The University of California libraries have started to implement a Next Generation Technical Services Initiative. One of the task groups is called “Transform cataloging practices”, and one of its charges (PDF) is to “define a ‘good enough’ record standard for all UC original cataloging”.
The obvious advantages for workflow are quicker discoverability of resources, reduction of backlogs, freeing up of staff time. By including records into WorldCat, enhancements by others become possible. Metadata automation can play an important role in these iterative improvements. The effort at UC will be collaborative – the plan is to survey public service librarians, selectors and users in order to determine minimum needs in a bibliographic record.
Already in 2005, the University of California espoused the “good enough” approach, in a report (PDF) entitled Rethinking how we provide bibliographic services for the University of California: “Focus on being good enough instead of being perfect”.
I think it is possible to be “perfect” (or rather as good as we can be) in certain areas of bibliographic description and “good enough” in others. If we know which elements do what in OPACs or discovery systems (indexing, faceting, browsing or pure display), if we know the value of fields for users, we can concentrate on these. Our time and energy is well spent on data elements that are relevant for search and retrieval and that have potential in a linked data world (mainly authority data). However, we could cut back on a lot of footnotes or the statement of responsibility without severely harming the user’s ability to find and locate resources. High quality in the right place, and “good enough” where it is sufficient, this balance might be the way to go forward.