARC fields. These URIs, which would be maintained on the net by some authority would connect ideas to ideas.

A brief example:

Author leads to a link
Work Title leads to a text string of the Title
Form of work leads to a link
Original language leads to a link of that work in that language

The links are not URLs, they are URIs. URIs are persistent. These are established by the scholarly community, committed to establishing more permanent authoritative thesauri. The library community is working with other agencies to establish these.

There are those, including Hillmann who have and are working to establish some standards. See which illustrates the methods for registering concepts (entities and attributes).

Hillmann said several times that all of this is theoretical. There is no concrete example of this.
Hillmann felt that integrated library system (ILS) vendors are for the most part taking a "wait and see" attitude. She mentioned that Innovative, OCLC, and a few other vendors are taking some steps.

For the most part, it seems that the library community is also taking a "wait and see" attitude, since there is a shrinking population of the profession directly dedicated to original cataloging. However, Hillmann presented this as a change in the infrastructure of catalogs. Such an important development should get your serious attention in the next months when the final RDA is unveiled, and in the coming years as we see the implementation. Stay tuned. Thanks Diane for starting us on the journey!

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