A few days ago, OCLC came out with some statistics about their Expert Community Experiment. Karen Calhoun’s blog, Metablog, displays the results in her post dated March, 19, 2009. It is amazing to see just how engaging the cataloging community is when it comes to helping OCLC perform database maintenance in a “wiki-like” environment.
“OCLC’s Expert Community Experiment is intended to provide Connexion users who have a Full Level authorization or higher more flexibility in making changes to WorldCat master bibliographic records. Maintenance of WorldCat will be shared more equally between OCLC staff and member libraries. The additional capabilities provided by the Experiment are a powerful expansion of those that have been available especially through Database Enrichment since 1991.”
When I first heard of this experiment, of course I wanted to participate. I signed up for one of the webinars and began fixing such things as spelling errors, adding call numbers, and making sure headings were controlled. When I attended the OCLC webinar as to how this experiment was to going to be carried out, what could be changed, and who could participate, I was one of more than 300 people listening in! That is simply amazing. Reading the results from the OCLC email and Karen’s blog, I am even more amazed.
The sheer participation says that cataloger’s are eager to share our work to a greater extent, to evolve into a more networked community, and to become a community that can learn from the expertise of each other in a more open environment. Now, there are several list-serves that also serve this purpose. But one of the frustrating aspects of records in Connexion is that many catalogers don’t normally have the authorization to fix something as simple as a spelling mistake. This experiment changes that. The enhancement being performed go further than spelling. The records are being enriched with data.
It could be said that enriching the records with new data is too time consuming and not worth a cataloger’s job since most users are not interesting in this data. I would disagree. If we take into account the drive towards linked data, all of these enrichments can be seen later on as providing keys points from which to create networks of information and therefore knowledge. Instead of skeletal records, suddenly records become a repository of data nodes linked to other data nodes. Though we are not at this stage yet, added data to records will possibly help with this next step in the evolution of the web.
On a more practical note, the surge to enhance records will help those who might not have the resources, time, or perhaps even the training to create such a detailed record.
This experiment from OCLC is a great opportunity for us in the profession to push for a more “wiki-like” cataloging environment where we all benefit from the knowledge of the community.