Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Future Format: Goals and Measures

The LC report on the future bibliographic format (aka replacement for MARC) is out. The report is short and has few specifics, other than the selection of RDF as the underlying data format. A significant part of the report lists requirements; these, too, are general in nature and may not be comprehensive.

What needs to be done before we go much further is to begin to state our specific goals and the criteria we will use to determine if we have met those goals. Some goals we will discover in the course of developing the new environment, so this should be considered a growing list. I think it is important that every goal have measurements associated with it, to the extent possible. It makes no sense to make changes if we cannot know what those changes have achieved. Here are some examples of the kinds of things I am thinking of in terms of goals; these may not be the actual goals of the project, they are just illustrations that I have invented.

 - goal: it should be less expensive to create the bibliographic data during the cataloging process
   measurement: using time studies, compare cataloging in MARC and in the new format
 - goal: it should be less expensive to maintain the format
   measurement: compare the total time required for a typical MARBI proposal to the time required for the new format
 - goal: it should be less expensive for vendors to make required changes or additions
   measurement: compare the number of programmer hours needed to make a change in the MARC environment and the new environment

 - goal: collaboration on data creation with a wider group of communities
   measurement: count the number of non-library communities that we are sharing data with before and after
 - goal: greater participation of small libraries in shared data
   measurement: count number of libraries that were sharing before and after the change
 - goal: make library data available for use by other information communities
   measurement: count use of library data in non-library web environments before and after

 - goal: library technology staff should be able to implement "apps" for their libraries faster and easier than they can today.
   measurement: either number of apps created, or a time measure to implement (this one may be hard to compare)
 - goal: library systems vendors can develop new services more quickly and more cheaply than before
   measurement: number of changes made in the course of a year, or number of staff dedicated to those changes. Another measurement would be what libraries are charged and how many libraries make the change within some stated time frame

As you can tell from this list, most of the measurements require system implementation, not just the development of a new format. But the new format cannot be an end in itself; the goal has to be the implementation of systems and services using that format. The first MARC format that was developed was tested in the LC workflow to see if it met the needs of the Library. This required the creation of a system (called the "MARC Pilot Project") and a test period of one year. The testing that took place for RDA is probably comparable and could serve as a model. Some of the measurements will not be available before full implementation, such as the inclusion of more small libraries. Continued measurement will be needed.

So, now, what are the goals that YOU especially care about?