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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 
different opinions.

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 
public wants.

James Weinheimer [log in to unmask]
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