Monday, July 20, 2009

Re: [RDA-L] Instruction

... wrote:

> Since we have a new set of students this coming Sept. should I start
> training them on RDA now, or wait until the next group in Sept. 2011 [we
> have an intake every 2 years]?

This is actually a profound question and one that has set me thinking. It speaks to the future of the profession--what directions it will take and in what ways. The current generation of librarians needs to prepare those just entering the profession, not only to survive in today's market, but also to become productive members of their own generation so that they can solve their own problems. During some times in history there are few changes and therefore the task is easier. But changes seem to be coming ever faster today, and those changes are almost impossible to imagine. For example, just 15 years ago I would have considered the possibility of scanning "all" the books in libraries an absolutely impossible act, but the outrageous company Google has more or less achieved it on their own terms (with the attendant idea that "if it's not available digitally through Google, it doesn't exist"). It's too early to tell if this idea will be correct or not, but there is c ertainly a lot of evidence that it is correct.

Trying to prepare people for this kind of environment is tough, and I don't know if it's fair to our younger members to conclude that "there are zillions of pre-RDA records out there that will need conversion." I don't know if that's enough or not.

One thing that the web does is to bring disparate types of information together, therefore our users are expecting to search "everything" through a single search. Therefore, all types of cataloging records/metadata records also will be retrieved with one search. Perhaps that's fair, and perhaps it's not, but based on my own experience, I believe it will happen inevitably enough.

So, it seems inescapable that catalogs following differing standards will be mixed up into single search results. I think this is what the younger generation must be prepared for, and this is a completely different reality than what we have faced before where I worried about my own catalogs and the rest of them can go hang. No matter whether RDA is accepted by the library community, I cannot believe that the other communities of metadata creators will follow either RDA or FRBR. Therefore, catalogers will--as will their users--inevitably come into contact with other standards and formats. Modern management will demand that these formats work together at some levels to achieve some level of saving of costs and labor.

I think students should be made aware of the differing standards out there, and see how the practice of each differs (e.g. how are corporate names handled by different agencies) but more importantly, that the main idea of "bibliographic control" has always been achieved through various aspects of "consistency" (apparently, even at the Library of Alexandria) and is still the basic method of achieving control today (although today "consistency" may be achieved through a single, shared URI). Even then, the URI must be linked to human-readable text, and students can see how that text can be shaped and molded by different communities and even by the users, themselves.

In summary, I think young people will need to be flexible and aware of this very wide world of potentially interoperable metadata, which seems quite different from what has been taught traditionally.

Oh, yes! They will also be needed to convert all those pre-AACR, pre-RDA records. But convert them into what? That remains to be seen.

Jim Weinheimer

1 comment:

  1. Of course, a major problem holding us back from teaching RDA is that it's not really available for use. You really can't teach RDA based on the current draft available on the web. It isn't browsable. And, like you, I'm not sure that this isn't going to be like the great kerfluffle about changing from LCSH to PRECIS in the 70s.

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