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learning-from-uncertainty.doc

I finally finished a submission draft of my article.  As promised, it’s awash with metaphor.  I just couldn’t help it.  I’m still not sure where I’m going to submit it, but this has been a long time coming! I’m glad to have the story in writing. 

 In a similar vein, I just joined a Santa Fe writer’s group.  I’ve been looking for different ways to get more involved with the community, and also trying to coerce myself to be a less lazy writer.  This should kill both birds with the same stone.  I need some new inspiration, and some helpful criticism wouldn’t hurt.

The Free Range Librarian recently had an interesting post about “Standards 2.0” in librarianship.  Obviously “2.0” has become a catch-phrase for any forward-looking idea.  I’m working on “Heather 2.0” right now.

What is interesting in Schneider’s post – which ends up being kind of a manifesto and what we should be aiming for in the application of current standards and the development of future standards in librarianship (such as collaborative models and looking at standards as works in progress rather than ending points) – is that we have entered a gray zone where these issues are less and less clear cut.  In large part this is due to the other 2.0 buzzwords.  The OPAC of the future aims to be collaborative, integrative, and branch out to the larger  world online.  Standards don’t play very well with these goals.  Particularly (notoriously) clunky library standards such as the AACR slam right into a brick wall when faced with collaborative and interactive models of information retrieval and display. 

It will be interesting to see if RDA changes this environment at all (this is a good overview from Ariadne), but librarians are not known for being particularly flexible in this regard.  Or any regard, really. The article mentions that RDA is about “simplicity”, but it’s also about other un-2.0 things like “structure” and “consistency”.   On the other end of the opinion spectrum, RDA was also criticized for its lack of structure and standards by – surprise, surprise – Michael Gorman in the December 2007 issue of American Libraries.  Gorman reacts to user-generated metadata and uncontrolled vocabulary as though it were the devil’s work, as though any catalog not ordained by Lubetzky and written in the stone that is the AACR2 will burst into flames imminently. 

Maybe we could just leave the standards in their present form, call it AACR2.0 to make it sound like the future, and make everyone happy.  In other words, implement the same cosmetic and meaningless changes that have hindered forward motion in librarianship for too long.

I’m in the process of weeding through the issues and blog topics I saved in the past few months and haven’t had a chance to ponder or research thoroughly. Thanks to a (rather dated) post by Jessamyn West at librarian.net, I was reminded of the Open Library project. As this is an idea still in demo form, it may still be somewhere below the radar. In any case, it’s a fascinating project. A little idealistic for sure (going so far as to make the statement that “the ultimate goal of the Open Library is to make all the published works of humankind available to everyone in the world.” And declare peace on earth. And teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Uh huh.).

Despite its high-flung goals, Open Library does combine several important elements of the best of Library 2.0 brainstorming. It seeks to create an entirely open-source and collaborative universal catalog on a wiki model. In other words, “Imagine a library that collected all the world’s information about all the world’s books and made it available for everyone to view and update.” “It would link to places where each book could be bought, borrowed, or downloaded.” Unlike most current cataloging models, they seek content contribution from the user community (building upon the ideas of progressive libraries that are now implementing tools on their websites that enable blogging, tagging, etc.). This is a powerful dynamic. Power to the people, indeed.

But what about standards? We all know the dystopian fantasies surrounding folksonomy run amock. The proponents of Open Library propose a schema developed on the MARC model called “futurelib“, which is viewable in draft form. Of course, content contributors could not be forced to follow the standards, but I suppose we’re going on the wiki-ish assumption that everyone has the same good intentions.

The main question I have is how this project is going to come anywhere close to its goal of making available the world’s entire published works. The only material available for freely accessible digitization would be work out of copyright, which is a very limited amount of material. At this point, I don’t see how they can go much further than attempting to aggregate all the world’s bibliographic records in one place. Kind of like a universal WorldCat. Still noble, but falling short of the ultimate goal. The availability of a catalog record certainly does not equate with access to the “published works of humankind.” Of course, they do say “bought, borrowed or downloaded.” But how much of a contribution to literacy is it to provide an Amazon link, particularly for the citizens of Third World countries who presumably are the primary focus of this project? Am I missing something?

readingissexy.jpgI couldn’t resist this super cool t-shirt from buyolympia.com (my new favorite online store)…and it promotes literacy! Win win! (That’s not me in the photo – just a stock image from the catalog)