[Note, lcsh.info has been re-born as http://lcsubjects.org/, hosted by Talis.]
The outcry in the community was strong, including a reply to Ed's lcsh.info blog post by Sir Web himself, Tim Berners-Lee. Library of Congress must have been suitably embarassed.
Thus the announcement at Midwinter that LC not only understands the value of linked open access to LCSH, but that all of the vocabularies managed by LC -- from the name authorities to the lists of document types, languages, locations, etc., -- need to be openly available in a format suitable for inclusion in Web services. LC has created a web site to host these vocabularies: id.loc.gov. On that site they say:
Initially, within 6 to 8 weeks, the Library of Congress will release its first offering: the Library of Congress Subject Headings. This will be an almost verbatim re-release of the system and content once found at the popular prototype lcsh.info service.They also say:
We aim to make resources available on this site within 6-8 weeks. Check this site regularly for more updates as we continue to develop this service!The page is dated 1/22/09. My calculations show that 9 weeks have passed. OK, that's only one week over their stated deadline. But nothing on the page has changed. No resources have been made available. An "almost verbatim" release of lcsh.info should not be too hard given that Ed had code written that he has made publicly available.
But even today, the promised service is 6-8 weeks away. It may stay that way for a long time. Maybe even forever.
Why does this matter? It matters because the availability of these vocabularies is essential for the library world to move forward. Some of us have been asking LC to put the vocabularies online in a machine-actionable format for a very long time. The Dublin Core community worked with LC to create a machine-actionable and URI-identified version of the MARC role terms as early as 2005. You can't find this linked from any of the MARC documentation. Some of us brought up the topic ad nauseum at MARBI meetings, but to no avail. Now LC seems to have "gotten it" conceptually but they have yet to show us that they can deliver.
I may seem to be undeservedly impatient on this score, but it's not that we have been waiting for this for 9 weeks: we've been waiting for years. And quite honestly, this is not rocket science, nor does LC have no guidance for how to manage this data. In fact, they could use the NSDL Metadata Registry, or, if they insist on hosting this themselves, the Registry's source code is available. Quite frankly, if LC does not prove to us soon that it can perform this necessary function, I feel that we are quite justified in going forward without them, registering the vocabularies where they can be used and managed by anyone who needs them, and going forward with a transformation of library data that will meet 21st century needs.