Friday, February 5, 2010

RE: [RDA-L] Utlility of ISBD/MARC vs. URIs (Was: Systems ...)

Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
<snip>
J. McRee Elrod wrote:
>
>> imposes structure where it isn't helpful (e.g., where it was based on obsolete card design).
>
> Every word of your post rang true, until I reached that last sentence. Insofar as the old unit card structure is reflected in the choice and order of elements of the ISBD, it is *very* helpful.

Mac, I wasn't targeting ISBD here, and I'm as convinced as you are about its usefulness and importance. (We only want to get rid of punctuation at the end of subfields.)

Rather, I was getting at the innumerable rules that concern the arrangement of entries and tracings and whether or not an added entry was necessary, and how to control these things. Most of the indicators that concerned card production are not helpful any more but add to the confusion that governs opinions about MARC. Also, stuff like the omission of leading articles in uniform titles, which came into being *only* because that field lacks the indicator.

</snip>

In addition, I think it's important to consider how it is best to focus our (most probably) ever decreasing resources in a truly shared, open environment. Let us just imagine for the moment, that we can get ONIX or DC copy for every single resource we catalog (that will be quite some time in the future if ever, but let's just imagine) and the cataloger updates the record. Efficiency will probably still dictate that there be copy catalogers who concentrate on the simple updates, and complex catalogers who will do more. How will it look if the copy catalogers report that for the week they have added filing indicators to 200 records and 245$b to 300 records? :-)

Joking aside, I think we have to get to the kernel of what our users need, plus I think we need to accept that once projects such as Google books come online, fewer and fewer people will search our local catalogs separately. They will come to our catalogs (if at all) from Google Books, where they will find the full-text plus a mashup of our metadata mixed in with who knows what, to find whether a library near them has a physical copy of an item, although they will be able to read the book online. Only time can tell how long it will be before people don't care so much about the physical book. (As an aside, I just bought a Sony ebook reader, and although I am definitely a bookman, I absolutely love it! For the first time, I can actually enjoy reading a book I have taken from the web! I have shown it to people and most want one too)

I admit this is a terrifying scenario (for me, at least), but it is one that is both logical and easy to predict. Once it is accepted however, we can begin to consider exactly what catalogers can provide our patrons that the Googles and the Yahoos cannot. I think there is an awful lot we can do and we can prove that we are still necessary.

But I don't know how much of it will resemble what we have always done. Is browsing alphabetically by title *really* so important to people that we must devote resources to do it? Would those resources be better used in adding new materials? I don't know but I have my own opinions. I think the situation is becoming so important that today we must make a case why people need something so desperately, e.g. browsing alphabetized lists of book titles, that we must devote staff time to redoing records that are otherwise correct. No longer can we rely on simply continuing current practices. Of course, this goes for all of MARC and the cataloging rules, but one must start somewhere.

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