I was surprised by the responses I received from the initial posting in
this thread on this list, so I drew back, reconsidered, and talked some
things over with some experts. It turns out that in my initial post, I
said nothing wrong: all I did was lay out some facts. I did later make
an error about Lucene and ISO2709, but that doesn't change the point I
was trying to make and in fact, it makes formats even less important.
Still, I appreciate this being pointed out because I am always learning.
That initial post about Bibframe and linked data was aimed at
catalogers. Many catalogers have gone through huge changes in almost
every way, practically all negative, over the last 15 or 20 years. Over
and over, catalogers have read and been told that the "textual strings"
they create are obsolete, along with their format. So, after everything
they have gone through, there finally seems to be some hope: many
catalogers now expect marvelous and wonderful advances from Bibframe.
Such an expectation should not be so strange--it makes sense that if the
obsolete format changes, then one of the major problems should be
solved--and many hope that once the format is changed, libraries can
then begin to create some wonderful things, based on better formats and
of course, linked data.
My post (originally in Autocat) was to point out that these expectations
are unrealistic. A developer who understands library data and MARCXML
(and there are many of them) can do anything they want with those
records now. RDF/Bibframe offers nothing that they couldn't have done
before. RDF/Bibframe is primarily for the non-library community, who do
not want to delve into the MARCXML structures and--it is said--will be
able to work with our data much more easily than the ways we offer today.
So, if libraries want to create something with their own data, they have
already been able to do it for a long time. We can all see and use other
websites created from bibliographic data that is worse than ours.
RDF/Bibframe will not allow libraries any capabilities in addition to
what they have already had for a long, long time, so people should not
expect lots of new, wonderful changes just because of Bibframe.
Then I mentioned that if the underlying purpose is linked data, what is
needed is not so much the formats, but the links. We have been able to
add links for a long time, but it is really unclear what to link to.
Links into id.loc.gov which contains the UF, BT, RT, NT, Notes and
different cross-references for various types of names is not what gets
people excited when they imagine linked data. VIAF also doesn't seem to
fit the bill. This is no criticism of those two projects, just a simple
observation. So, to make either of those tools more useful for the
public will demand a lot of thinking (I hope this will include at least
some amount of market research among the public) along with a lot of
development. That translates into lots more time and lots more money.
Finally, you can be "all dressed up but there's nowhere to go." In other
words, there can be beautiful RDF; it can be on the web and available in
ways incredibly easy to search and use, but there is no guarantee that
anybody will want it.
In a later post I mentioned that data is not all equal: that
bibliographic information should be seen as directional information,
similar to traffic signs that lead people to the real information
(content) they want. This goes almost without saying among catalogers
since they work intimately with the real data that is contained in the
books, serials, scores, and so on. I ventured that tools that may work
rather well on content probably do not work so well on the directional
information catalogers make and therefore, it is important to
distinguish and understand the differences. I personally believe that
both types of information are important, but I know that others have
These observations are simple statements of fact, it seems to me. People
can make their own inferences from these facts of course, but I want to
emphasize once again that I am for the RDF and linked data projects,
although the main problem remains, that is, of making something that the
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