Lessons From The Microformat World

I can’t help but like microformats, and part of that comes from the dogmatic principles that drive them. Among those is the notion that none of us should attempt to create a format out of whole cloth. Here’s how they explain it:

Under the title of “Propose a Microformat” they tell us: “Actually, DON’T!!!

ask yourself: “are there any well established, interoperably implemented standards we can look at which address this problem?”

Why? The dogma here is to “pave the cowpaths:”

It’s quite possible […] that you’ll find someone else who has dealt with the problem you’re addressing. Perhaps even solved it. Do your best to open a dialog with others who have encountered the same problem. We don’t want to build walls between competing communities — we want people to work together to develop a good solution which will cover the majority of cases.

Now think about this in the context of libraries. Think about it in terms of our acquisitions workflow, think about it in terms of our online catalogs. Break down the walls that divide libraries from the rest of the world, look for and embrace larger standards, and benefit from the community of work that already supports them.