Comments on “Report on the Future of Bibliographic Control

Draft for Public Comment, November 30, 2007

To:          LC Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control

From:      Pamela Bluh, President, Association for Library Collections & Technical Services on behalf of the American Library Association

Subject:  Comments on “Report on the Future of Bibliographic Control: Draft for Public Comment, November 30, 2007”

Date:      December 14, 2007

Executive Summary

The Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control (LCWG) was tasked by Deanna Marcum, LC Associate Librarian for Library Services, to:

  • Present findings on how bibliographic control and other descriptive practices can effectively support management of and access to library materials in the evolving information and technology environment;
  • Recommend ways in which the library community can collectively move toward achieving this vision;
  • Advise the Library of Congress on its role and priorities. 1

The LCWG issued its “Report on the Future of Bibliographic Control: Draft for Public Comment” (referred to below as “the Report”) on November 30, 2007 with the request that feedback be forwarded to the group by December 15th. 2

A task force (TF) was appointed to assess the draft report, receive input from members of ALCTS and other ALA divisions, and assemble a unified ALA response.

Given the very brief timeline for public comment, the TF adopted the following strategies for soliciting input:

  • Request input from various ALCTS groups and ALA divisions;
  • Closely monitor several discussion lists (“listservs”): Autocat, 3 PCC, OCLC Enhance, RDA; 4
  • Participate in discussions at the ACRL/NY Symposium. 5

The Group noted that listserv discussion was subdued, which seemed surprising given that some of the Report’s recommendations could be considered controversial. Notable exceptions were comments prepared by Diane Hillmann (Cornell University), an influential metadata theorist, and Martha Yee (UCLA), a noted cataloging expert, that appeared on various discussion lists.

The following broad observations are supported by the resulting environmental scan:

ALA reaction to the report is in the main positive. The TF heard nothing to indicate that the Report was fundamentally off-track. There appears to be broad-based support for the five central themes.

Many comments indicated considerable skepticism about the need for more large-scale testing of FRBR (as called for in Recommendation

There is no consensus about whether work on RDA should be suspended. This probably reflects the cataloging community’s diversity of views about the overall direction in RDA development, and certainly points out the need for more effective communication between RDA developers and the user community. Additionally, the LCWG does not seem to have made a compelling case for suspension. 6

Some expressed concern that the document’s tone is a barrier to its effective role as a consensus builder. Younger librarians in particular who are immersed in Library 2.0 social models seem to feel that the report sets a very top-down tone, as opposed to the more collaborative approach that they have come to expect. Given the magnitude of the work called for by the report’s recommendations, as well as the extended period that it is likely to take to be implemented, it seems critical to reach out and engage tomorrow’s library leaders now.

Several voiced concern that because FAST deconstructs LCSH strings into its component parts, crucial information about the relationship among subject facets that are implicit in LCSH would be lost to catalog users.

The Working Group's agenda is ambitious both in terms of costs and human effort. Not surprisingly, concerns were voiced at all levels about the implementation process and just how achievable many of the Report’s recommendations are.

In addition to the aforementioned environmental scan, the task force undertook a review of the Report. Given the TF’s composition (seasoned catalogers and administrators) and its extensive experience on ALA committees including CC:DA, SAC, and CCS, the TF felt confident that its assessment of the Report was typical of academic catalogers. The TF also concluded that this exercise gave them a thorough understanding of the report, as well as a good idea of areas of agreement and areas where more discussion is necessary. It is unfortunate that feedback from public and special libraries was comparatively sparse. Notwithstanding the brief period allowed for public comment, ALA will make additional efforts to solicit broader reaction to the findings and recommendations embodied in the LC Working Group draft Report.


The LCWG has thoroughly integrated several ALCTS concepts, particularly noting the need to plan and act at the “network level.” This involves sharing and transforming not only bibliographic and authority records, but also specific metadata elements, controlled vocabularies and classification systems, established forms of headings, and so forth. Additionally, it involves several levels of coordination and cooperation with other types of information providers and the social-networking sector.

