I was down at NWIUG last week and got to sit in on a presentation that Kyle Banerjee, who works for the Orbis-Cascade Alliance, gave. He's been working with Terry Reese from OSU on a project to make the Summit OPAC interface more customizeable. In short, Kyle talked about how library systems are slowly moving in the direction of having different interfaces being able to access the same sets of meta/data, or having one interface access multiple sets of meta/data. Right now, systems are fairly proprietary and stand-alone. For example, if I can't find a book in the library where I work and want to check the local public library, I have to exit my system, find the other library and retype the search. Likewise, if I want to find both books and articles on a topic, I have to perform the same search multiple times in several different databases (or I have to perform different searches in each database because there are no universal standards for search syntax and each search engine and database is structured slightly differently). Now imagine my library's search interface could query the other library's database. The Orbis-Cascade Alliance libraries can already link from their home catalogs directly to the consortial database, but that's because we use the same ILS. There's no further link to Worldcat, and even if you could get into Worldcat, you can only see ownership information; you can't tell if the book you want is checked out or missing. So the goal is to have data in a universally-recognized standard that can be read across different platforms. Alternately, the goal is to finally have platforms that can make real use of the standard we created decades ago.
From a cataloger's viewpoint, I think this will, of necessity, move our focus from cataloging at a local level, to cataloging at a system level. That is, we need to focus more on the quality of data in WorldCat or other consortial OPACs, than on the qualty of data in the local system. Ideally, this will end some of the duplication of effort that currently takes place in cataloging (50 libraries having to add the same missing author tracing to a record) and help us cope with the profession-wide reduction in cataloging staff and shifting of metadata record creation to vendors.