Friday, July 6, 2012

Idea I hope will become trends: ask for what you want

In the final installment of my ALA Annual faux-cap, I want to talk about asking for what you want.

The previous installments: user stories, communication, and assessment.

The last session I went to in Anaheim was a panel discussion about how ILS vendors were planning on dealing with the challenges and changes that RDA's implementation would inevitably cause.

When the moderator opened the floor for Q&A, a very different discussion erupted. Basically, the audience called the vendors out on their shenanigans.

Because, while the vendors had, indeed, made provisions for new MARC tags, it didn't seems as if they had really given much consideration to what a post-MARC world might look like. And that's a problem.

The discussion was...lively. Catalogers want tools and mock-ups of what a RDA-driven, post-MARC catalog might look like. ILS vendors don't seem to want to create even a beta version of such a catalog until the landscape is more stable.

What seemed most shocking to the catalogers in the room was that vendors seemed surprised that catalogers were even interested in such mock-ups. And their defense seemed to be that until and unless catalogers make their wishes known, vendors can't create the tools that catalogers want.

It seems to me like ILS vendors and libraries are having a stand-off. It's like they're playing chicken about how metadata will be represented in this post-AACR2, post-MARC world. Libraries are waiting on vendors who are waiting on libraries.

My observation about this stand-off is that if you want to affect real and lasting change when it comes to vendors, convince the people in your organization who sign-off on paying the bills that what you value is worthwhile.

So, my last and final takeaway is to ask for what you want.

At your own institution, talk to your Systems staff and UL about what you want users to be able to do with the metadata you're creating. Find products or dream up solutions to make these dreams a reality. Talk about what makes this metadata so important for users--for searching and retrieving items and for serendipitous discovery--and what would be so devastating for your users about outsourcing cataloging or accepting sub-par vendor-generated MARC records.

At conferences, visit the vendors your library works with. Ask them tough questions about what they're doing to move toward a post-AACR2, post-MARC world. Tell them what you want your users to be able to do with the metadata you're creating and ask them how they plan to make that happen. Talk to them about task forces and committees you know exist where libraries and vendors intersect and ask them what they're contributing to them.

Find your tribe and get involved. Join your state's library association or ALA. Or both. Join a committee or an interest group that's tackling these issues and get to work. Start learning to code and come up with your own solutions to these problems. Use social media to find like-minded folks and start learning about the issues.

To quote Rage Against The Machine:
"It has to start somewhere
It has to start sometime
What better place than here?
What better time than now?"

Be visible. Be proactive. Be awesome.

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