The Working Group affirms the broad diversity of user types, denying the validity of a unitary concept. This is to be applauded, as continued references to a single, abstract “user” are no longer helpful conceptually or practically. Thinking in terms of a broad diversity of user types should now become the norm, and questions of user benefit should always be placed in explicit contexts. The LCWG’s remarks to the effect that machine applications are also “users” is valuable, although there is a danger of anthropomorphization. Machines are “users” to the extent that their operations ultimately benefit human needs. Still, it is essential to affirm that there are broad areas of metadata creation that are of importance regardless of whether or not the metadata is ever used directly by any human end user, i.e. indirect or mediated uses are equally valuable.

A third point, reinforcing these first two but important in its own right, is that the way forward does not lie in doing less, generally speaking. The WG emphasizes that in specific contexts, given appropriate study and justification, institutions may choose to shift resources from one type of bibliographic control activity to another. We must acknowledge that specific practices may become outdated and should be reexamined. Overall, however, the LCWG’s recommendations collectively establish that a globalized digital information-sharing environment requires more attention to the thoughtful creation of a variety of metadata types than many anticipated in the recent past.

The plan of work outlined by the Working Group is extremely ambitious, and cost and logistics concerns necessarily arise. We note that the WG has not addressed the political aspects of resource allocation, although these underlie any discussion of the availability of funds and personnel. Perhaps it was felt that this issue was out of scope, but the report as a consequence tends to imply a permanent zero-sum game. The Report notes that “the burden on LC has become increasingly heavy as funding has not kept pace with demand.” 7 Although this is certainly true, it is the result of a complex of choices made by human actors. The statement, “Libraries face a trade-off between doing detailed cataloging for regularly published materials, and doing less-detailed cataloging for a wider variety of information types,” 8 however true in general, tends to imply fixed conditions. It is professionally disempowering to accept this implication as an immutable truth. It is important that current economic conditions not be seen as unchangeable. We believe that, for the library community to move forward with these recommendations, the zero-sum outlook must be rejected. In addition to prudently examining the best uses of available resources, library leaders and managers need to be actively involved in advocating for appropriate resource levels. Failing this, it is likely that many of the LCWG’s valuable insights will go unimplemented.

There are other general concerns to be noted in the report. Many of the recommendations for the Library of Congress are either already underway or already completed and should not be included. 9 Lack of comment on particular recommendations signifies agreement. We are also concerned that, similar to the issue of the politics of resource allocation, the report does not sufficiently acknowledge the significance of existing obstacles to collaboration, such as conflicting institutional missions, contractual relationships, proprietary metadata, and business/funding priorities.

Recommendation 1: Increase the Efficiency of Bibliographic Production

This recommendation includes three major sub-recommendations: 1) Eliminate redundancies; 2) Increase distribution of responsibility for bibliographic record production; 3) Collaborate on authority record creation. The library community is notable for its achievements in the latter two areas, perhaps to a greater extent than any other information-creation or cultural heritage community. 10 Nevertheless, given the substantial challenges all such communities face, it is important to reexamine our practices, advancing them more aggressively to the “network level” as well as on an international scale. This implies that advancements in bibliographic control, as well as efficiencies in production, are accomplished through substantial acceleration and further diversification of our established principles of cooperative metadata sharing and standards development, rather than primarily in terms of the capacities of individual institutions. This emphasis is one of the Report’s most valuable discussions.

1.1 Eliminate Redundancies

p. 11

In the third paragraph, the statement, “Given the explosion of material requiring some level of bibliographic control, the model of item-by-item manual transcription is no longer sustainable” is debatable, and certainly not empirically provable. Changing “no longer sustainable” to either “inefficient” or “wasteful” might be closer to what the LCWG intends to say.

The fourth paragraph, beginning with “The redundant modification of records,” valuably emphasizes the benefits of local record modifications that add value for disparate user types, and the importance of sharing these modifications much more broadly.

p. 12

The first full paragraph describes the need for “a persuasive body of evidence” to guide catalogers’ judgment. The benefits of such evidence are likely to be great, but it should be noted that multiple types of evidence will be needed to provide guidance for bibliographic data creation to service to a wide variety of user types. Additionally, traditional approaches to research have been too slow to keep up with the rapid, on-going changes in the materials likely to come under bibliographic control, as well as the means by which the public at-large discovers these materials. Traditional research needs to be accompanied by dynamic, flexible experimentation in both metadata creation and system development.



Although these recommendations are directed at “all,” unless they are actually assigned to a specific organization or constituency there is a danger that they will go unfulfilled.

