Professional Development

Notes from ALA Midwinter 2015

The theme that jumped out at me at ALA Midwinter 2015 Meeting was the theme that I’ve been most engaged with in my recent work: the fundamentals. Fundamentals of cataloging, of metadata interoperability, of core competencies, of data models, and more. There were many moments during the conference when I thought, “Yeah, this is why I love what I do” and there were a few times when I thought, “Oh, there is a fundamental disagreement in how to accomplish task X–how will our community reconcile this in order to move forward?”

I returned to work excited and optimistic. However, without any post-conference recuperation time, I’m not too confident in my ability to write a cogent summary of my trip to blustery Chicago, so this post will be brief. Below are the highlights from selected programs I attended at ALA Midwinter 2015.

Note: there’s nothing here about the committees and interest group I’m serving on–I know, sorry, I was tweeting the heck out of those events. Once the ALCTS CaMMS Competencies and Education for a Career and Cataloging Interest Group [agenda] and the ALCTS/LITA Metadata Standards Committee [agenda] discussion summaries are posted, I’ll link to them (sign-in may be required).

FRBR Interest Group

  • An interesting debate that pretty much came down to: is FRBR dead yet? To which the rejoinder seemed to be, is RDA dead yet?
  • I think the tension lies in the FRBR model’s founding in the entity-relationship model (think relational databases) and the push to move library data to the linked web of data.
  • Conclusion: I need to learn more about FRBRoo. Looking into the efforts of the IFLA Working Group on FRBR/CRM Dialogue might be a good place to start.

Cataloging Norms Interest Group

  • Question: What would a catalog made by researchers look like?
  • Comment: Better cataloging tools. That is all.
  • Concern: Adding identifiers to MARC record authorized access points in a local database? There’s got to be a better way to scale linking work.

MARC Formats Transition Interest Group

  • BIBLFLOW project at UC Davis Library works to launch BIBFRAME support in Kuali OLE using Blacklight as a discovery layer. Presentation slides by Xiaoli Li.
  • National Library of Medicine is researching a BIBFRAME Core vocabulary, drawing upon the PCC BIBCO Standard Record and the CONSER Standard Record profiles. NLM plans to experiment with EAD and MODS mappings and work with Jackie Shieh to test the proposed BFcore vocabulary. Presentation slides by Nancy Fallgren.
  • The discussion revealed ideological tension in how BIBFRAME development should have proceeded. Some see BIBFRAME’s robust vocabulary as a deterrent to widespread adoption across multiple domain areas (music, audio-visual, archives, and cultural heritage communities). Others argue that robustness is needed in order for data to be semantically unambiguous and that reuse of existing vocabularies is too risky.

Linked Library Data Interest Group

  • Victoria Mueller [slides] described a BF/ strategy that games page ranking in order to push libraries to the tops of search results lists.
  • Nancy Lorimer [slides] gave an update on Linked Data for Libraries (LD4L); project is using various data sources: bibliographic information from MARC, MODS, and EAD sources; person/corporation data from VIVO, ORCID, ISNI, and VIAF; usage data from circulation statistics and citations; utilizes OCLC’s works identifiers; project continues to provide use cases for BIBFRAME and linked data and will result in the development of a Hydra head.

Library of Congress BIBFRAME Update

Although not yet posted, recordings of BIBFRAME Update sessions are eventually posted online:

