Ever notice how bad news and ideas tend to get released on Fridays? Such is the case with GPO’s Creation of Brief Bibliographic Records Overview, released in a Friday morning FDLP-L listserv announcement.
I’ve read through the five page briefing document twice and looked at the 12 bib records that GPO stated were typical of the 50 chosen for the pilot project. I believe that it is a flawed proposal that ignores the actual and potential contributions of the 1200+ depository library network. Despite its obvious good intentions of getting more information out the community, I don’t think the current proposal would do this.
Here are some first thoughts on the paper and I hope that you will share others:
1) GPO seems to be ignoring existing cataloging to create their brief records. They took a sample of 50 records and cataloged them without looking outside GPO or possible copy cataloging in OCLC.
Of the 12 records the e-mail asks us to look at, I judge nine, or 75% of the records to already have adequate cataloging in WorldCat. Please see my Open WorldCat list at http://www.worldcat.org/profiles/dcornwall/lists/5666 for a demonstration of this fact. In a number of cases, GPO seems to have created separate records for paper and online formats. If they want to streamline their cataloging process, it seems to me that one record with a note of tangible and online availability would be a better start.
2) GPO must change its mind about not OCLC batch-loading materials not being distributed to depositories. There are many items which while not deposited to libraries are still of interest. Loading them into WorldCat will expose them to the open Web and allow for better visibility for government information.
3) Brief records without some kind of subject descriptors will be almost unfindable in the future unless one is lucky enough to remember the agency name or if the title accurately reflects the
subject one is interested in. Also, it makes it next to impossible to build good literature reviews of government research and/or activities. Full text searching has been shown to be inadequate in a number of ways. We need subject descriptors.
4) While GPO is stating that records for materials destined for deposit into the FDLP will be upgraded “later”, there is nothing in the GPO’s funding history to indicate that money for better cataloging will be available in the future. Or in the history of many libraries that created “temp bib records” to “find things now.”
5) Related to ignoring copy cataloging is a missed opportunity by GPO – share the cataloging load with the depository community, at least in part. Not all depositories have a cataloger, but many
do. Many institutions, like universities and State Libraries, have an intense hunger for docs in their subject specialties or geographic areas. Let libraries sign up for an agency or State and start feeding them title pages or electronic versions if they’re available. Or just tag gov web docs on del.icio.us or other social tagging services and let whatever libraries or people assign subject descriptors to them who feel led to. Together we could rid GPO of its backlog while providing enough metadata to ensure future findability.
Read the proposal. Look at the sample records, decide whether I’m overreacting. Or help construct a response to what seems like a bad idea that once again passes up an opportunity for real partnership in favor of a flawed go-it-alone “solution.”
And if GPO staff think that I’ve mischaracterized the project, I’d encourage them to post an official response here where people can see what we both say side by side and make up their own minds. And in the likely event I haven’t mischaracterized the project, I hope that GPO will come to the community and embrace the wealth of cataloging/metadata that already exists and plan with us how to take care of the materials not already found in WorldCat.
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