Terry Reese is a name well known to many of us so it was exiting to have an opportunity to hear him speak in person about MarcEdit developments and the future of metadata. We use MarcEdit regularly at LSE but often as part of well-established workflows. Terry regularly develops new features and functions for Marc Edit so hearing about some of the recent developments to was a useful opportunity to think about other ways we could use it.
Some of the recent developments Terry described included:
- A wizard to guide the user through transforming xml data without having to know how to write xlst.
- A tool for moving data to and from OpenRefine.
- This is not as advanced as the clustering available in OpenRefine but does remove the need to transfer data out of MarcEdit. At LSE we think this might be useful for some subject heading clean-up work we’d like to do.
- The ability to set MarcEdit to watch a folder. This is also a feature we’ll be investigating as it looks like something we could use to further automate our processes for loading ebook records.
There was plenty of opportunity for attendees to ask questions and these ranged over character encoding, regular expressions and undoing a change after saving it as well as some specific things that attendees were trying to accomplish.
Terry talked about his future plans for MarcEdit, which include an xml editor and updating tutorials and documentation and, after a break, about his views of the future of library metadata.
Back in 2002 Roy Tennant famously declared in Library Journal that MARC must die (reprinted here https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015079343664?urlappend=%3Bseq=105). Helen was about 3 weeks into her first professional post at the time, and yet nearly 20 years on, metadata teams the world over are still working with MARC. So it was fascinating to hear Terry describe the future of cataloguing and metadata as a series of small steps forward rather than a giant leap.
With the advent of Linked Data cataloguers have envisaged a new distributed model of cataloguing, where rather than creating individual records we link out to external sources of information for various pieces of data, building up information about a resource in a different way – but this requires a new model of working, with open infrastructures and commitments on individual libraries and organisations to create and maintain trustworthy namespaces for everyone else in the ecosystem. Developing this infrastructure is a challenge that will need the support of the profession as a whole.
The prevalence of MARC is also one of the challenges of moving to a new model. With tools, systems and workflows all designed around MARC building a new model is a huge task. This is being attempted with the development of BIBFRAME, but any transition requires significant investment in skills and systems and looks likely to create a fractured library community where some have the resources to engage with the new model, and others do not.
So what can cataloguers do, and what are we doing in the Metadata team at LSE in terms of small steps forward given we operate in a time of continuous change? Firstly, the value of metadata needs to be understood by the wider profession in terms of the role it plays in resource discovery, and it’s our job to shout about that. We’ve invited any of our colleagues to come and see us if they’re not sure what we do – all of us in the team would enjoy having a captive audience on the value of metadata. We also have a team ‘purpose tree’ which depicts the mission, vision and strategy of our team, going on to link the goals, actions and roles in our team to the overall Library strategy. This is a document we’ve shared Library-wide so that colleagues can understand the centrality of metadata to the work of the Library.
Secondly, we can learn from external expertise so we keep up with Twitter and blogs, and make time to watch webinars. Earlier in the year, for example, we saw that HKUST had created something called Knowledge Cards, which is accessed from their Primo installation, and uses Wikidata to link users to contextual information. Other priorities mean we’ve not experimented with anything like this ourselves so far, but Helen meets regularly with our Online Services and Systems manager so that we can discuss these kinds of developments that we’re seeing in other institutions.
This leads to our final point, for now, that we need to increase our Linked Data knowledge. There are so many places we could start with this but Wikidata is increasingly being discussed in the cataloguing community as a source of Linked Data which libraries can both use and contribute to, so is something that’s caught our attention. We’re at the very early stages of looking at this – engaging in some OCLC material and taking part in a Wikipedia workshop that our Digital Library manager held earlier in the year. In addition, we’re thinking about making more use of URIs in name and subject fields in MARC records.
It was a really interesting event which gave us plenty to think about and some ideas for steps we can take to move forward.