Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Metadata Update #6 - The Current Buzz

There's been so much buzz on the listservs for the last two to three weeks that it has been hard for me to keep up with it all and for me to find something that might be useful to share with everyone.

So, why don't I talk a bit about what the buzz has all been about?  It seems that the announcement of day one for the implementation of RDA as March 13th 2013 has started a lot of controversy.  It is almost as though people thought that RDA would go away and it doesn't appear to be.  Now there is a lot of "freaking out".  I haven't been able to read all of what people have written on the issue.  In fact, I think that I might have read about a 10th of it but I feel that it's enough for me to understand what all the buzz is about.  Here is my summary:

1)  A lot of people don't like RDA for a variety of reasons and don't want to have to learn or use it.
2)  There seems to be a lot of confusion about what RDA implementation means.
3)  Many people distrust LC, OCLC, and cataloguing vendors.  They feel that RDA and the RDA Toolkit are somehow tools for taking the power and ability to catalogue out of the hands of the library.  They don't like how the RDA test was conducted and they don't like it that a small group of people are pushing their agenda (whatever that is) in the process of promoting RDA.
4)  There is a sense of paranoia in terms of RDA signaling the end of cataloging positions and traditional libraries.

Just to get a sense of the discussion, here's a little snippet from one discussion:

I do not think that ???? gets what the "nightmare" is around him. Just take a look at unemployment and lack of jobs.

Our nightmare is that in 2016 there might not be any catalogers around as we will outsource everything and accept publishers data as it is. There will be only small maintenance units in libraries to clean up tape loads that are coming in. On the other hand, our catalogs will have pictures and lots of links to Amazon, Google and others thus becoming a giant advertising source for these businesses. 

I am not going to venture if the libraries themselves will still be around not to mention OCLC, which might be replaced by a Google bibliographical network that harvests bibliographical data from all possible sources meshing it together into a multimedia show for our entertainment.

Hmm, maybe it is not a nightmare but the bright future I have been hearing from the RDA proponents. 

So, what is this all about?  I don't really know.  But, I can offer my humble opinion.  Having recently finished my MLIS through a U.S. university and also having been at ALA in January, one thing that I am hearing is that there is a lot of stress at libraries in the U.S. right now.  The economy has been bad and it is impacting on libraries.  Their services are in demand but they can't afford to run their libraries.  At the King Library in San Jose librarians have been forced to take "mandatory furloughs" which basically means that their jobs and pay have been cut back from one to two days every two weeks.  However, there are much worse situations elsewhere in San Jose, California and the U.S. in general.  Librarians are being laid off and entire branches are being closed.  This makes a lot of real stress.  So, it's no wonder that it comes out in the listservs. 

The second thing is that AACR2 has been in use for a very long time and there are many cataloguers who are very good at using it.  These cataloguers are also in the last few years of their career.  They have seen a lot of change and really understand the mistakes of the past.  There's no question that the road to developing and implementing RDA has been awkward and bumpy.  It's not surprising if cataloguers who have already been through all the bumps before aren't exactly jumping up and down to think that they'll have to end their careers with another bunch of bumps.  Actually, some of them seem hopping mad, if anything.  What's even worse is the sense that I'm reading in the listservs that the current group working on RDA is not listening to "lessons from the past".  I can understand that frustration.  Yet, it seems to be part of human nature that we, at least in part, need to work through things for ourselves and learn from our own mistakes.  In the meantime the older and more experienced stand on the sidelines and shake their heads and wonder if the human race will ever learn.

The third thing is that people are making some very good points about how the entire library world is not on the same page.  ILS vendors may not be able to support some things that RDA is trying to do.  There is a lot of legacy metadata that folks aren't quite sure what to do with.  LC and OCLC are sometimes sending different messages.  None of this is very surprising either.  RDA is new and there is bound to be a lot of confusion.  It will take a while for it to become mature and for everyone to come to the same level of understanding and agreement that currently exists with AACR2. 

So, I've just brushed off all of the worry and complaining?  I hope not.  I just wanted to put it in perspective.  I think that people are making some good points.  However, there also is a lot of negativity and panic. I'm not sure that the negative energy is helping me personally!  And, taking the time to sort through it all is certainly eating into my productivity.  I think that I might drop out of these listservs for a while.  Folks need a place to vent but it's taking up too much of my time.  I'm still going to work on the metadata updates and hope that people are finding them useful.  I am so far behind in my 23Things assignments, I’m not sure how I’m going to catch up.  It might be a project for this weekend.

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