As noted earlier, individuals and organizations have been scrambling to respond to the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, which William “FRBR Dude” Denton facetiously but usefully contracted to WoGroFuBiCo (see this group in delicious).
“Scrambling” is a key term here, because the 16-day response period was extremely short, in a 1.0-ish, “We’re giving you a response period but not with enough time to seriously discuss or respond anything of substance” sort of way. Discuss, that is, in the public sphere, leveraging the collective wisdom of LibraryLand. (I try to avoid the phrase “hive mind,” which makes me think of boils and bee-stings.)
I know that the report is in many ways daring; it will certainly ruffle a few feathers, and I don’t mean just Michael Gorman’s. But I’ve heard scattered complaints that the report is top-downish (Hillmann even used the phrase “noblesse oblige”), and I agree. It’s a wee bit top-downish in tone, but it’s also very top-downish in production.
Should there be WoGroFuBiCo or something like it in the future, this is what I suggest (and this also goes for reports from the Big O and various library sages):
- Build in decent response time — long enough to underscore that you really want thoughtful responses that could in fact influence the document.
- Plan an iterative approach. Put out a solid draft early and let everyone respond to it, then take it back and work on it some more. (This is also how we need to do future cataloging standards such as RDA, quite frankly. Polishing and polishing the be-all end-all document isn’t going to work.)
- Make it easy for the community to engage with the document. Publish the document in a section-by-section basis on a wiki or blog (CommentPress is an interesting thought) and encourage paragraph-by-paragraph responses. (Much in the same way that we need to open descriptive enhancement to a broader base of community input.)
- Open the response silo and build discussion and engagement. This is crucial, whether you stick with the PDF format or not: allow respondents to decide if they want to make their responses public and commentable. This would not only provide organizations the option to share their ideas with the world, but would save the time of organizations and individuals that might simply want to say “me too.” Others might find points to engage with in the comments.
If you are a WoGroFuBiCo veteran and you are reading this, right now your mouth may be pursing to say “But.” Set aside “but” for a moment and replace it with words or phrases such as “maybe,” “how,” or “what if.”
A lot of this has to do with relaxing a bit and leaning into sharing and trust. I remember the first time I saw LibraryThing I was startled that people would want to expose their book collections. But if the Justice Department wants to spy on me they have so many other, far better ways to do it, and I benefit from sharing my collection with others. (For one thing, it means my LibraryThing secret santa has an idea what to get me. ) As Roy says, it’s all about giving up control — ultimately, for something a lot better.