Please note: This series of posts outlines my opinions and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of my OCLC colleagues or of OCLC as an organization. Also, these opinions are held regardless of any impact the paths I suggest may have on my employer.
You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live. — Gil Scott-Heron, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”
Over a decade ago I wrote two columns entitled “MARC Must Die” and “MARC Exit Strategies” for Library Journal. Although provocative at the time, it now appears to be accepted wisdom that we cannot carry on as we have. A major example of this are the Library of Congress’ Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control and the Bibliographic Framework Initiative (BIBFRAME for short) that emerged from that work.
Their statement about the BIBFRAME work reads, in part:
The Library of Congress has launched a review of the bibliographic framework to better accommodate future needs. A major focus of the initiative will be to determine a transition path for the MARC 21 exchange format in order to reap the benefits of newer technology while preserving a robust data exchange that has supported resource sharing and cataloging cost savings in recent decades.
Meanwhile, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has not been sitting on its hands. It received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to “support an initiative to develop a community roadmap that will help support movement toward a future bibliographic information exchange ecosystem. The goal of this project is to collectively determine the needs and requirements of the library, higher education, and non-profit networked information communities to ensure they are able to use and exchange bibliographic data in an increasingly networked, linked data environment.” To accomplish this, NISO is organizing a number of meetings (mostly virtual) this year. The first and only planned in-person meeting was just held.
So for the last couple of days I attended virtually as much as I could of the NISO Bibliographic Roadmap meeting held in Baltimore, MD. Their description of the event:
NISO will host a two-day “unconference” to brainstorm and explore topics that will be a core component of the overall roadmap that NISO is working with the library, higher education, and non-profit networked information community to formulate. The goal of this meeting is to engage participants in an open conversation about the future of our collective bibliographic exchange ecosystem.
I ended the event not feeling much more enlightened or inspired than I began, and I’m afraid that this experience may have been shared by not a small number of those in the room. That got me to wondering why. Partly I think it was so all over the map because there was no shared clarity on the problems that need fixing and a lack of agreement about which paths might best solve those problems. For the most part, people left with the personal agendas they arrived with — some of them quite strongly held.
It was then that I remembered Gil Scott-Heron’s message to his black brothers and sisters back in the day. The revolution will be live. It can’t be packaged up and delivered to your computer or TV set so you can passively consume it from the comfort of your couch. It won’t be led and controlled by the few. It won’t be packaged nicely for your consumption. It will be messy, difficult, frustrating, and uncertain. It will be impossible to predict and may only make any kind of sense in hindsight. And it will require your participation.
So for my part I resolved to think more about those issues and write about them here. This is the first of a series of posts in which I will endeavor to put down my best thinking about the subject, which means you may want to lower your expectations now.
Watching the NISO event over the last two days crystallized for me that I had fallen into the trap of thinking that the Library of Congress or NISO or OCLC (my employer) would come along and save us all. I forgot that for a revolution to occur it can’t come from the seats of the existing power structure. True change only happens when everyone is involved. Those organizations may implement and support what the changes that the revolution produces, but anything dictated from on high will not be a revolution. The revolution will not be piped into our cubicles, ready for easy consumption. The revolution will be live.
Photo by Franco Folini, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.