As I mentioned in my first blog post, I’ve been doing a regular column for Technicalities, entitled “View from a Parallel Universe” for the past couple of years. It’s been useful, and I’ve enjoyed it, but clearly the kinds of things I like to talk about need, um, a less leisurely publication schedule (I just received the Sept./Oct. Issue, including a column I wrote over the summer). I’ve generally put my columns up on Cornell’s eCommons IR soon after I submit them, primarily to avoid forgetting that last step. Anyway, once it goes on eCommons it gets indexed and people find it, then sometimes blog about what I’ve said. I’ve tried to wait until the piece comes out in print to say anything about it myself, but as the publisher is again pretty seriously behind, and I’ve sent in my resignation as a columnist, it’s time to roll my eyes and give up the illusion that it’s not “out” yet.

As Karen Schneider pointed out on Free Range Librarian, my last column (entitled “Getting There”), includes some concerns I have about how OCLC’s new record reuse policy, coupled with their silence about plans to implement RDA, constitute an additional risk for libraries planning to implement RDA. It’s best read after reading the various blog posts about the policy, especially Karen’s, a gold star of a blog post indeed.

I think we’ve been seriously let down by the institutions that we’ve relied upon to lead us, provide services to enable us to share information and increase the efficiency and usefulness of our individual efforts. I don’t think most of us have fully internalized this yet; we still expect these institutions to live up to their ideals, be exemplary community members, and use the brainpower of their staffs to chart a course that we can understand, respect and rely on. We’ve tended to be far too passive about this, in my opinion, and the chickens are coming home to roost.

Unlike some others who’ve noticed that the changes in our technology environment have been leading inexorably to serious strains in the cooperative sharing environment built up over the decades, I’m feeling moderately optimistic. The worst thing we could do is cling unthinkingly to the comfort and warmth of the familiar, and not look clear-eyed into the issues emerging from these strains and changes. I don’t think we’ll ever again be as tightly coupled as we were when we only shared information amongst ourselves and we looked for efficiencies in our own workflows to keep us viable within our own institutions.

Looking ahead, we’ll have to be more actively involved in looking for solutions to our problems instead of sitting back and waiting for someone else to come up with them so we can continue to be followers. We’re seeing some of that happening already, as new players develop open source software, push for open linked data solutions, forge connections with the Semantic Web communities, etc.

Let your voices be heard on these issues.

By Diane Hillmann, December 23, 2008, 12:20 pm (UTC-5)

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