QOTD 2: identifers again

Tony Hirst of the Open University says:

In the days when this blog was dominated by library related concerns, I used to spend a lot of time working out how to use ISBNs as pivot points for various book related searches; (librarians, of course, don't rate ISBNs - they'd rather focus on the city a book was printed in...). [OUseful Info: OU Course Codes - A Web 2.OU Crown Jewel]

Maybe a little harsh ;-) But it does highlight for me one of the major shifts that needs to take place in our thinking about bibliographic data. My sense is that a majority view in the library community is that bibliographic data is to support discovery and is for display to human users.

However, increasingly important is the use of bibliographic data to support automated processes. Think of resolvers. Think of the growing need to link data from discovery environments (google scholar, next generation catalogs, worldcat, ...) back to various library fulfilment environments. Think of the analysis and collection comparison being done to support digitization or off-site storage. Think of the processing required to support richer discovery experiences (faceting and frbrization for example). And think of future higher level services which build on the relationships in the data (see the related links here and here for example, or Worldcat Identities itself for that matter which does major batch processing of data).

This suggests that we need to be much more careful to facilitate this processing. The growing importance to us of identifiers is one - only one - example of this.

Comments: 1

Oct 02, 2007
K.G. Schneider

"Think of the growing need to link data from discovery environments (google scholar, next generation catalogs, ****worldcat,**** ...) back to various library fulfilment environments."

Tee hee... ain't easy, is it?

But are "we" really burdened with misconceptions about the uses of bibliographic data (thank you for repeatedly using "data" and not "records")? Do we really not understand that the hip bone must connect to the thigh bone and that standards such as NCIP are not magic glue that mysteriously make bad data better?

This is really just an observation about style and approach in this post... quite often we do very much understand it (depending on who you're referring to). Just like it's sobering to look in a WorldCat Local pilot and see the same poor book listed four or five times under different OCLC numbers, which is a viper we have nursed to our own collective bosom, a viper many of us said was a viper lo these many years ago. It's like those libraries that poured their data into Endeca and were then shocked, shocked by the results.

It's still important to think about discovery. I wouldn't rule out discovery-oriented methods patching over some of the backend (to use Jonathan's term) issues. Is it possible that our data is so FUBAR that we should scrap trying to get it to connect the way you think it should be connected and look to other methods?

It's also important to realize that some of the way we connect data is so Rube Goldberg that it's essentially broken. Oh why be polite... I mean metasearch sucks.

I really wish y'all would stop calling them WorldCat Identities, by the way. You're creeping me out, because that is so not my (writing) identity.