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Bicentennial Conference  on 
        Bibliographic Control for the New Millenium: Confronting the Challenges of Networked 
        Resources and the Web
sponsored by the Library of Congress Cataloging Directorate

Clifford Lynch
Clifford Lynch
Executive Director,
Coalition for Networked Information

The New Context for Bibliographic Control In the New Millennium

About the presenter:

Clifford Lynch has been the Director of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) since July 1997. CNI, jointly sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries and Educause, includes about 200 member organizations concerned with the use of information technology and networked information to enhance scholarship and intellectual productivity. Prior to joining CNI, Lynch spent 18 years at the University of California Office of the President, the last 10 as Director of Library Automation. Lynch, who holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley, is an adjunct professor at Berkeley's School of Information Management and Systems. He is a past president of the American Society for Information Science and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Information Standards Organization. Lynch currently serves on the Internet 2 Applications Council; he was a member of the National Research Council committee that recently published The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Infrastructure, and now serves on the NRC's committee on Broadband Last-Mile Technology.

Full text of comments is available


Supporting the identification of works of interest is not the only purpose of bibliographic control, but it is certainly one of the most important and most widely relied-upon. In this paper I will consider the ways in which information finding is changing in a world of digital information and associated search systems, with particular focus on methods of locating information that are distinct from, but complementary to, established practices of bibliographic description. A full understanding of these developments is essential in re-thinking bibliographic control in the new millennium, because they fundamentally change the roles and importance of bibliographic metadata in information discovery processes.

There are three major approaches to finding information: through bibliographic surrogates, that represent an intellectual description of aspects and attributes of a work; through computational, content-based techniques that compare queries to parts of the actual works themselves; and through social processes that consider works in relationship to the user and his or her characteristics and history, to other works, and also to the behavior of other communities of users.

The first approach is familiar, and forms the basis of catalogs and abstracting and indexing, and more recently online catalogs and similar systems. The third approach is also familiar, in the form of book reviews, citation indexes, and suggestions from colleagues, but is now seeing a great creative expansion in the digital world, with its ability to create and aggregate world-wide communities of interest and to track the behavior of users. The second is fundamentally new in the digital world, where techniques based on full text searching form the basis of today's web search engines. We need to recognize that in the new millennium, for digital materials, high quality content-based computational techniques will be an inexpensive, ubiquitous, and rapidly-available default means of searching, and that powerful socially based approaches will also be widely available at little cost.

This leaves us with a number of challenges for bibliographic description in the new millennium. What are the unique contributions of approaches based on human intellectual analysis? When are they justified, and on what basis? Can we devise a spectrum of bibliographic approaches, with an accompanying spectrum of costs, to complement the content-based and socially-based approaches? How do we most effectively fuse the three approaches into information discovery systems that are truly responsive to user needs?

There is an additional set of questions that need to be considered as part of mapping the context for the new bibliographic control.

First, we know that bibliographic control is not just about rules and practices. It also depends upon a rich and complex infrastructure of authority files and classification structures. Indeed, the other approaches also use infrastructure - for example, lexicons, dictionaries, gazetteers and similar tools for content-oriented computational techniques, and methods to manage identity, authenticity, and reputation in the case of socially-based systems. It will be important to determine how much of this infrastructure can be shared, and leveraged, among the three approaches, and what the practitioners of each approach can do to enhance this.

Second, we must recognize the democratizing and empowering character of the networked information environment; just as anyone can become a distributor of information with a global reach, anyone can become a describer of information. Metadata itself is information, and we need to be able to decide when we choose to trust it; thus many of the same tools and techniques that have become relevant to the socially based discovery of information in the digital world will also become applicable in the production and use of bibliographic metadata - the linkage of metadata to identities through digital signatures, the management of identities through public key infrastructure, and the manipulation of reputation related to these identities. Thus we have a specific challenge in understanding how to connect and apply the infrastructure that is being driven by the social techniques - and indeed by much broader developments in the networked environment, such as electronic commerce - to bibliographic control.

Library of Congress
January 31, 2001
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