Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Future of Bibliographic Control: Predictions, Pratfalls, Dread or Delight?

An authority with a long list of accomplishments and a strong commitment to bibliographic control, Janet Swan Hill, Professor, Associate Director for Technical Services at the University of Colorado Libraries, presented an overview and update her work as ALA representative on the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control.

Janet Swan Hill's slides will be updated and available at:

Janet gave credit where credit was due by naming all of the members of the Working Group, although so early in the morning reminded me of a reading of biblical lineage. The profession is certainly indebted to all of those who have served in this important work, but there was so much emphasis on people and the process of meetings that I wondered whether we would ever get to what I thought should have been the focus: the future.

The Working Group Charge

  • To present findings on how bibliographic control and other descriptive practices can effectively support management of a and access to library materials in the evolving information and technology environment
  • To recommend ways in which the library community can collectively move toward achieving this vision
  • To advise the Library of Congress on its role and priorities

There were three Public Meetings, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Mountain View, CA, (Google Headquarters). Hill said some may have considered some of the locations or actions political, but then everything is considered political.

Feeling that if you can write cataloging rules, every thing else should be possible this momentous task was intense and quickly reported to the Library Community through electronic and other means. The "back and forths" of many different people with different viewpoints in the end resulted in the report which is a "what needs to be done" not a "how to do it" report.

However, the Working Group believes their recommendations are valid and they are hoping that the report will not sit on a shelf, but be a working document.

The Guiding Principles:

  • Redefine Bibliographic Control
  • Redefine Bibliographic Universe
  • Redefine the role of the Library of Congress

Findings and Recommendations:

  • Increase Efficiency of record production and maintenance
  • Enhance Access to Rare, Unique, and Other Special Hidden Materials
  • Position our Technology for the Future
  • Position our Community for the Future
  • Strengthen the Library and Information Science Production

There are three tiers of recommendations that further define the above, but can be fournd online

What's happening:

  • LC on June 6, 2008 Committee receives the report
  • LC will respond in time for the ALA Annual Conference (late June of 2008 in Anaheim)
  • Joint Steering Committee intends to Continue RDA
  • An ALCTS Group will review and respond to the report.
  • Some things are already underway in test or pilot mode (guidelines for publishers to submit data to LC)
  • Working Group members are making presentations
  • A Report to LC on LCSH has been sent
  • A Group to follow the Working Group's groundwork is being considered

Hill knew it was not possible to consider all of the recommendations in her talk because there are so many, so briefly here is what she presented.

Controversial Recommendations

  • MARC as it exists today, is not sufficient. Something needs to be done. Although, this does not say MARC is dead, since it does exist worldwide in billions of cataloging records, some changes to move forward
  • LSCH as it exists has limitations. Increase flexibility, availability, and interconnectivity.
  • Work with vendors to raise awareness for the need for metadata
  • Suspend work on RDA, at least for a time

Recommendations for all:

"Don't be so picky, but be grateful for what you can find"

  • Be more flexible in accepting bibliographic data
  • Use metadata supplied by sound recording, motion picture, and other audio visual distributing sources
  • Use descriptive cataloging provided by book vendors and non-U.S. libraries whenever applicable

Sharing the Responsibilities

  • Share responsibilities for contributing bibliographic data for the common good
  • Identify others that can contribute data
  • Expand the number of participants
  • Increase collaboration on authority data

"Admit we cannot do everything!" Practical, flexible, and realistic cataloging.

Make the Discovery of Rare, Unique, and other special hidden materials:

  • Encourage Digization
  • Share materials of interest
  • Making finding aids accessible online

"Bugging your Vendors may pay off"

  • Consider different levels of cataloging that already exist
  • Take advantage of non-library data
  • Include patrong added data

Develop a better way to share data

Recognize what is useful to others.

  • We all have a role
  • Realize that not just cataloging, but contributing to the profession, is important

What's next?

Some of what comes next is up to us. Acceptance of change is important. Anyone who expects to be around longer than it takes to clear your desk off.

  • Need to recognized the importance in all libraries
  • Single tool is not effective
  • We are part of a whole
  • Past decisions may not be relevant any longer


Recognize that we are all part of a whole.

Thoughtful information is shared on blogs and in other reports.

The Committee has been united, but are not in agreement on all levels.

"The future will overtake us, even if we try to keep our finger in the dike".

To learn more:

Look for Thomas Mann's report

Other related URLs

More food for thought..after the session ended. Hill quoted Texas Library School Professor, cataloging guru, Fran Miksa: "First you do the work, then you do the rules, then we develop the principles"

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