Everyone is getting tired of the sage-on-the-stage style of preconferences, so when Deborah Fritz suggested a hackathon (thank you Deborah!) to the RDA Dev Team, we all climbed aboard and started thinking about what that kind of event might look like, particularly in the ALA Midwinter context. We all agreed: there had to be a significant hands-on aspect to really engage those folks who were eager to learn more about how the RDA data model could work in a linked data environment, and, of course, in their own home environment.

We’re calling it a Jane-athon, which should give you a clue about the model for the event: a hackathon, of course! The Jane Austen corpus is perfect to demonstrate the value of FRBR, and there’s no lack of interesting material to look at– media materials, series, spin-offs of every description–in addition to the well known novels. So the Jane-athon will be partially about creating data, and partially about how that data fits into a larger environment. And did you know there is a Jane Austen bobblehead?

We think there will be a significant number of people who might be interested in attending, and we figured that getting the world out early would help prospective participants make their travel arrangements with attendance in mind. Sponsored by ALA Publishing, the Jane-athon will be on the Friday before the midwinter conference (the traditional pre-conference day), and though we don’t yet have registration set up, we’ll make sure everyone knows when that’s available. If you think, as we do that this event will be the hit of Midwinter, be sure to watch for that announcement, and register early! If the event is successful, you’ll be seeing others in subsequent ALA conferences.

So, what’s the plan and what will participants get out of it?

The first thing to know is that there will be tables and laptops to enable small groups to work together for the ‘making data’ portion of the event. We’ll be asking folks who have laptops they can bring to Chicago to plan on bringing theirs. We’ll be using the latest version of a new bibliographic metadata editor called RIMMF (“RDA In Many Metadata Formats”–not yet publicly available–but soon. Watch for it on the TMQ website). We encourage interested folks to download the current beta version and play with it–it’s a cool tool and really is a good one to learn about.

In the morning, we’ll form small cataloging groups and use RIMMF to do some FRBRish cataloging, starting from MARC21 and ending up with RDA records exported as RDF Linked Data. In the afternoon we’ll all take a look at what we’ve produced, share our successes and discoveries, and discuss the challenges we faced. In true hackathon tradition we’ll share our conclusions and recommendations with the rest of the library community on a special Jane-athon website set up to support this and subsequent Jane-athons.

Who should attend?

We believe that there will be a variety of people who could contribute important skills and ideas to this event. Catalogers, of course, but also every flavor of metadata people, vendors, and IT folks in libraries would be warmly welcomed. But wouldn’t tech services managers find it useful? Oh yes, they’d be welcomed enthusiastically, and I’m sure their participation in the discussion portion of the event in the afternoon will bring out issues of interest to all.

Keep in mind, this is not cataloging training, nor Toolkit training, by any stretch of the imagination. Neither will it be RIMMF training or have a focus on the RDA Registry, although all those tools are relevant to the discussion. For RIMMF, particularly, we will be looking at ways to ensure that there will be a cadre of folks who’ve had enough experience with it to make the hands-on portion of the day run smoothly. For that reason, we encourage as many as possible to play with it beforehand!

Our belief is that the small group work and the discussion will be best with a variety of experience informing the effort. We know that we can’t provide the answers to all the questions that will come up, but the issues that we know about (and that come up during the small group work) will be aired and discussed.

By Diane Hillmann, October 27, 2014, 1:57 pm (UTC-5)

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