A recurring theme running through two recent items I read/listened to (slides by Holly Tomren and interview with Janet Swan Hill) is the idea of “good enough” metadata. Janet Swan Hill puts it this way: “… we are still undergoing a period of grieving, I think, for the fact that we are learning that we have to put up with good enough.” (19 min. in, topic is taken up again later in the interview). Indeed coming to terms with the fact that in many cases “good enough” can and must be enough requires a change of mind that is not easy to achieve for meticulous catalogers (and I’d count myself in here too).
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting we should be doing things some way or other without caring about quality, but we have to develop a different definition of quality and a different way of how to measure it. We will have to figure out which of our standards are worth retaining, which of them *really* contribute to better findability and identification. To be honest, I’m struggling a bit with questions like: What can we accept as “good enough”? What elements of the bibliographic description can be left alone although they may not be “perfect”?
As we move towards an ecosystem of ingesting data from different sources (vendors, publishers etc.), from print-based to increasingly digital collections that enable automated metadata extraction and batch processing, our idea of quality metadata is bound to change because we just can’t afford to fiddle with minute details. “Good enough” for me also means gearing cataloging more strictly towards user needs and findability. It doesn’t mean dumbing down library metadata but rather focus our time, energy and brainpower on the core of our mission and our bibliographic structure (not to mention the cataloger time it frees up that can be spent on tackling other projects etc.).
So what’s your attitude towards “good enough”? Do you think it will threaten our professional values? Or is it a pragmatic approach that reflects necessary changes in catalogers’ outlook?