Saturday, January 25, 2014, 3:00-4:00 p.m., A Consideration of Holdings in the World Beyond MARC [PCC 203B] Sunday, January 26, 2014, 8:30-10:00 a.m., The Other Side of Linked Data: Managing Metadata Aggregation [PCC 102A] Sunday, January 26, 2014, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Mapmakers [PCC 102A]

Most ALA watchers have noticed a shift from ‘invited talks’ at Interest Group and Committee meetings to requests for proposals from the chairs, from which pool the speakers are chosen. This is, of course, in parallel with changes going on with other professional conferences, and it’s an interesting shift for a number of reasons.

There’s a democratization aspect to this change–the chairs are no longer limited in their choice to people they already know about, thereby potentially increasing the possibility that new and different ideas will get an airing. Maybe this Midwinter someone will come up with an absolutely wonderful and unexpected presentation that rockets the speaker from the unknown mob to the smaller roster of interesting known speakers. This is a good thing, I believe, even though the chance of witnessing such a rocket launch are dauntingly small.

As someone who has been around long enough (and noisily, it must be said) this shift means that I don’t need to wait for invitations to do presentations based on some chair’s idea of what might interest their group (but may no longer interest me), I can go ahead and respond to the calls that are appealing to me. I’d like to think that the result is something fresh enough to be interesting for me to prepare and an audience to listen to, without being totally divorced from prior talks that represent earlier phases. An odd result of this shift in process is that speakers who submit proposals to various committees don’t generally know who else will be speaking at a particular program until after their proposal has been approved, and maybe not even then. This particular aspect has already led to some very interesting lineups at meetings across the conference.

Because I take seriously the idea of not re-using previous talks to the extent that I could become horribly boring, I tend to apply for things that allow me to explore something that isn’t unrelated to what I’ve done before, but at least requires that I rethink something or try a different approach than I’ve used before to expose what I (and the people I work with) are thinking about. I think that’s pretty much what most audiences are looking for, right?

So below are my talks for ALA Midwinter. I may be accompanied by one or another of my colleagues on a couple of these, and will surely have their help building the presentations.

A Consideration of Library Holdings in the World Beyond MARC

Of all the MARC 21 formats, Holdings was the one most clearly designed for machine manipulation. It is granular, flexible, and intended to be used at either a detailed or summary level. It has sometimes frightened potential users because it looks complex (even where it isn’t), and in its ‘native’ form is not particularly human friendly. Some of the complexity arises because there are both display and prediction aspects in the encoding, and not all library systems have developed predictive serial check-in systems supported by MARC Holdings.

Some of the bibliographic metadata efforts now going forward ignore the existing MARC Holdings, sometimes in favor of simpler solutions based on the perception of the waning need for predictive check-in for digital subscriptions. Not much effort has been expended to bring the MARC Holdings format forward into the discussions about changing requirements and re-use of existing standards.

For the ALCTS CRS Committee on Holdings Information, Saturday, January 25, 2014, 3:00-4:00 p.m., PCC 203B.

Holdings has been an interest of mine since I was a law librarian representing the American Association of Law Libraries on MARBI. In the early computer era in libraries, where digital publication was the exception, law publishers demonstrated a great deal of creativity in their publication of updating services, from loose-leaf services and regular republication of standard tools, and law catalogers always had the best examples of holdings problems. These days, most of those materials have been subsumed by various digital tools, which have their own complexities, particularly in the context of versions, republication and compilation.

But the question remains–has what we learned from the pre-digital world of holdings functionality have relevance in the digital era?

The Other Side of Linked Data: Managing Metadata Aggregation

Most of the current activity in the library LOD world has been on publishing library data out of current silos. But part of the point of linked data for libraries is that it opens up data built by others for use within libraries, and has the potential for greater integration of library data within the larger data world. The sticking point for most librarians is that data building and distribution outside the familiar world of MARC seems like a black box, the key held by others.

Traditionally, libraries have relied on specialized system vendors to build the functionality they needed to manage their data. But the discussions I’ve heard too often result in librarians wanting vendors to tell them what they’re planning, and vendors asking librarians what they need and want. In the context of this stalemate, it behooves both library system vendors and librarians to explore the issues around management of more fine-grained metadata so that an informed dialogue around requirements can begin.

For the ALCTS Metadata Interest Group, Sunday, January 26, 2014, 8:30-10:00 a.m., PCC 102A

Transitioning from a rigidly record-based system to a more flexible environment where statement level information can be aggregated and managed is difficult to envision from the vantage point of our current MARC-based world. This has lead to a gap between what we know, and the wider world of linked open data we’d like to participate in. One of the critical steps is to understand how such a world might look, and what it requires of us and our systems. The goal is to be able to move some of that improved understanding to the point of innovation and development.


It’s very clear that there will be no single answer to moving bibliographic metadata into the world beyond MARC, no direct ‘replacement’ for the simple walled garden we all have lived in for 40+ years. While it’s certainly true that the emerging global universe of bibliographic description has continued to expand and seems more chaotic than ever, there are still commonalities of understanding with the world beyond our garden walls that we’re only beginning to identify. How then can we begin to expose our understanding to that universe and develop some consensus paths forward? Specifically, what are the possibilities for using semantic mapping to provide us with the flexibility and extensibility we need to build our common future.

For the ALCTS CaMMS Cataloging & Classification Research Interest Group, Sunday, Jan. 26, 10:30-11:30, PCC 102A.

Librarians too often see ‘mapping’ and think ‘crosswalking’, but the reality is that these are quite different strategies. Crosswalking was a natural fit for the MARC environment, where the ‘one, best’ crosswalk would logically be developed centrally and implemented as part of current application needs. But the limitations of crosswalking make much less sense as we transition into a world where the Semantic Web has begun to take hold (of our heads, if not our systems!).

In the Semantic Web world, maps can contain a variety of relationships (not just the crosswalk ‘same as’), and central development and control is neither necessary nor very useful. This doesn’t mean that we’re all on our own and that collaboration isn’t still our best strategy.

By Diane Hillmann, December 9, 2013, 3:26 pm (UTC-5)

Add your own comment or set a trackback

Currently 2 comments

  1. Pingback by Talking Points Report | Library News

    […] to Midwinter I posted the list of presentations I was doing over the course of Midwinter. It […]

  2. Pingback by 5 Things Saturday: #LearnDAM, Archive Art, Linked Data and MARC | MOD LIBRARIAN

    […] Are you at ALA Midwinter in chilly Philly (#alamw14)? If so, check out these metadata presentations today and tomorroe- here are the talking points on the changing world of MARC and linked data on Metadata Matters. […]

Add your own comment

Follow comments according to this article through a RSS 2.0 feed