Cataloging in the cloud

The cloud computing models [1] of leading library systems vendors will not only change the way data is stored, but will also affect the way we catalog. Although this area is still very much in flux, there are a few trends that can be foreseen.

  • global and local – what will these terms mean in the future? Where is the place for local modifications to a “master record”? If I still need to copy data from the global community zone into my library zone to add a local classsification, for example, we replicate the current redundancy of storing data in two places.
  • more content, less standard – please forgive my being heretical: we’ll have to be less stringent about our standards. We will have access to metadata from a variety of sources in the community catalog (both from an institutional as well as geographical point of view), and many sources are beyond the libraries’ control. Even with RDA, there will likely be local/regional “vernaculars” because not everyone will agree on the same policies and rule interpretations world-wide. This is a global database that is bound to deviate in one way or another from both content and data format standards. I could go on about the need for a simple, easy to follow standard in the context of data aggregation and sharing, but I won’t for the moment 😉
  • governance – with member libraries from all over the world potentially using the same community zone which they access through a URM system like Alma or WorldShare, there’ll be guidelines as to what kinds of enhancements are possible, who has which rights for editing, how to proceed when sharing data etc. When conflicting views or doubts arise, there should be someone to turn to for help.

Will this new technical architecture amount to a paradigm shift for cataloging? I’m not sure yet, but one thing is certain: we’re headed in the direction of a “global consortium”, in which system vendors become data providers.

[1] The buzzwords are public cloud, community cloud, library cloud and private cloud, with, simply put, the community cloud/zone being a vast pool of metadata participating libraries can use for their “local” catalog, the library cloud.

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