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Catalogs and records

Diane Hillmann commented* on my post MARC and machine readability (revisited):

I think we need to purge the “master record” paradigm from our heads before we move into a newer notion of data. That, and the notion of “records” being the proper (and only) medium of exchange. I’d really urge folks to look at Karen Coyle’s Jan./Feb. issues of “Library Technology Reports,” where she carefully and clearly explains why those two ideas are past their usefulness. It’s impossible, in my opinion, to really address the data quality questions properly in the current record sharing environment, and frankly I think we’re going to have to move on!

I respect Diane [as well as Karen Coyle] and thank her profusely for her comments (check out her blog Metadata Matters, excellently written and rather a fun read).  Thus, I went looking for Karen Coyle’s article “Understanding the Semantic Web: Bibliographic Data and Metadata” in the Jan/Feb issue of Library Technology Reports.  I searched and found http://alatechsource.metapress.com/content/p3022442071g7655/fulltext.pdf which seems to be the article as a book chapter [correct me please if I am wrong and I will ILL the actual article since I do not have access to Library Technology Reports].

Please go read it. It is incredibly interesting and breaks everything down within historic context. Karen also defines metadata, a complete definition and not just the old “data about data” but an explanation of what this means.  I believe I see what Karen means – that the data, if parsed out properly, could provide so much more than just what title is held in your library.  I think this is what OCLC is aiming for with their Worldcat.org and WorldCat Identities. That is, taking the data and breaking it out into various facets.  Karen uses maps to illustrate her points – brilliantly uses them I have to say. I see it, I really do … or so I think.

However, I cannot get my head around the idea that records themselves are dead.  We have to input the information somewhere – whether this is via XML or MARC or JoeBob’sDataSpot, the metadata itself has to be entered.  I still like the idea of a ‘master’ record – the new-to-me concept I heard first from John Espey at VTLS (and blogged about it in post “MARC, FRBR and a whole new world“) but again, the information itself has to be parsed into something the machine can understand and manipulate with higher degree of sophistication than is currently possible with MARC bibliographic.

I think Diane and I are on the same page albeit I’m probably still in ‘once upon a time’ whilst she is onto the moral of the tale [Please Diane, if I am erring, let me know. I want to understand this].  The idea of silos of information which are implied within the concept of ‘records’ is what is dead. The information that is contained in those silos needs to be broken out  – parsed out really, broken down to the base to make it easier for the computer to utilize the information in nice complex algorithms and display however we determine is best for our users. For want of a better term, I am still calling those records (call them data entry points or whatever you prefer) but the idea is the same. Individually parsed out bits of information that collectively become something and link to other somethings to make more somethings…

[BTW the comments on this blog are totally geeking me out. Good golly, people ARE reading this and even more, people I respect and read-Ivy, Ana, Karen, Diane, William, Bryan…wow! My geek-meter runth over]

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