  • Sally McCallum reported that LC has engaged a RDF expert to review BIBFRAME.
  • Beecher Wiggins revealed LC’s plan to launch a first phase of a BIBFRAME pilot in the spring: 25-30 LC staff will catalog a diverse set of languages/scripts and formats; staff will create a BIBFRAME record and a MARC record so that production factors may be evaluated.
  • Paul Frank was confident that the learning curve for learning to use the BF Editor would not be steep and that the true challenge would be figuring out workflows–for instance, where/how authority work would occur.
  • Nate Trail reported on LC’s efforts to build infrastructure to support BF:
    • LC has a contract with Smart Software Solutions to create a GUI for customizing (I think) the configuration of the BF Editor so that it is easier to create profiles (one profile for dissertations, one for streaming video, etc.).
    • LC has entered into a contract to get SRU ready for use on a triplestore.
    • LC was looking into using Fedora 4 with elastic search in order to power a BF search/display.
  • Phil Schreur (Stanford) reported on collaborative as well as in-house work in BF:
    • Reported on the very recent formation (first meeting was the prior day) of a cohort of six institutions that will cooperate in launching BIBFRAME at their institutions: Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and the Library of Congress; the goal, according to Schreur, “Move toward production [of BIBFRAME] in some way, whatever that means.” Group will utilize the tools developed by LC, shared cloud space, and shared resource files (that is, BIBFRAME works and instances). Each institution would work in the context of its own ILS.
    • The work at Stanford will focus on realigning workflows; Stanford will target vendor-supplied bibliographic records that are handled by acquisitions staff and convert MARC to BF; original cataloging work will be completed entirely in BF–among the questions to work out are do they need to BF to MARC converter? how will they complete authority work? analyze a switch to FAST instead of LCSH (which doesn’t scale to the linked data environment); Stanford will also launch a domain-focused project to produce BF data for recorded performance music.
  • Ted Fons (OCLC) outlined a high-level strategy for increasing libraries and library data on the web: model things of interest to the web; make things available in structures familiar to the web (; improve library workflows by improving discovery (how to do this wasn’t addressed) and reinventing cataloging (cataloging workflows certainly, not sure if Fons also meant reimagining cataloging policy). Fons cited the recently released white paper, Common Ground: Exploring Compatibilities between the Linked Data Models of the Library of Congress and OCLC [link].
  • Eric Miller (Zepheira) asserted that libraries must shift focus from creating data (minting URIs for vocabularies, etc.); to creating linkages, declaring relationships between data points.

Professional Development

DC-2014 Conference Highlights and Reading

Good programs at the International Conference on Dublin Core & Metadata Applications–my thanks to all of the folks who organized, sponsored, presented, and attended. My notes are a mess but I pulled together some take-aways, with a few news items summarized eloquently by other DC-2014 attendees. For my own future reference, I’ve included a list of papers that I look forward to reading.

Conference Highlights in Brief

The most urgent work ahead for DCMI and the library metadata community at large: defining BIBFRAME Profiles. Early implementers are testing prototype profiles but more work is needed.

RDF validation is another high priority. I’m certain now that I should have braved one of the special sessions on RDF Application Profiles, even if the finer details would have been lost on me. Also, because this:

OCLC & Friends continue to forge ahead with The Schema Bib Extend W3C Community Group has made considerable headway, proposing numerous changes to Schema. It has also released an extension for, The implications of libraries devoting scarce resources to a commercially-supported standard were discussed in realistic terms; doubts and reservations were readily acknowledged.

Zepheira is offering linked data/BIBFRAME training for practitioners. Stanford announced its BIBFRAME plans:

Succession planning is making way for re-envisioned positions and new opportunities at Princeton, where initial BIBFRAME testing has been performed and BIBFRAME pilot projects will begin in the next calendar year.

And we discovered that we all harbor a love-hate relationship with FRBR:

DC-2014 Conference Paper Reading List

I didn’t attend these sessions; however, they inspired intriguing back channel chatter. My post-conference to-read list, in no particular order:

The full proceedings are already available. Presentations will be posted soon.

Professional Development

ALA Annual 2014 Follow Up Notes

I have an extraordinary number of browser tabs open, which must mean the ALA Annual 2014 Conference is over. I escaped Vegas as quickly as possible and I’ve been traveling the west (the National Park Service? THE BEST). I’ve been jotting down notes on ALA Annual 2014 that I’ll record here.

The Takeaway


I learned bunches more about microdata. The Understanding session was great. Dan Scott and Jason Clark have GOT THIS. See the session’s description and links to presentation slides. Highly recommended. I look forward to future discussions with my discovery folks.

In the realm of not-metadata, the LLAMA President’s Program, “Leaders as Followers: You don’t have to be in Charge to be a Leader” presented a management philosophy akin to one I’ve been trying to live for the last year. Carrie Messina pushed staff empowerment to the extreme through institutionalized storytelling. Lots to think about from this meeting. I can’t change the entire culture of the library but I can change the culture of my own cataloging unit…

Follow Up

There are countless sessions I will need to catch up on. I had to miss every big BIBFRAME session due to one service commitment or another.


I gave two presentations at ALA Annual, one on competencies for catalogers, the other on authority data for a linked data future (co-presented with Indiana’s PCC Coordinator). I have lots of notes, comments, and follow up questions to think through–maybe I’ll post them here at a later date. I’m so grateful to everyone who shared their ideas with me!