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

Friday, July 17, 2009

Re: [RDA-L] Urls in access fields

... wrote:
> > ... In terms of
> > what I was describing, what the VIAF lacks is a general description of
> > the person at the center of the web of names; it seems to me if we were
> > creating such entity descriptions it would make the work of clustering
> > in resources such as the VIAF easier and more accurate.
> >
> It is not, to my knowledge, the intention behind VIAF to create a
> biographical resource. The intended use is for it to be a kind
> of switchboard: someone enters a name into a catalog search form,
> then that name is - behind the scenes - switched to the form preferred
> by the context (the actual catalog) in which the search is then to
> be conducted. Federated search could profit the most from this.
> As long as there are many catalogs that do not contain the VIAF ID
> numbers for the persons, VIAF as switchboard looks like the best
> possible approach.

This is where the power of RDF comes in, and where we can see advantages over traditional formats. The resource at the end of the URI can be anywhere, so therefore if there were a Wikipedia page (or other personal page such as on a Drupal site which can handle RDF) with the correct RDF coding and the VIAF ID (which could serve as the URI) information could be updated and imported into the records that we make. This could be done on-the-fly or updated by a spider once a week, once a month, or whatever.

I think we need to be thinking in these types of ways: to share the information that we make, and utilize it with related information that others make, to create something truly new and useful and make it available to everyone. If it's done intelligently, it doesn't have to be any extra work for us, in fact, it may even be a lot less work.

But this requires giving up some control (updates from Wikipedia???!!! You mean that thing that *anyone can edit*!!!??? or from somebody's own personal website where they can type in anything they want???!!!). This is the real challenge facing us. In a world of information that is increasing exponentially and with resources that, shall we say, we cannot expect to keep up with the growth of information, it's obvious that some trade-offs will have to be made.

I don't like these trade-offs, but otherwise I fear we will toil away, working harder and harder on a smaller and smaller percentage of the world's information, consigning ourselves to eventual oblivion.

I think there's a much more interesting future out there!

Jim Weinheimer

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Re: Pbk editions.

Hi ...,

I'm considering taking this back on list and changing the focus of the argument into a discussion of standards: what they are and what are their purposes.

For me, standards do not at all mean that everyone who follows them agrees with them. I certainly do not agree with everything in AACR2 and even less in RDA. Some sections I am passionately against, and while I can disagree personally with these points or not, it is my professional duty to follow those standards. If I want to try to change those standards, I can begin the process, but my job is to follow the standards.

The reason for this is not that the rules in the standards are the "best." There may be dozens or hundreds of ways of doing a task (e.g. building a wall, running electricity, doing mechanical work on an airplane, even baking a cake), but you cannot mix all these ways together at the same time because that is when you get chaos. Looking at anything individually away from the whole may look quite reasonable, but then looking at the whole (all of these separately reasonable decisions taken together) becomes nonsensical. Imagine a building with 5 prima donna architects. This rather subtle point, I believe, is not grasped by most of the modern and up-to-date "information management specialists."

This is the entire reason for standards: they all aim for a single goal, and that goal is reached by consultation and agreement through negotiation. So, while all your points about edition vs. copy may be valid (I agree with some points you make and disagree with others), in the final analysis we must both conclude: we must all follow the same standards no matter how we may feel about them personally. Therefore, when I worked at Princeton, I *absolutely had* to follow the standards whether I liked them or not or I would have been fired. I could complain about the rules; I could say how stupid and backward they were; but I could not simply ignore the ones I didn't like and do what I thought was best.

This is what standards mean. Many times, when something seems ridiculous to you, you discover that the reason it exists is that it is vital to something or someone "farther downstream." Certainly there are obsolete rules and practices (I've pointed out many myself) and they can and should be changed, but if everyone goes off and does what they want, as I have tried to point out above, the whole becomes corrupted.

And it is especially important that we maintain standards at this point in time. When people are using the new "information tools" and prefer them to our tools, we have in our favor one thing and one thing only: the quality of our information. And the reason that our information is of high quality is because it conforms to standards. I confess that right now , we are in a highly unfortunate moment. It is very difficult to demonstrate to the layman that our information is higher-quality than what they can find, e.g. on Google, because our data is locked up in our "high-tech card catalogs" where the searching mechanisms are primitive.

This is one reason why I am against RDA, because: 1) it is still primarily an academic exercise and it still has yet to be proven that RDA will solve any of the challenges facing us, and 2) more urgently, I feel that introducing it now, during the serious budget problems we are all facing, many libraries simply will not be able to do it for budgetary reasons. Therefore, one part of the library world will go one way, another will not. Which parts will go which ways, I do not know. No matter what however, this will cause a split in standards and necessarily, a drop in data quality, which is as I said, all we really have to offer. This could have truly disastrous consequences for the entire library profession. I don't think I am overstating the case.

I can go on, to discuss the need (and the methods) to bring varying standards of different communities together in the linked world (my own real interest), how RDA can help and what are some new tools we can build for real cooperation, but I've gone on enough I think.


