It seems to me the application space for bibliographic softwareâ€”whether commercial or open sourceâ€”breaks down into two broad camps. The first is to view the software as a library catalog: as a way to organize physical objects. This is the model for a variety of applications, such as Books, LibDB, Alexandria, and a long list of others I’m too busy to track down right now.
It’s also the model for this new application called Delicious Library, which someone goes so far as to call a â€œkiller app.â€ I don’t see that; it strikes me as pure gimmick. And pure to open source form, there’s now a virtual copy of the application in the Mono-based project mCatalog …
… which brings me to the second category of application: one for the hard-core bibliographer. Here the application does not just catalog physical objects, but all manner of resources, as well as concepts that allow one to begin to understand how they relate to each. These tools are thus not just for managing stuff, but for dealing with ideas. Finally, they also take on the difficult task of integrating content into documents, and of formatting them according to precise publisher specs.
So different applications for different users. What I’d really like to see is for these worlds to be less distinct; for the general-purpose applications to be able to extend to handle more demanding needs, for example. I’d like to be able to store the complete range of records I need to store, and to easily add a module for bibliographic formatting.
The trick in designing for cross-over is in a solid general-purpose data model (and good MODS import/export would help), and with a GUI designed for flexibility. Simply assuming books and videos ia a recipe for a narrow application.
It strike me that a project like LibDB is well-positioned for this sort of cross-over because it has a rich data model based on the FRBR, which represents the state-of-the-art in library metadata. Still, the FRBR wasn’t designed with things like journal articles (or songs, or legal cases) in mind, and so there needs to be some work to extend it to cover these sorts of records.