OCLC yesterday announced that it is putting its new catalog record usage policy on hold while its Members Council convenes a group to review the proposed policy and suggest changes. I’m very happy to hear this, as the policy was due to take effect next month, and has been subject to extensive criticism online (both from me and from many others).
Whatever one thinks about the policy, it’s clear that changing the basic terms of sharing our knowledge about library resources– either to tighten the restrictions on use or open them up– is a fundamental amendment to the cooperative that has built up the information base of WorldCat. It’s akin to a constitutional amendment in the political sphere. And like the political unions of people in states, and of states in the United States, the members of the union should have the opportunity not only to suggest, but also to approve or reject, fundamental changes to the basic agreement.
The policy review group will initially meet in late January, according to OCLC’s press release, with the goal of producing a report that can be discussed in the member’s council meeting in May. I’d imagine they would welcome thoughts and suggestions from anyone who’s involved with or thinking about the future of catalogs.
The upcoming ALA Midwinter meeting in Denver will provide a number of opportunities to think and talk about the future of catalogs, and how we manage knowledge about our knowledge. I’ll be out there, albeit briefly, for a couple of events.
One is an ALCTS forum “Creating and Sustaining Communities Around Shared Library Data”, which will include a discussion of the data sharing policies of OCLC and other organizations. I’ll be speaking at this forum (which will be on Monday at 8am in the Denver Convention Center), along with Karen Calhoun of OCLC, Brian Schottlaender of UC San Diego, and Peter Murray of OhioLINK. I’m hoping to give an accessible presentation of the concerns of library practitioners, application developers, and metadata hackers, and would be happy to hear suggestions on issues I should take into account.
I’ll also be talking at the LITA Next Generation Catalogs interest group about the ILS-Discovery interface recommendations I worked on along with various other library professionals for DLF. (This will be on Sunday at 4pm, also in the Denver Convention Center, and will also include a presentation from the BiblioCommons folks.)
If you’re around for the Midwinter meeting, you might also want to check out biblios.net, a freely shared database of catalog records (and an open source editor for working with them) that LibLime will be demonstrating during the meeting. I haven’t played around with it yet myself, but it suggests some interesting new ways of working with and sharing library metadata. Midwinter will also include sessions on RDA, an updated system for describing library resources that’s now looking for feedback and testers to see if it’s ready to become the next standard for cataloging.
From WorldCat to Google, the way we use catalogs and other metadata services is changing rapidly. I hope we’ll have a chance during ALA, and during OCLC’s policy review period, to think carefully and creatively about how we should change these services to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s information seekers. And then I hope we’ll make those changes happen.