I've been blogging for about 6 months now and have 100+ library blogs in my reader. But one topic I'm really interested in doesn't get much press: the future of Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC).
When it is mentioned, MARC usually gets a bad rap. It's often viewed as worn out legacy metadata better suited for card catalogs with an antiquated late 1960's data structure that mystifies computer programmers when they first encounter it.
However, lately I've read a few things that say otherwise. Some say MARC is very good metadata--it just needs to be morphed into something more Web-friendly. This more positive view describes MARC as a complex metadata format, with a good level of granularity--well suited for what it was intended for at the time it was developed.
Here's one of those voices. In a post primarily about libraries and the Semantic Web, Richard Wallis comments on MARC:
So does the library world pack up its knowledge and collaborative spirit and jump on the SW bandwagon, leaving the good, but old creaking and inflexible library standards such as Z39.50 and MARC, behind? - In the very long term probably yes, but over the next while what libraries are doing today, in the way they are doing it (with the exception of the format of the odd MARC tag), is still very valuable. [emphasis mine]
I would contend that, from a cataloguing point of view, libraries are providing more value than current software packages and their user interfaces can make full use of. Some of this value is being shown by the work around faceted browsing, FRBR and the like, but this is just scratching the surface. Transferring/transforming the data in to RDF, opens up opportunities to walk or browse through the semantic relationships expressed between records and external resources to deliver a more holistic view of a resource and its place in the world.
The discussions I have watched go past can be characterized; as a binary choice between RDF and MARC. That is wrong. As we, and others, have shown MARC is a rich source of data that can drive the expansion of the semantic web. [emphasis mine]