In practice, this will be exceptionally difficult to achieve. All of the parties to which this recommendation is directed have funding priorities, frequently at odds with one another, that must be realistically acknowledged. Additionally, there are organizational and legal barriers.

This excellent recommendation has been undertaken by some parties for a number of years, with limited success to date.

Although this is already being done to some extent, much more could be done to make it a reality. A significant barrier currently is the limitations that our library systems impose on importing and repurposing information. We need to indicate to our system providers that this is a significant priority that should have a higher priority for development. /

The challenge for both of these recommendations will be to legally utilize data that vendors see as proprietary.

The great challenge here is that each constituency named has its own funding priorities that are frequently in conflict with one another. The underlying tension is that there is a finite, diminishing pool of funding and each player is trying to maximize its share of that pool. This fact alone suggests that the chances of achieving success with this recommendation are small. Apart from this major obstacle, it will be important to re-examine current economic models for data sharing in discussions which go beyond the traditional players in the library universe, to include those involved in socially generated metadata creation.

We must keep in mind that previous attempts to change the status quo in this regard have been met with an extremely negative response.

We note again that traditional means of evidence gathering should proceed simultaneously with dynamic experimentation. The success of this recommendation will also depend on keeping in mind the diversity of user types and behaviors.

1.2 Increase Distribution of Responsibility for Bibliographic Record Production

p. 14

In the fourth paragraph, the concluding sentence is an over-statement. A strong case can be made for saying that much decision-making is driven by the marketplace, without regard for what is best or what the library community actually wants. There is a widely held belief that this is the case with MARC format development, and to a lesser degree, the content of LC Rule Interpretations.

Recommendation 1.2 mandates a more inclusive, cooperative model and will require some libraries to reconsider their disinvestment in professionally qualified staff. In order to achieve the goals of the LCWG, professional catalogers are needed more than ever. For many libraries, large and small, the mandated community-wide participation in the cataloging process, rather than reliance on LC, will be a major policy and economic reversal. Sorting out the new cooperative model, especially determining where professional cataloging expertise is necessary, will need wide discussion. /

These are well balanced, in terms of weighing LC’s continuing responsibilities, which may be non-statutory but are nevertheless real, against the need for the broader community to become less reliant on LC. does not, however, acknowledge the multiple impacts of years of budgetary decisions, frequently made above the department level if not at the institution/municipality level, that have devastated libraries’ ability to make the needed contributions.

At the conclusion of Recommendations 1.2.2.x, we suggest adding, for “Library and publishing communities”, which would make explicit their commitment to actively take part in, and committing to implement, plans for a “new distribution of responsibilities.” This would also need to acknowledge the importance of effective advocacy for resource allocation.

1.2.3 / 1.2.4

These points could be stated more directly, saying in essence that PCC programs need to have their requirements reexamined, simplified and harmonized. Most catalogers now work in all formats. At the most basic level, CONSER and BIBCO should not have different policies for the same data elements, e.g., the order of notes. There needs to be much broader willingness to accept member contributions without the perceived rigid adherence to narrowly defined standards.

It is unclear what is meant by “incentives”; examples would be helpful.

1.3 Collaborate on Authority Record Creation

p. 16

We applaud the LCWG’s affirmation of the continuing importance of authoritative forms of access points, taking into account “available evidence” and public comment.

p. 17

The second paragraph concludes: “At present, the process of maintaining LCSH and of creating new or revised headings can be slow to meet the needs of those working with emerging concepts in both published and archival materials.” This is one of several statements in the report that do not appear to account for changes introduced by the SACO program and the challenges introduced by its increasing popularity. Over the years concerns have been raised over the submission process using the online SACO form, the length of the review process, and rule complexity such as the “division of the world” policy. It would be useful to know more specifically what is meant.

A similar observation as to 1.2.3-1.2.4 applies here.

In order for this recommendation to succeed it will be essential that libraries attach a much higher priority to pay (in terms of staff time and/or funding) for training efforts than is currently the case.

Examples are needed wherever the report references “incentives.”

This recommendation is partially completed. To do more would mean that LC will have to reassess its cataloging distribution funding model. This in turn is in conflict with recommendation

This excellent recommendation should be extended to say “for use in various languages and for specific geographic audiences.”

