Getting On With ‘The Future of Descriptive Enrichment’

4 minute read

× This article was imported from this blog's previous content management system (WordPress), and may have errors in formatting and functionality. If you find these errors are a significant barrier to understanding the article, please let me know.

Roy Tennant is advocating the phrase "Descriptive Enrichment" over "Bibliographic Control" in response to draft report from the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, and I'm stepping up to say -- I'm right there with you, Roy! ((And I would have said so in a comment on your blog entry, but after 10 minutes of struggling with three different browsers to actually get the commented accepted by LJ's blog software, I gave up and posted it here.)) Your analysis reminds me of statements made by David Weinberger in the Google Tech Talk in response to his book Everything is Miscellaneous. David offers new definitions to words that we use regularly: "metadata" is what we know and "data" is what we want to find out. In the talk, he gave an example (29 minutes and 25 seconds into the playback; this link will take you right there) of using something you know -- like a quote from a book -- to find something you don't know -- like the author -- by putting the quote into a search engine. The "metadata" (the quote) was used to find the "data" (the author) that was being sought.

As I said, I'm with you, Roy -- descriptive enrichment, in the form of providing our users as many metadata points as we can to find what they are looking for, is what our future should be about. And thanks for the link to the rant by Michael Gorman on RDA.

So now is someone going to write this up and send it through the official LC comment channel?

I haven't posted anything about the report mainly because I haven't finished reading it yet. (The Jester ducks his head when reading Karen Schneider's e-mail to the LITA list about the general lack of commentary -- you might be able to find the post through the mailing list archive. That said, Karen has put up a posting that is tracking commentary.) I've been struck by three things so far, though:

  1. The power and force of the first paragraph:
    The future of bibliographic control will be collaborative, decentralized, international in scope, and Web-based. Its realization will occur in cooperation with the private sector, and with the active collaboration of library users. Data will be gathered from multiple sources; change will happen quickly; and bibliographic control will be dynamic, not static. The underlying technology that makes this future possible and necessary—the World Wide Web—is now almost two decades old. Libraries must continue the transition to this future without delay in order to retain their relevance as information providers.

    Wow! If that doesn't set the stage for a description of the coming disruption to the profession, then I don't know what more can be said.

  2. The second is in the general description of areas of recommendations (point number 2 on page 2 of the report):
    Transfer effort into higher-value activity. In particular, expand the possibilities for knowledge creation by “exposing” rare and unique materials held by libraries that are currently hidden from view and, thus, underused.

    Presentation slide showing an increase in spending on curated collections and a decrease in spending on purchased collectionsThis is what I referred to as the "third wave" in the recent talk I gave at the NISO workshop on institutional repositories: the digital (or digitized) local materials. My thoughts in this arena are strongly influenced by the writings and presentations of David Lewis of Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis. This slide comes from his presentation "Disruptive Innovation and the Academic Library." In David's terms, he foresees an increase in the amount of money libraries spend on curated collections -- those things that are local and unique -- and a decrease in the amount spent on purchased -- or commercially produced -- content. This point from the draft report speaks right to this slide.

  3. The third is this paragraph on page 7 under the heading "Guiding Principles: Redefine Bibliographic Control"
    The bibliographic universe today includes an enormous variety of materials: published materials that are purchased by libraries; materials that libraries license for user access; digital materials on public networks; and materials that are unique to an individual library. It is not uncommon that these disparate materials are described and managed through different processes, and are offered separately for user access. Users would be better served if access to these materials were provided in the context of a unified philosophy of bibliographic control.

    This points to important activity such as IMLS Leadership Grant to NELLCO for a universal search system that are addressing the fact that there are no "information gatekeepers" anymore; the users are going to get to the information with or without us. So we had better make it easy for user to discover the riches that lie in our own collections or risk becoming irrelevant.

So, unfortunately, that is as far as I've gotten. I'm still aiming to get through the report by the comment deadline and have a coherent critique of the work rather than just praise about key parts that struck me as important.

The text was modified to update a link from to on November 13th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from to on August 22nd, 2013.

The text was modified to update a link from to on August 22nd, 2013.