A while back, I wrote about records and linked data based on our experience at Deichmanske bibliotek; I presented something of this work at SWIB15. While I was at SWIB15, Tom Johnson gave an interesting presentation from the alternative point-of-view that records are necessary and relevant within a linked data frame. This view has proven popular with others from US/Canada, albeit not with everyone.

I’m of a firm conviction that records have nothing to do with cataloguing and it seems obvious that the concept of record/document is based on recent practice†. Recent practice ignores in large part the distributed nature of cataloguing before computers; a card catalogue is far less document-oriented than a solitary MARC record/document — which conflates at least five distinguishable objects.

At the same time, if it makes people more comfortable to catalogue in a record-driven (or document-driven) way, fair enough, it is a much simpler way of thinking about things. But, this need not find its way into the physical data model; it’s a workflow problem.

At Deichmanske bibliotek, the non-issue is handled simply; the workflow covers it and the “record” is just a particular view of an RDF description.

Practical application beats theoretical concerns every time.

† [Edit] I was asked in an email to explain what I meant by “recent practice”. By recent practice, I’m talking solely about the five-in-one MARC record. Prior to this, in the card catalogue, the concept of record/document aligns more easily with database row rather than the composed data view in a MARC record.

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