Recommendation 2: Enhance access to rare and unique materials

This initiative is already underway in many libraries, often in conjunction with digital library initiatives. It is especially marked by a diversity of approach, involving everything from standard cataloging to the use of EAD (Encoding Archival Initiative ) to full-text search and more. 11 This diversity is partially driven by budgetary considerations, e.g., seeking the least expensive form of bibliographic control that will enable the most diverse body of users to find the broadest range of materials. Bibliographic control of individual objects in collections tends to be the most expensive part of the process because in many cases the objects are unique and therefore don’t lend themselves to the re-use of other libraries’ bibliographic records. There is thus the tension caused comparing the cost of describing unique objects to that of cataloging non-unique objects that can be processed far more cheaply because other libraries’ or other communities’ bibliographic records can be reused.

2.1.1 / 2.2.1 / 2.2.3 / 2.4.1

These recommendations should be flagged as “All”, not “LC.”


This is currently happening, but not all finding aids are accessible online. It is less important that the finding aids are accessible via the online catalog than it is for them to be searchable online in a federated search.


“. . . the needs of users” should be “. . . the needs of various user types.” This really cannot be overstated, given our long habit of thinking in terms of the unitary “user.”


It could be argued that existing structures already supports this, and that the challenge is to providing meaningful avenues for federated searching.


Although this may generate somewhat useful information, results of such studies have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophesies. Given the substantial size of the challenge, it might be more productive to approach this in much the same way that library consortia have approached cooperative collection development.


It could be argued that this is already being done in many (but not all) institutions. Does this recommendation mean something other than what it appears to say?


It is unclear what is meant here by “incentives.” Examples would be helpful.

Recommendation 3: Position our Technology for the Future

This may be the most controversial of the recommendations. On the one hand, the need is almost painfully obvious for much of what section 3 proposes. Most members of the library community realize by now that data that is not web accessible is lost to all but a few specialized in-house users, and that in order to survive, libraries must partner with others outside of the library profession. It is also clear that our vocabularies need to be shared outside the community, both to save others from having to reinvent the wheel and because their utility will become increasingly marginalized if they remain the sole property of libraries. On the other hand, this recommendation calls for the abandonment of or radical change in two of the cornerstones of bibliographic control, RDA and MARC, in order to accomplish its goal.

3.1.1. Develop a More Flexible, Extensible Metadata Carrier

The recommendation reads as if it is advocating that libraries and interested communities can work together to develop a single substitute for MARC. That seems unrealistic. It seems easier and would encourage more buy-in to advocate use of whatever carrier is most appropriate in each context, and develop automated means to repurpose data as needed.

It would be appropriate to include the PCC and other cataloging experts in this work. The Report repeatedly states that LC can’t do everything, and here is a perfect example of where there are experts outside LC who could share the workload.

Before this can happen, librarians need to stop regarding vendors as adversaries. While much of the “us versus them” mentality has dissipated, librarians routinely avoid taking the initiative in collaborating with vendors or demanding better products when appropriate. As an example of poor communication on the library side, the PCC’s Monographic Aggregator Task Group report which outlined the data elements for vendor supplied cataloging was only posted on the PCC website. This goal will fail if we continue to think vendors will seek us out for advice.

3.1.3. Extend use of Standard Identifiers

Arguably this is already happening, but the recommendation is vaguely worded. It is not clear whether it applies to activities now underway.

Retrospective work seems problematic and unrealistic unless it happens in tandem with digitization efforts.

3.2 Standards

Metadata classes advocate picking and choosing amongst standards. To place blame for the large number of available standards on professional ideology is questionable. Support for continued research and experimentation that is more inclusive will ultimately be more productive. We should also show more willingness to actually retire outdated standards or elements within standards. Our profession has never been very timely about standards maintenance, and the revision process needs to be much less cumbersome.

p. 23, final paragraph, lines 1-2. “Although usually cast in technical terms, the institution of standards for bibliographic data is in reality a business issue.”

The statement would be better as “Although usually cast in technical terms, the institution of standards for bibliographic data is also a business issue.” We should not imply that the technical aspects of standards are not “reality.”

p. 25, Consequences of Maintaining the Status Quo

This section does not describe the consequences of maintaining AACR2 as the cataloging standard for an indefinite period. Suspension of work on RDA constitutes maintaining the status quo. The LCWG should make explicit the positive benefits of continuing with the status quo in this instance, alone among all instances in the Report.

