Notes from ALA Midwinter 2015

ALA Midwinter 2015 logo

The theme that jumped out at me at ALA Midwinter 2015 Meeting was the theme that I’ve been most engaged with in my recent work: the fundamentals. Fundamentals of cataloging, of metadata interoperability, of core competencies, of data models, and more. There were many moments during the conference when I thought, “Yeah, this is why I love what I do” and there were a few times when I thought, “Oh, there is a fundamental disagreement in how to accomplish task X–how will our community reconcile this in order to move forward?”

I returned to work excited and optimistic. However, without any post-conference recuperation time, I’m not too confident in my ability to write a cogent summary of my trip to blustery Chicago, so this post will be brief. Below are the highlights from selected programs I attended at ALA Midwinter 2015.

Note: there’s nothing here about the committees and interest group I’m serving on–I know, sorry, I was tweeting the heck out of those events. Once the ALCTS CaMMS Competencies and Education for a Career and Cataloging Interest Group [agenda] and the ALCTS/LITA Metadata Standards Committee [agenda] discussion summaries are posted, I’ll link to them.

FRBR Interest Group

  • An interesting debate that pretty much came down to: is FRBR dead yet? To which the┬árejoinder seemed to be, is RDA dead yet?
  • I think the tension lies in the FRBR model’s founding in the entity-relationship model (think relational databases) and the push to move library data to the linked web of data.
  • Conclusion: I need to learn more about FRBRoo. Looking into the efforts of the IFLA Working Group on FRBR/CRM Dialogue might be a good place to start.

Cataloging Norms Interest Group

  • Question: What would a catalog made by researchers look like?
  • Comment: Better cataloging tools. That is all.
  • Concern: Adding identifiers to MARC record authorized access points in a local database? There’s got to be a better way to scale linking work.

MARC Formats Transition Interest Group

  • BIBLFLOW project at UC Davis Library works to launch BIBFRAME support in Kuali OLE using Blacklight as a discovery layer. Presentation slides by Xiaoli Li.
  • National Library of Medicine is researching a BIBFRAME Core vocabulary, drawing upon the PCC BIBCO Standard Record and the CONSER Standard Record profiles. NLM plans to experiment with EAD and MODS mappings and work with Jackie Shieh to test the proposed BFcore vocabulary. Presentation slides by Nancy Fallgren.
  • The discussion revealed ideological tension in how BIBFRAME development should have proceeded. Some see BIBFRAME’s robust vocabulary as a deterrent to widespread adoption across multiple domain areas (music, audio-visual, archives, and cultural heritage communities). Others argue that robustness is needed in order for data to be semantically unambiguous and that reuse of existing vocabularies is too risky.

Linked Library Data Interest Group

  • Victoria Mueller [slides] described a BF/ strategy that games page ranking in order to push libraries to the tops of search results lists.
  • Nancy Lorimer [slides] gave an update on Linked Data for Libraries (LD4L); project is using various data sources: bibliographic information from MARC, MODS, and EAD sources; person/corporation data from VIVO, ORCID, ISNI, and VIAF; usage data from circulation statistics and citations; utilizes OCLC’s works identifiers; project continues to provide use cases for BIBFRAME and linked data and will result in the development of a Hydra head.

Library of Congress BIBFRAME Update

Although not yet posted, recordings of BIBFRAME Update sessions are eventually posted online:

  • Sally McCallum reported that LC has engaged a RDF expert to review BIBFRAME.
  • Beecher Wiggins revealed LC’s plan to launch a first phase of a BIBFRAME pilot in the spring: 25-30 LC staff will catalog a diverse set of languages/scripts and formats; staff will create a BIBFRAME record and a MARC record so that production factors may be evaluated.
  • Paul Frank was confident that the learning curve for learning to use the BF Editor would not be steep and that the true challenge would be figuring out workflows–for instance, where/how authority work would occur.
  • Nate Trail reported on LC’s efforts to build infrastructure to support BF:
    • LC has a contract with Smart Software Solutions to create a GUI for customizing (I think) the configuration of the BF Editor so that it is easier to create profiles (one profile for dissertations, one for streaming video, etc.).
    • LC has entered into a contract to get SRU ready for use on a triplestore.
    • LC was looking into using Fedora 4 with elastic search in order to power a BF search/display.
  • Phil Schreur (Stanford) reported on collaborative as well as in-house work in BF:
    • Reported on the very recent formation (first meeting was the prior day) of a cohort of six institutions that will cooperate in launching BIBFRAME at their institutions: Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and the Library of Congress; the goal, according to Schreur, “Move toward production [of BIBFRAME] in some way, whatever that means.” Group will utilize the tools developed by LC, shared cloud space, and shared resource files (that is, BIBFRAME works and instances). Each institution would work in the context of its own ILS.
    • The work at Stanford will focus on realigning workflows; Stanford will target vendor-supplied bibliographic records that are handled by acquisitions staff and convert MARC to BF; original cataloging work will be completed entirely in BF–among the questions to work out are do they need to BF to MARC converter? how will they complete authority work? analyze a switch to FAST instead of LCSH (which doesn’t scale to the linked data environment); Stanford will also launch a domain-focused project to produce BF data for recorded performance music.
  • Ted Fons (OCLC) outlined a high-level strategy for increasing libraries and library data on the web: model things of interest to the web; make things available in structures familiar to the web (; improve library workflows by improving discovery (how to do this wasn’t addressed) and reinventing cataloging (cataloging workflows certainly, not sure if Fons also meant reimagining cataloging policy). Fons cited the recently released white paper, Common Ground: Exploring Compatibilities between the Linked Data Models of the Library of Congress and OCLC [link].
  • Eric Miller (Zepheira) asserted that libraries must shift focus from creating data (minting URIs for vocabularies, etc.); to creating linkages, declaring relationships between data points.