Recently, while I was browsing Twitter, this tweet “It’s not true that #marcmustdie; it’s the silly cataloguing rules that dictate incomplete & irrelevant metadata that need the chop” triggered a few thoughts that I’m sure have been brought up before, but I couldn’t help myself, so here goes.
We create silos in two ways: through content and carrier. Neither are sustainable the way they are now. Both require radical (maybe even heretical) rethinking with regard to our patrons and the larger world of (bibliographic) information on the web.
Because the cataloging rules that govern the library metadata content are so byzantine and in many cases unnecessarily complicated, we make it too hard and time-consuming to provide adequate metadata. It’s not that the rules exactly “dictate incomplete & irrelevant metadata”, but their application is often just too complex. After all, rules are not an end in themselves, but should enhance findability. And the fact that the carrier format (MARC) is so restricted to the library domain is another reason why we cut ourselves off from the larger technology / web community. Other players in the bibliographic universe (Google Books, LibraryThing et al.) have such a hard time understanding our data because both content (rules) and carrier (data format) are mostly incomprehensible for people other than catalogers.
There are two possibilities to make our metadata more accessible: by conceiving rules that are easier to apply and by using a carrier that is understood outside the library community. At one point I had hoped that RDA radically simplifies and weeds through the rules, that it would be a kind of act of liberation. But it doesn’t appear to make a bold enough cut. What good are those most laudable efforts of creating RDA metadata vocabularies for 21st century technology when the rules are still difficult to grasp and follow?
If we remove these two stumbling blocks (which, as I’m well aware, constitute much of the identity of cataloging and catalogers) we’ll have made big steps towards opening up our bibliographic metadata and letting go of models that epitomize the past. Of course I realize that the paradigm shift and change in mentality and mindset seem unachievable, but a cataloger can dream, no?