Bibliographic Framework Initiative (Library of Congress)

The Library of Congress > BIBFRAME > General Information > Transforming our Bibliographic Framework (05/13/11)

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The Library of Congress is sharing this statement, by Deanna B. Marcum, LC’s Associate Librarian for Library Services for the benefit of its external constituents. Dr. Marcum will be leading the initiative that will drive this transformation process. The Library is mounting the statement now for early review. Following the June 2011 Annual Conference of the American Library Association, where discussions about the statement will occur, the Library will make further announcements.

The recent publication of Resource Description & Access (RDA), and the US National Test of RDA that is now being analyzed, have come at a time when technological and environmental changes are once again causing the library community to rethink the future of bibliographic control, including the MARC 21 communication formats.  The content and packaging of RDA itself attempt to address this question and in so doing have raised further issues.  Quite apart from a decision about implementing RDA, we must evaluate the wider bibliographic framework.

Adding to the uncertainties that accompany change, libraries and other cultural heritage institutions and information centers around the world are facing serious budgetary constraints.  Cultural heritage institutions see their resources dwindling at the same time that they need to invest in dramatic new uses of bibliographic data.  In this environment, many institutions have been forced to relax standards of quality in bibliographic records while still being asked to broaden their services, especially in terms of the availability of digital data.  Efficiencies in the creation and sharing of cataloging metadata are therefore imperative: information providers and cultural heritage institutions must reevaluate their use of scarce resources, both as individual organizations and as a community.

The Associate Librarian of Congress for Library Services, Deanna Marcum, is leading an initiative at the Library to analyze the present and future environment, identify the components of the framework to support our users, and plan for the evolution from our present framework to the future—not just for the Library of Congress, but for all institutions that depend on bibliographic data shared by the Library and its partners.  The Library of Congress has invested considerable resources in the development of broadly implemented encoding standards such as MARC 21, as well as cataloging standards and vocabularies such as the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd Edition (AACR2), RDA, and the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).  Spontaneous comments from participants in the US RDA Test show that a broad cross-section of the community feels budgetary pressures but nevertheless considers it necessary to replace MARC 21 in order to reap the full benefit of new and emerging content standards.  The Library now seeks to evaluate how its resources for the creation and exchange of metadata are currently being used and how they should be directed in an era of diminishing budgets and heightened expectations in the broader library community.

The Library of Congress will address these issues:

  • Determine which aspects of current metadata encoding standards should be retained and evolved into a format for the future.  We will consider MARC 21, in which billions of records are presently encoded, as well as other initiatives.
  • Experiment with Semantic Web and linked data technologies to see what benefits to the bibliographic framework they offer our community and how our current models need to be adjusted to take fuller advantage of these benefits.
  • Foster maximum re-use of library metadata in the broader Web search environment, so that end users may be exposed to more quality metadata and/or use it in innovative ways.
  • Enable users to navigate relationships among entities—such as persons, places, organizations, and concepts—to search more precisely in library catalogs and in the broader Internet.  We will explore the use of promising data models such as Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) in navigating relationships, whether those are actively encoded by librarians or made discernible by the Semantic Web.
  • Explore approaches to displaying metadata beyond current MARC-based systems.
  • Identify the risks of action and inaction, including an assessment of the pace of change acceptable to the broader community: will we take incremental steps or take bolder, faster action?
  • Plan for bringing existing metadata into new bibliographic systems within the broader Library of Congress technical infrastructure—a critical consideration given the size and value of our legacy databases.

The Library of Congress’s process will be fully collaborative.  We will consult our partners and customers in the metadata community, standards experts in and out of libraries, and designers and builders of systems that make use of library metadata.  We intend to host meetings during conferences of the American Library Association, specialized library associations, and international organizations, as well as special “town hall” meetings open to the metadata community, to gather input from all interested parties.  We plan to establish an electronic discussion group for constant communication during the effort of reshaping our bibliographic framework, and we expect to host a series of invitational meetings of experts and stakeholders in 2012 and 2013.