Resource Description and Discoverability: Trends and Challenges

Posted on January 01, 2018

In the rapidly changing environment of resource description, cataloguing and metadata, librarians need to be aware of new trends and standards and the impact of these developments on their individual skills and working environment.

The LIASA Interest Group for Bibliographic Standards (IGBIS) provided an excellent professional development opportunity for cataloguing librarians with the hosting of a seminar, titled Resource Description and Discoverability: Trends and Challenges, on 8 September 2017. Five staff members from the Department of Library Services (DLS) attended the Seminar in Centurion.  Presentations at the seminar highlighted the changing role of cataloguers, which confirmed the reality of new and changing trends in the world of bibliographic control, such as the IFLA Library Reference Model, linked data and BIBFRAME.

During an introductory presentation, participants were informed about the new IFLA Library Reference Model (LRM). The aim of this model is to be a high-level conceptual reference model that covers bibliographic data as understood in a broad, general sense. It is important to note that the IFLA LRM was designed to support and promote the use of bibliographic data in linked data environments.

Linked data is a term used to describe recommended best practices for exposing, sharing, and connecting pieces of data, information and knowledge on the Semantic Web, using URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers) and RDF (Resource Description Framework). RDF is a foundation for processing metadata; it provides interoperability for the exchange of machine-understandable information and in the context of cataloguing describes the content and content relationships of a particular website or page or digital library.

Initiated by the Library of Congress in 2012, BIBFRAME (Bibliographic Framework) is an initiative to evolve bibliographic description standards to a linked data model, in order to make bibliographic information more useful, both within and outside the library community. BIBFRAME determines a transition path for MARC21 formats. It is investigating all aspects of bibliographic description, data creation, and data exchange. In addition to replacing the MARC format, this includes accommodating different content models and cataloguing rules, exploring new methods of data entry, and evaluating current exchange protocols. Instead of just bundling all elements neatly as a ‘record’ the BIBFRAME Model relies heavily on relationships between resources.  It supports resource sharing as well as cost savings in cataloguing practices. Cataloguers will need to give up longstanding punctuation and associated spacing practices. The key component to a linked data model is the consistent use of standards such as RDA (Resource Description and Access), LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) and DC (Dublin Core). The focus is on relationships to assist in the discovery of bibliographic and authority data of library resources.

Authority control has become increasingly important to assist linked data. It is the practice of creating and maintaining authorized access points for bibliographic material in a catalogue. It uniquely identifies a person or corporate entity and brings material together. Examples of name identifier systems used in authority control are the ORCiD identifier, a 6-digit number that is compatible with the ISO 27729 standard, also known as ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier), as well as the VIAF (Virtual International Authority File). The VIAF combines multiple name authority files from a number of national libraries, into a single OCLC-hosted name authority service through a rich a set of internal and external data links.

What is the involvement of DLS cataloguers in these new developments?

We are consistently applying RDA guidelines in the creation of new bibliographic and authority records, as RDA supports linked data applications and the Semantic Web. Relationship designators are being added to authorized access points in bibliographic records created on WorldShare, for inclusion in WorldCat, to indicate the relationship between a resource and the creator associated with the resource. The bibliographic metadata creates the foundation for linked data, which in turn supports access to data.  Authority records are being added to the Library of Congress Name Authority File and we are working on an initiative to add ORCiD identifiers to the name authority records of University of Pretoria authors.

A presentation on the continuing education needs of professional cataloguers in South Africa focused on the need for a continuing education framework but also stressed the importance of self-determined learning. Cataloguers and other library professionals have to show confidence in taking effective action to acquire new knowledge and skills to solve future problems within the innovative changing structure of communities and workplaces.

A report released in April 2017 on the Library and Information Service competency index for the South African higher education sector, as endorsed by LIASA (Library and Information Association of South Africa), confirmed the basic and core competencies required for cataloguing and metadata practices and the skills needed by cataloguers in the changing environment of resource description.

The seminar certainly provided a valuable networking and learning opportunity for the cataloguing community in South Africa. The presentations confirmed the reality of the changing resource description environment and the need for self-learning to be able to cope with future challenges

- Author Martha de Waal

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