It's been a little over a month since I was at ALA Midwinter in Boston and I've been thinking about the key messages that I came away with this year. I don't think that there is any question that there was a lot of talk about "strings v things" and the increasing importance of "identities". However, what were the bigger messages? I did have to take my time and think through the issues and discussions! There was a lot to consider. In the end, this is what I concluded:
1) Libraries have talked about modernizing their metadata, replacing MARC and entering the global information environment for a very long time. Now we are actually doing it. It is real, things are happening. You don't even have to look too long to find evidence of it - if you know what you know where and how to look.
2) Libraries have used the same models and concepts for a very long time and have massive amounts of metadata which reflect the traditional way of thinking about information (legacy metadata). For a long time the issue of dealing with legacy metadata in a new environment seemed insurmountable, however, while issues have not been resolved, there does seem to be a bit of light showing.
3) There are leaders in the library community (national libraries and large research and academic libraries) who have the brainpower, funding and other resources to actually take on the task of testing and tweaking the new models and developing practical ways to implement them. We can benefit greatly by following there progress and studying their findings. It came through very clearly at ALA that there are small steps we can all take now to make the eventual change smoother and less stressful.
As usual, I came back from ALA all pumped up from the meetings and all of the fascinating discussions I had. I continue to believe that now is an extremely exciting time to be a librarian. Of course, I sometimes get a little discouraged when I try to share the ideas and vision with others locally who don't yet understand the vision and bigger picture and feel that the change is too vague and far off to be of concern. I guess that the message that I can take away from that, is that I have some work to do locally in terms of helping to uncover the new vision.
After considering the big picture, I think that it is worth it to talk about why it is that "strings v things" and "identities" were such big topics of discussion but I'd like to leave that for future posts. I think that a the three key messages I've listed in this blog are important enough to get their own consideration today.