3.2.1 Suspend Work on RDA

The LCWG’s most controversial recommendation is the suspension of RDA development. Three reasons are given; however there appears to be widespread disagreement with the first reason and mostly negative responses to the second and third reasons. The comments overall were not, in general, statements in favor of or against the suspension of RDA development, as much as a reaction to how this recommendation is presented.

The LCWG presented its first reason, the need for further testing of FRBR, at the November 13th open forum, giving the impression that this is the most compelling reason to stop work on RDA. ALA heard repeatedly that the need for further FRBR testing is not adequately supported in the Report. It has been pointed out that applications such as Ex Libris’s Primo and Endeca catalogs incorporate FRBR concepts using real cataloging data and that OCLC and others have done extensive testing of the FRBR model. In addition, questions were raised about who would do further large-scale testing.

Ownership of the process is equally unclear for the second and third reasons given. The LCWG needs to say who they have in mind to articulate and evaluate business cases for moving to RDA, and who has the authority and trust of the cataloging community to validate the benefits of implementing RDA.

ALA is fully aware of the controversial nature of RDA development and is divided in its reaction to the call for the suspension of further work. An ALA concern is that it has not been able to objectively gauge whether its members believe RDA development should be suspended or continue to move forward. While vocal members of the cataloging community have consistently expressed doubts about and disagreements with the RDA development effort, there appears to be less confidence in the LCWG’s articulated reasons for the suspension of work. Additionally, we are troubled that a well-reasoned alternative strategy or any assignment of responsibility to develop such a strategy in the near future is absent. The glaring lack of any sense of collaborative process to facilitate moving forward is deeply disturbing.

This process needs rank and file participation.

3.2.2 Develop Standards with a Focus on Return on Investment

This is a laudable goal. How will we know when it has been achieved?

It is unclear what this recommendation means.

There is a long-standing belief that the library standards development process takes much too long, and that by the time that standards are published, the challenges they were intended to address have been superseded. This sort of cost/benefit analysis, while good in theory, has a way of being self-justifying without actually shedding any useful insight into the standard itself or its intended application. In addition, while this recommendation is driven by a reasonable concern over a waste of resources, read strictly, it seems to discourage experimentation. Does the LCWG really mean that “all” communities should let the outcomes of cost-benefit analyses determine whether new standards initiatives are allowed to proceed?

We agree, but this is not just an LC task. At the least ALA should also be involved in this assessment.

This is an area where more study may indeed be necessary. David Williamson had a very convincing post on Autocat on the difficulties of using publisher metadata. 12 Sometimes wrestling with problematic metadata is more trouble than creating it yourself. In principle this is a great idea, but shouldn’t be seen as a quick fix.

3.2.3 Incorporate Lessons from Use into Standards Development

This appears to be backwards thinking. Software engineers and user services experts work to serve the needs of the users. The implication here is that engineers and customer service representatives should be telling the standards makers what the users need.

This seems to be the same questionable reasoning underlying the comment on “invalidated assertions or professional ideology.” Standards are created to fill a community need and are not undertaken for frivolous reasons. If standards are flawed, they fail because no one uses them.

Shouldn’t this be the responsibility of all stake holders? Every library administrator should be constantly encouraging innovation and analyzing and sharing results. Every librarian should be collaborating via discussion lists and committees. ALA, ALCTS, and ARL should also fund or otherwise support this sort of analysis.

Recommendation 4: Position our community for the future

4.1. Design for today’s and tomorrow’s user

p. 26, 2nd paragraph in 4.1

“. . . less than 1% of users have high skills in both using the catalog and subject domain knowledge.”

What concerns us is, if our catalog does not meet the needs of sophisticated users, how will their discovery needs be met?

p. 27, end of paragraph before “Consequences of Maintaining the Status Quo”

“Many libraries have chosen to produce metadata to satisfy the needs of their most sophisticated users, despite the fact that such users are but a small percentage of their total user base. They do so on the increasingly dubious assumption that all users will benefit from the greatest detail in cataloging.”

The situation is less problematic if one considers “most sophisticated users” to include all catalogers. While detailed bibliographic records have many reasons for existence, e.g., to provide meaningful access to closed-stack resources, a reason for much of the detail in AACR2R is so that bibliographic records will have enough information to allow any cataloger to match a record to an object, and disambiguate it from similar objects and similar records. If this detail were to disappear, then catalogers would need to find new ways to make these determinations. Even if catalogers are removed from consideration, it is likely that policies mandating the reduction of detail will negatively affect some user communities. Users who belong to small-percentage groups, e.g. university graduate students and faculty, are as entitled to service as is the general population.

