Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Plans Behind Me, Patterns Ahead

The middle of the road is trying to find me.
I'm standing in the middle of life with my plans behind me.”

(“Middle of the Road” – The Pretenders ; composed by Chrissie Hynde) [Wikipedia entry ; web site]

I was very pleased to have had the opportunity recently to reprise my presentation of “Pattern Recognition for Technical Services” that I originally presented [ppt] during the 2005 Ohio Library Council Annual Conference & Exposition (October 2005, Columbus, Ohio). The OLC organized the Ohio Library Council 2006 Technical Services Retreat (April 2006, Mohican State Park Lodge, Loundonville, OH) and sessions included several OCLC staff members (myself, George Needham, Glenn Patton, and Chris Grabenstatter) as speakers on varied topics.

Sheila Intner opened the Retreat as keynote speaker with her always insightful, always engaging vantage on libraries – with a special focus on technical services, of course – and had so much of interest to say that her opening presentation alone was worth the price of admission. I’ll mention in passing only one insight from Sheila – something that’s stuck with me, and I’ve shared with colleagues – to wit: when libraries discovered that users were not finding our catalogs useful, we didn’t change our catalogs, we invented bibliographic instruction (i.e. we decided our products were obviously without fault so therefore the users must be defective). Pogo was right (“We have met...”)!

George spoke about strategies for keeping up (see his post), Glenn about FRBR, and Chris joined me as co-presenter for a much improved revisit of the “Pattern Recognition for Technical Services” session I’d done solo in October.

My portion [ppt] of the session was similar to my previous offering, and once again I tried to touch at least briefly on trends in domains-of-interest for technical services including:
  • Publishing (mega publishers, media giants, digital everything, the decline of old media, and there’s money in the long tail)

  • Consumption (disaggregation is in, and consumers love their portable devices)

  • Copyright (“permission needed” - corporations want more control and maximum billing vs. “permission granted” – the building open content/source movement).

  • Collections (physical, “First Sale Doctrine” library vs. the digital, “who-knows?-we’re-leasing” virtual collection. And libraries need to explore systematically cataloging and stewarding that “other” stuff – research files, web resources, etc. These classes of resources present great opportunities for libraries to enhance their roles as the institutional repository of choice for the communities they serve)

  • Cataloging (we build great metadata, but we’ve got to do it faster, better, cheaper, and take advantage of new tools like FRBR to fully leverage our good work in library resource discovery tools)

  • Terminologies (controlled vocabularies are “out” ; controlled vocabularies are “in”)

  • Library systems (monolithic systems are gonna make like Legos – i.e. get modular – or be at risk of fading away)

Chris Grabenstatter was tasked to talk about OCLC product and service directions in light of these various trends and developments, and her presentation [ppt] was a great update for me and of keen interest to the very attentive audience of librarians at the session. Things OCLC is doing/pursuing [see also OCLC ProductWorks]:
  • Automating processes (PromptCat & Cataloging Partners; working on integrating selection/acquisition processes and cataloging)

  • More scripts, more languages, more OCLC members, more records in WorldCat

  • Supporting e-content: a re-engineered metadata extractor (to be a Web Service as well as a part of Connexion), building support for new metadata schemes, enriching WorldCat with e-serials records and holdings (OCLC’s e-serials holdings pilot), and adding support for a new catalog-and-submit-digital-content feature (OCLC’s Content Cooperative pilot)

  • Terminologies Service: an it-came-from-Research, now soon-to-be-production service that will provide access to selected, highly-used controlled vocabularies in a sidebar that can be conveniently used alongside Connexion when creating/enhancing bibliographic records.  

Thanks to the good folks at OLC for inviting us and allowing us be part of yet another wonderful OLC conference. And a special thanks to my colleague and former boss, Chris Grabenstatter, for letting me enlist her for our session. Hopefully, those attending are no longer mulling the plans left behind, but rather pondering the patterns before them.  

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