24 November 2007

Automatic propagation of updated authority records?

[originally posted late on 24th November 2007, updated late on 26th November 2007]

An idea. For a while now I've been thinking it would be a good thing to have automatic propagation of updated authority records: We would need to have a central repository, and a system whereby records from that central repository could be spread to library systems everywhere.

Of course, NACO members currently have access to the NAF by FTP, but I'm talking about a system that would distribute individual records as they are changed and as they are requested, rather than the whole (5.5 million record) file.

Ideally, this would be an international (universal?) system, catering for libraries in all countries and languages (that is, not just the NAF). But how could it work?

Originally I though a system much like DNS could be put into place: A hierarchy of servers or repositories placed around the world, with changes moving from individual "host" nodes up the hierarchy to the 'top' level and then spreading to all nodes as requested. But recently I've been thinking more along the lines of package repositories.

Many Linux distributions use package management systems, going to a set of package repositories (often simply a set of mirror servers), in order to ease the installation and maintenance of software packages. Why couldn't a similar system work with authority records? Apt (or Yum or Slapt-get) for authorities!

So how would this work? Well, the authotity management system would keep a database holding information about authority records held by a particular library system. This authority management system would periodically (daily? once a week? once a month?) compare its database to an authorities server (or mirror thereof). If the local system had any new or updated authorities, these could be sent up the line for approval. Any local authorities that had become superceded by more up-to-date versions on the remote server, could be downloaded and imported into the library system; or perhaps a report could be prepared for the cataloguer or system administrator to accept before downloading and importing the new authorities.

Of course, getting something like a global authority file up and running would need a concerted effort by libraries world-wide (probably through IFLA), it would need the cooperation of ILS vendors, and it would have to be funded by someone! So it probably wouldn't happen any time soon.

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