We agree, but we should not neglect the integration of library data into the Internet, which will have a far greater impact on the potential user community.

This technology already exists but is largely absent from today’s library systems. It may be more productive to consider what needs to be done to integrate library systems into this environment than to reinvent this technology within library systems.

This technology already exists, with as a prominent example. We should look for ways to leverage what Amazon and others have already done, as opposed to building (and paying for) the same functionality within the library system context.

4.2 Realization of FRBR

A problem with this section is that vendors are unlikely to build ILSs for standards that do not yet exist. For example, RDA must be in existence, with many libraries using it and therefore requiring ILSs with RDA implementation, before the vendors will commit resources to build systems that support it. It is not realistic to expect that system vendors will commit scarce resources to support the newer aspects of RDA in advance of customer demand. Historically, it can be seen that system vendors implement new standards, and changes to existing standards, only after they have been published, not before. It should be noted that FRBR implementation and testing is not dependent on RDA development, and the reverse is equally true. It should be noted that moving beyond MARC format metadata, so that it coexists and interoperates with metadata in multiple alternative formats, is likely to be a cause of considerable concern for library system vendors.

p. 29, Consequences of Maintaining the Status Quo

This paragraph is much overstated, and ignores the fact that FRBR is based on an examination of long-established practices, rather than being a de novo creation of theoreticians.

“IFLA Working Group” should be “IFLA Review Group.” seems not to reflect the recent work done by the Review Group on the Expression entity.

As noted above, system vendors implement new standards, and changes to existing standards only after they have been published. Customer demand will arise once RDA is published, with its implications for better expressing FRBR entities and relationships.

4.3 Optimize LCSH for Use and Reuse

Keeping LCSH current with today’s English is challenging and costly. 13 The conundrum is how to construct new subject authority terms quickly while being reasonably sure such terms are correct and are indeed the terms that consensus declares are correct. To change subject headings in online catalogs as common-usage term changes is far easier than it was with hard-copy catalogs, but it is still time-consuming and carries with it an inherent expense.

Constructing pre-coordinated subject strings is time-consuming. Some feel that these strings are created primarily for experienced users, but this assumption is arguable. Effective searching in any online catalog where LCSH is the subject thesaurus involves a keyword search and then perusing the records found by that search. When the user finds a record that is on target, all that should be needed to get everything else on that subject is to click on a subject term and request (in effect) “Show me more like that.” In this way, pre-coordinated subject strings enable users’ recognition of relevant concepts. The challenge, of course, is to build online catalogs that facilitate the most efficient subject searching. A few online catalogs already facilitate this approach to searching and more will be built in the coming years. Perhaps what is really needed are simpler rules for constructing subject strings.

p. 30, second paragraph before “Consequences of Maintaining the Status Quo”

While most of the LCSH recommendations are valuable, it is of concern that much of the language used to describe the current situation seems to be a holdover from pre-SACO years. The criticisms in this paragraph rehash old themes and do not appear to reflect current practice. More effective use of SACO mentors would help those interested in proposing new LCSH headings be more successful and allow LC subject cataloging policy specialists to focus more of their time on proposal review, thereby speeding up the proposal process.

p. 31, Consequences of Maintaining the Status Quo

The considerable complexity of LCSH is due to the considerable complexity of information. LCSH doesn’t create the world of information, nor does it attempt to make subject terms for every possible existing, or as yet non-existing, nugget of information. It simply provides terms that describe existing information objects, whatever their formats. This is a success story that should be disturbed only with an abundance of caution.

Again, given the substantial changes in LCSH development due to SACO, the LCWG should give examples to justify the currency of epithets such as “idiosyncratic” and “seemingly capricious.”

It’s hard not to agree with this recommendation, except that it is unclear what it means and by what measure one could determine that this has been successfully accomplished.

Recommendation 5: Strengthen the Library and Information Science Profession

Given the demise of many library schools and the cutting of technical services course content (especially cataloging) in the remaining degree programs, this recommendation deserves full support. One librarian commented that this recommendation is like lobbying for motherhood and apple pie.

