Quick! While there’s still time!

Folks interested in copyright information sharing may be interested in the following draft proposal for encoding copyright evidence in MARC records, the standard format used for library catalog records.

It was published on December 17, just a couple of days ago. The email I got asked for responses by January 7.

I’m hoping to comment, when I have the time to look it over carefully. Good thing I heard about it early (though so far I’ve only seen word of it on a private mailing list; I had to Google to verify that the recommendation was actually publicly linked from somewhere).

Bad thing for folks who don’t hear about it that quick, or who are busy, especially with the holidays right in the middle of the comment period. This doesn’t appear to be unusual practice in the library world, though. For instance, the Library of Congress recently released a very interesting-looking draft report on the future of bibliographic control, and allowed all of 16 days for comments. I knew this report was coming, and I’ve been hoping to read it in detail and comment on it. But the deadline for feedback to the committee that prepared it has already passed. Well, I can always comment to the world at large here, but it would have been nice to have more time to read it over carefully and reflect on it, and then comment to the authors. This isn’t just my sentiment; K. G. Schneider has suggestions along these lines to the authors of this and other reports.

I know this can be easier said than done, as deadlines loom. In the working group I’m leading now on interfaces to integrated library systems, we ended up scrambling to get a downloadable recommendation draft together a few days before the conference where we said we’d discuss the draft. But we had most of the material that went into the draft on the wiki well before then. The next iteration of the recommendation, which will get more specific about what we need, is now in preparation, and can be followed and commented live on the site.

The face-to-face discussions of that next iteration, which will target developers and technical folks from ILS vendors and open source development efforts, are planned for February. Hopefully those that are interested in participating will have the chance to read and comment well before those face-to-face meetings.

Yes, folks are often in a rush to meet a deadline, and may be shy about showing half-finished work that may draw all kinds of criticism or premature conclusions from the audience. I’m personally vulnerable to both of those pitfalls. And as a result, we often get over-short comment periods. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Groups can plan ahead for reasonably long comment periods. And readers who are used to the blog and the wiki should know how to deal appropriately with half-finished work. As long as the work doesn’t have to be kept confidential, and there’s a reasonably transparent process for authoring and updating documents, open authoring and comment can give your group insight from a wider variety of knowledgeable people, when it’s still early enough to matter.

(PS: Any relation between the title of this post and this prank is completely, um, coincidental.)

About John Mark Ockerbloom

I'm a digital library strategist at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.
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