At ALA Midwinter, ALCTS sponsored a panel discussion about sharing library-created data inside and outside the library community, with a particular focus on cataloging data. I was honored to be ask to speak on the topic from the perspective of a consortial office. This is the first in a series of posts that represents an approximation of what I said on the panel. (Also be sure to read the summary of the session by Norman Oder in Library Journal.)
What of a service existed where the patrons selected an item they needed out of our library catalog and that item was delivered to the patron even when the library did not yet own the item? Would that be useful? With the growth of online bookstores, our users do have the expectation of finding something they need on the web, clicking a few buttons and having it delivered. When such expectations of what is possible exist, where is the first place a patron would go to find recently published items — the online bookstore or their local library catalog? Does your gut tell you it is the online bookstore? Would it be desirable if the patron’s instinct were to be the local library catalog?
My undergraduate background is in computer science, and from that perspective I have a great deal of admiration for MARC and AACR as well as their creators and proponents: Henriette Avram and Michael Gorman. At their creation, MARC and AACR propelled library services to new heights of efficiency and usefulness. Here’s my problem, though: we no longer live in the 1970s, and the fundamental tools of our trade should not be based in nearly 40-year-old technology.