This emphasis throughout section 5 on the problem of lack of quantitative data to support decision making in bibliographic control can be seen as reassurance that LC has learned from mistakes made in the series controversy.

5.1.1 Develop Key Measures

The idea expressed here is sound, and recognition that there are interdependencies that may or may not be obvious is reassuring. ALA needs more information on who are seen as the “key participants.” It is also unclear how LC will extend the process outwards beyond what may be seen by others as the “usual suspects.” As an example, some library school professors voiced concerns that they have been excluded from the RDA development process. It is critical to bring together representatives from all areas of the profession in the initial planning process.

5.1.2 Support Ongoing Research / /

Since this series of recommendations apply to all players, it may be appropriate to encourage some administrators to question their tenure processes. To require a specific number of publications for tenure may not be a good model for all librarians, especially those in technical services. Library literature currently varies wildly in quality. Reducing the emphasis on the number of publications required would free up time to do the careful analysis that results in a useful, intellectually rigorous publication. There should be a culture of support and reward for research, but applying a faculty model to librarians may be part of the problem these recommendations seek to address. In addition, our journal editorial boards should look for ways to speed the publication process. By the time a paper is published in a peer-reviewed journal, it is out-of-date in many instances. Cutting-edge research needs to be published in a timely manner, but the peer review process continues to be needed to provide quality control.

5.2.2 Share Educational Materials Broadly via the Internet

This should be ALA only, not LC.

It is generally unrealistic to expect high quality material to be made freely available. Additionally, the need to vet such material, and remove it when outdated is not addressed. ALCTS, LC or PCC oversight ensures quality and gives the imprimatur of authority.

The missing recommendation is that libraries assign a high priority to making funding and staff time available for training staff in cataloging-related activities.


The American Library Association wishes to thank the LC Working Group for their incredible effort in fulfilling their charge. We stand in awe of the amount of work that went into these recommendations and we take pride in the Working Group’s leadership and commitment to the profession. We also thank our colleagues for their comments and observations, which went a long way in helping to inform the opinions voiced in our report.

The extent of change outlined by the LCWG report is overwhelming and will take time for our professional colleagues to fully absorb. It will require no small measure of skill, patience, and collegiality to reach consensus on issues that currently garner disparate views.

The resources, human and financial, needed to implement the LCWG’s recommendations will be unparalleled. Massive amounts of new and redirected financial and staff resources will need to be found or reallocated from other services, at a time when libraries are already feeling financial constraints. The technological demands, especially on small or under-funded libraries, will be particularly daunting. The number of stakeholders involved similarly requires an unprecedented level of cooperation, compromise, and willingness to change long-held (and long-cherished) work and business practices. The sense of personal and professional loss that some will feel should not be underestimated. Radical change is neither easy nor comfortable and will require equally radical trust.

ALA realizes that its comments are only one step in identifying the areas of agreement and disagreement and the strengths and weaknesses of the Report. There will and should be more discussion and debate over the specifics addressed by the LCWG. We need to understand from the very outset that implementation will be even more of a challenge as we are sure to discover that even where we now appear to agree, we actually have different understandings of what the recommendations really mean. Implementing change in an environment that itself is in constant change will require unprecedented effort by every member of our profession. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that much of what needs to change is not under our control, and many of our new allies have no vested interest in collaborating with us.

As Deanna Marcum eloquently wrote, “the Working Group states that it ‘envisions the future of bibliographic control as collaborative, decentralized, international in scope, and Web-based.’ The report focuses both inwardly to LC and to the library and bibliographic community worldwide. The report offers many recommendations on all levels. What are the next steps that should be taken and who should take them? These questions need to be answered, and answered very soon.”

Appendix A: Other Recommendations

A. Unclear what the recommendation is saying or what measure would be applied to determine that it has been successfully completed


B. Recommendation already implemented and should be removed from Report


Reference Notes

  2. See    
  3. See    
  4. Archives at    
  5. Archives at    
  6. See    
  7. See comments on Recommendation 3.2.1. below.    
  8. Report, p. 14.    
  9. Report, p. 27.    
  10. Recommendations that should be deleted for this reason include:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,    
  11. N.b. In this regard, the report sometimes understates the community’s current achievements, particularly given existing resource levels.    
  12. See    
  13. Autocat archives, 6 December 2006.    
  14. N.b. Report p. 30.