The more things change…

Today is the last day at RLG for one of the community’s best advocates and long-time leaders. Linda West, who has managed RLG’s Member Programs and Services for nearly a decade is winding things up and heading back east. She’s going with our greatest good wishes and lots of sadness that we won’t have her as a colleague on a day-to-day basis. See the synopsis of her RLG career and plans here. Linda was an expert in library management, an accomplished leader in the world of cataloging and very thoughtful about the broad enterprise that we used to call “technical processing” . In reflecting on her many contributions I unearthed a 1992 report commissioned by RLG and chaired by Linda – Technical processing in large research libraries: seeking a new paradigm. Mountain View, Calif.: Research Libraries Group, 1992.

Unfortunately the text isn’t web-accessible right now but we hope to make it available soon. (It’s available here now as a PDF 1992 tech processing in large research libraries) In looking it over I was struck by the dramatic changes in thinking that have occurred, the prescience of the work plan that was put forward, and how much of what was desired back then has been accomplished.

I was also struck by the persistence of the core challenge – this kind of descriptive metadata continues to be very costly to produce and its utility difficult to measure. And while we’ve changed the economics of describing our redundant print collections we have an enormous distance to traverse before the economics of describing the unique and special in libraries, museums and archives will be positively affected.

We’ll keep at it even while Linda moves on – I know she’ll be watching.