> Hi James:
> Just a couple of comments on your post best taken off-list because
> of the
> furor this issue usually arouses (see below). I could post it (?),
> but I
> do not want to sound critical of your post.
> On Tue, 14 Jul 2009, James Weinheimer wrote:
> > For publishers, it is
> > vitally important to know if an item is hardback or paperback, since they
> > are supplying the items, with cost considerations and so on.
> This is also true for acquisitions librarians concerned with cost of
> purchases, durability, and preservation binding.
> > For libraries, they mostly follow the venerable LCRI 1.0, which states
> > quite clearly:
> Actually it is not all that clear, probably because it is effective
> to
> create separate records for publications issued in different years, no
> where do the rules even hint that records should be retrospectively
> modified to accommodate later issues (but some preferences are expressed
> for separate records in case of doubt), and any library can choose any
> record they wish and modify it locally nay way they wish.
> > LCRI 1.0 ...
> Remember that this is LC policy and it is not LC policy to acquire
> later-issued pbks. in addition to hbks. (or even pbks. at all, in most
> cases), so it is not written to cover that particular situation. Also, not
> everyone uses the LCRIs (which may be a source of disagreements-- not
> understanding that LC does function differently in some particulars)
> > ... consider that the item is a copy if the only variation is one
> > or more of the following:
> > 1) a difference in the printing or copyright date when there is also a
> > publication date;
> Semantics: This only applies when there are both printing (or
> copyright)
> dates *and* "publication" dates. It would not seem to
> apply to the
> reverse: a difference in "publication" dates when there is also a
> copyright date.
> > 3) the addition, deletion, or change of an ISBN;
> Semantics: the appearance of an entirely new ISBN for an issue
> somehow
> also otherwise distinct from a preceding issue is not (strictly speaking)
> an "addition, deletion, or change."
> > 4) a difference in binding;"
> Also, when a phrase similar to "Paperback edition"
> appears, one is
> cautioned (elsewhere) in the direction of not questioning whether there
> are distinct "editional" [fake word] differences: "For
> variations ... not
> covered ... consider that the item is a new edition."
> > ISBNs serve the publisher community and not the library community.
> They also serve segment of the library community and the public
> concerned
> with accurate relations with the publishers.
> > *If* we actually attempt to build this brave new world of metadata
> > interoperability and share records, we will have to deal with
> > differences in the very purposes of the records themselves
> .... and this can most effectively be done if we do not try to combine and
> homogenize records to an unnecessary or obscuring extent.
&g t; > If we are to work together and share our records ... to increase
> everyone's productivity
> Ah, there's the rub! The bean counters may never
> understand what havoc
> "simplification" can wreak!
> Cheers!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Re: Blog post: Library Catalogues are no longer an inventory but a place, and a community by Laurel Tarulli


On Tue, 30 Jun 2009 20:13:57 -0400, ... wrote:

>Sorry, that last post got sent too quick without my comment on it,
>What I just wanted to just add, was that your first call to arms below, to
>catalogers and librarians doesn't seem to be talking about bibliographic
>control standards, but "losing control *over users*". That's just not the
>role libraries are in, we believe in intellectual freedom first, even as
>catalogers. Controlling users could be called "censorship"...esp in a
>As a library director especially, do you think about 'controlling your
>users" when they use your library ? maybe you meant to say 'management of
>information' or something like that.

As I went to some pains to point out, in the past, the moment our users
entered the door of the library, they were in a highly controlled
environment in many ways. Much of the anguish that librarians are currently
going through is that they no longer have that level of control over their
users. Does this mean that librarians are actually "control freaks" who want
to control each and every action of their users?

Of course not, but this is the way we are often portrayed in the popular
media: as stuck-up old fuddy-duddies who are wedded to their own ways and
can't change at all. Some users really believe that. Of course, I don't.

I view a library like a giant, terribly complex machine. If people are going
to use this "machine" correctly, they need to know how it operates. There
are right ways to use it, and wrong ways to use it, and it only makes sense
that we show our users the right ways, which will save them much time, pain,
and frustration. Earlier--essentially before the introduction of keyword
searching--people had to use the library's catalog, and use it correctly, or
they got nothing. Their only choice was to wander more or less helplessly in
the stacks (which many did). In those libraries with closed stacks there was
no choice for our users at all except to use the catalog.

So this "control" was not done out of a sense of self-aggrandisement; it was
done out of the recognition that a library is a terribly complex place and
you had to be more or less an expert just to keep your head above water.
People have to learn how to drive a car or run a metal lathe or use a
circular saw. If you've been away from using these machines for some time,
you may need help again. Traditional librarianship recognized this.

But the new web tools do not and they have entirely other goals. Retrieving
information that is coherent, manageable and reliable is certainly no
easier, and in many ways much more difficult, than it was before the web,
but our public views this as a type of "freedom" and a step away from the
paternalistic, dead hand of the librarian, which some even felt was a type
of "censorship." At the same time, many traditional librarians (myself
included) see it more as introducing a level of chaos, and the task of
librarianship today is to attempt to get this chaos under control somehow.

This loss of control goes far beyond bibliographic standards and impacts
*each and every part* of the library's operations. Many librarians have yet
to face up to (what I see as) these realities, and certainly as a
profession, it's clear that we still don't know what to do.

James Weinheimer
Director of Library and Information Services
The American University of Rome
Rome, Italy