Archive for the ‘Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control’ Category

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Open data and the Future of Bibliographic Control

We’ve got until December 15th to submit comments on the draft report produced by the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control.

No—keep reading! This is important. People in the library profession need to be involved in this stuff. Further, people outside the profession need to be involved too. As the report notices, library data is used by many outside the library world, starting with library patrons, and extending even to It shouldn’t go unnoticed, for example, that draft report mentions LibraryThing four times. For while LibraryThing uses library data, it was invented by and is mostly used by non-librarians.

Aaron Swartz, the dynamo behind Open Library, sent me a note about one important aspect of the draft report, namely what it’s missing: It doesn’t mention open data. There is serious discussion about sharing, but also the alarming proposal that the LC attempt to recoup more money from the sale of it’s data. That’s a shame. I’m not alone in believing that open access to library data is the future. A report about the future should confront the future.

The economy of library records is a complex one but not primarily a free one. By and large libraries pay the Dublin, Ohio-based OCLC for their records, even if the records were created at government expense. That model looks increasingly dated. And it is killing innovation.

It hasn’t killed LibraryThing yet, but the specter has always hung over our head. It’s why LibraryThing has—so far—not pitched itself to small libraries. OCLC doesn’t care about personal cataloging, and the libraries we use are—in every conversation I’ve had—enthusiastic about what we do. They want their data out there; they’re libraries for Pete’s sake! But if we offered data to public libraries we’d be cutting into the OCLC profit model. That could be dangerous.

Aaron invited me to sign onto a list of people interested in the issue. I did so. I invite you—any of you—to do so as well. The text says it perfectly:

“Bibliographic records are part of our shared cultural heritage and should be made available to the public for re-use without restriction. This will allow libraries to share records more efficiently, but will also make possible more advanced online sites for book-lovers, easier analysis by social scientists, interesting visualizations and summary statistics by journalists and others, as well as many other possibilities we cannot predict in advance.”

“Government agencies and public institutions are increasingly making data open. We strongly encourage the Library of Congress to join this movement by recommending that more bibliographic data is made available for access, re-use and re-distribution without restriction.”

The petition is here: .

Labels: library of congress, open data, open library, Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control