Monday, December 11, 2006

Bisson and open data—let the revolution begin!

As some in the library tech world already know, library geek Casey Bisson won a Mellon Fellowship to develop WPopac*, an open-source OPAC (library catalog)**, with WordPress at its core. That's cool, but it's not even the big news.

The big news is that Casey plans to procure Library of Congress MARC records and distribute them free under the GNU license (here, here, elsewhere). This isn't cool—it's revolutionary.***

Here's what I wrote on the Next Generation Catalogs for Libraries list.
"It's not that free is cheaper than unfree, but that it holds the potential to change everyone's relationship to data—from catalogers to readers.

Advocating for just this thing here a month ago I wrote "Who wants to be the Fred Kilgour of the 21st century?" Casey may well end up being that. But—with due kudos to Casey!—I'm not betting on it. The Fred Kilgour of the 21st century is all of us.
So, three cheers for Casey, Mellon and "free as in freedom"! I can't wait to see where this all leads.

*Pronounced whip OPAC.
**Online Public Access Catalog, as opposed to the offline and private-access ones, I guess. There ought to be a dustbin for the acronyms of history—the acronyms that include concepts that are now simply assumed. Another good one is "RIA," apparently "rich internet application" (as opposed to plain ol' web aps?). I only heard the term last week—from a marketer, of course—and I make them. I christen this blog post a BPPOOIP, a Blog Post Put Online On the Internet Publically.
***I like another blogger's reaction, "Jumpin’ Jupiter! That’s monumental! That’s heroic! That’s…about damn time!"


Blogger MMcM said...


12/11/2006 10:32 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Ha. Well, RIA bothers me because it's an acronym for "Web ap." It's promotional, and it uses "internet" where it ought to use "Web." Nobody would call AOL Messenger or Firefox an RIA, after all.

12/11/2006 11:33 AM  
Blogger joshua m. neff said...

Thanks for mentioning (and linking to) my post, Tim! I agree with you, obviously, that this is revolutionary. This all ties in with something Karen G. Schneider said the other day on another email list: "I think the question is whether we are delivering a commodity or an experience." I think that if libraries are delivering a commodity, it might make sense to lock down the rights of catalog records (and other data). If we're delivering an experience, it makes much less sense to do that and much more sense to offer and encourage free data.

And yes, I also agree that "OPAC" is an annoying and stupid term that should be retired.

12/11/2006 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know - if I could get our staff to refer to it as an OPAC I would take it over their current clinging to "card catalog"! (as in "here you'll need to come over here to the computer and use the card catalog" - Just call it a catalog! - and no I don't let them know how much it makes me cringe to hear it called a card catalog - its just my pet peeve)

12/11/2006 1:22 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Ha. That's like me arguing it should just be called mail, not email, and you're still fighting "telegraph" :)

12/11/2006 6:45 PM  
Blogger Amanda Ellis said...

Of course in Australia it would have to be just a catalogue.

12/12/2006 6:38 AM  
Blogger Dystopos said...

"Catalogue" is, of course, merely a variation of "catalogUE" or "catalog User Experience", which distinguishes itself from "catalogIC" or "catalog intellectual commodity".

12/13/2006 1:57 PM  

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