In a post on the Pegasus Librarian blog about the EBSCO land grabs, a very interesting discussion ensued on, among other things, what libraries could/should be doing to serve our users while maintaining control of what we’re doing and it’s costs, instead of entrusting our fate to monopolizing ‘big deal’ vendors who lock us in with no escape route.
One person brainstormed the idea of cooperative catalaloging (ala that facilitated by putative and actual cooperatives like OCLC and it’s previous more multiple predecessors). Here’s my contribution to the discussion:
Good conversation. Here’s a hypothesis:
We probably don’t need to create a cooperative metadata creation initiative for article-level metadata, because that metadata (of varying quality, but my hypothesis is “good enough”) is ALREADY out there in the digital world. It’s already been created, pretty much every publisher these days has electronic metadata for their articles published. We just need to _collect_ it. And in many cases, we don’t even need a special business relationship or license to collect it, as the metadata is already being shared open access — which doens’t mean that collecting and aggregating it in a useful way is cheap or easy. It is a non-trivial project that could benefit from some cooperative economies-of-scale action, but it’s not a ‘cataloging’ or metadata _generation_ project exactly.
Consider the JournalTOCs service. Many many publishers these days provide RSS feeds with metadata of their recent publications. By consuming these feeds, and storing what you get over time, JournalTOCs is building a giant database of article metadata — that only goes back as far as when they started collecting it, but that’s still pretty good. My impression is that JournalTOCs is looking for a way to monetize this at a profit however, rather than provide it in a cooperative cost-sharing basis.
Or consider OAISter, as I think Dorothea mentioned. Also a giant collection of article-level metadata, although also not neccesarily going back very far historically. (Historical articles are more valuable in some fields than others; however as with JournalTOCs, as the years march on the Year Zero at which this kind of metadata collection starts recedes further into the past). However, also something that, while it originated as a community-benefit project at a university, has been transfered to OCLC, a vendor that many of us think generally _acts_ much like other vendors looking to monopolize and monetize for greatest profit, despite their stated mission/organizational structure to cooperatively share on a cost-benefit. (Hint: An entity which acted like it’s primary mission was cooperatively sharing at a cost-recovery basis would be EAGER to share their metadata with all comers, if it resulted in overall reduced costs to the members in their businesses, even if some of those costs were to shift to other entities. Can you imagine OCLC doing such a thing on purpose?)
There are definite possibilities to building stores of article-level metadata in a freely shared store that is not hobbled by vendor lock-in, but instead shared as diversely and widely as possible to facilitate library technology experimentation and innovation. Definite possibilities, but still not cheap or easy — it will require investment in both R&D and actual implementation. Exactly the sort of thing that could benefit from a cooperative project funded on a cost-recovery model, to achieve ecnomies of scale, but still under our own control and direction rather than being locked in to a monopolizing vendor.
But libraries do not seem organizationally competent to or capable of coordinating their efforts in such a fashion anymore on large scale projects. In fact, we’re sending our projects in the other direction, with OAISter becomign a monetized for-profit ‘product’ instead.
One notable exception is HathiTrust, which seems to be having some success at a cooperative cost-recovery model. Ironically, HathiTrust comes from the same institution that gave up OAISter — although it makes sense that any given insitution can only spearhead one thing, I wish they had worked harder to find better hands to entrust it to. (If HathiTrust itself was a service offered by OCLC, I think we all can be confident it would cost, oh, four or five timeas much, as memberhship in HT actually does). And HathiTrust of course has it’s own handicaps in being reliant on so much data from Google, a vendor trying to enforce it’s own kind of vendor-lock-in it’s agreements to use it’s scans; the data isn’t really unencumbered.