For the 2017 Midwinter conference in Atlanta I made the strange decision to pack the back seat of my car with a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old, seated beside one another, facing in opposite directions but unanimous in their displeasure. My wife was better-behaved. Nevertheless the arrangement proved untenable and I ditched them somewhere outside Alpharetta, where I have in-laws.
My main responsibilities at the conference were to meet with my two ALCTS committees. I am chairing the ALCTS AS (Acquisitions Section) Organization and Management Committee, and we are putting on a program at ALA Annual this year in Chicago, titled Streaming Video and Graphic Novels from an Acquisitions Perspective: Unusual Workflows. (This was not the original title as we submitted it. I had my first experience with the sausage-making process of program planning. I still don’t exactly love the approved title; it sounds somehow inverted, right?) Speakers are confirmed, and all systems are go. I am also on the ALCTS division-level Planning Committee, and there we talked about issuing a survey of members in preparation for starting work on a new ALCTS strategic plan. The one we wrote last time is somehow 1.5 years into its 3-year life already. Thus we measure our progress across time and the cosmos.
On Saturday morning I attended OCLC Linked Data Roundtable: Stories from the Front. Sally McCallum from the Library of Congress talked about their ongoing initiative cataloging in BIBFRAME and converting to it from MARC. A persistent issue with conversion attempts is the stylistic variety to be found in the (millions of) records. As cataloging practices and schemas have changed over the years and retrospective conversions were performed at various stages, a high frequency of variation was introduced and left to flourish. Past changes in cataloging standards led to duplication as the same things were described differently, and the result today is a massive, highly imperfect universe of data in need of extensive reconciliation if conversion to BIBFRAME is to work effectively. Responding to Roy Tennant’s 2002 statement (and article title) that MARC Must Die, Ms. McCallum delivered the quote of the conference: “MARC will die, but it will be from obesity.”
Later in the same program, Philip Scheuer from Stanford presented on his library’s participation in the Linked Data for Production (LD4P) project, in which librarians from multiple institutions are working on producing linked metadata for a variety of material types, including museum objects, rare books, photos, and maps, among others. He mentioned the possibility of MARC remaining as a sort of underlying structure to BIBFRAME for the purpose of Acquisitions functions in ILS systems. Perhaps, then, MARC will not die but simply go underground, becoming eventually nothing more than a rumor…supposedly…
The other really substantially interesting program I attended was Where They Are Now: A Conversation with Alma Early Adopters. I wasn’t the only ZSRian in the room. Librarians from three universities, all of whom had been on the Ex Libris Aleph system before, shared their experiences in a panel discussion moderated by a representative from Ex Libris. To sum up, the positives: monthly system updates rather than larger, more cumbersome annual upgrades; faster activation of e-resources; better fiscal reporting and analytics; improved batch updating of MARC records; and a variety of APIs with vendors like GOBI as well as campus financial and identity management systems. Negatives included siloes separating print and e-resource management in the system and a clunky staff interface. The GOBI API sounds great for boring Acquisitions reasons. In May of this year the first university to use Summon on top of Alma will be going live with that combination.
I think that’s enough. Steve got sick again, and again I escaped unsickened. Monday afternoon, reunited with my loving family, which had decided in a non-unanimous vote to take me back, I returned to my office-home, where I sit at this moment.