Monday, March 8, 2010

RE: [RDA-L] Question about RDA relationships (App. J)

Message to RDA-L

John Attig wrote:

The problem of augmentations was a thorny problem in the original FRBR report, and the text that you quoted above was the result of some additional work done by the FRBR Review Group.

These provisions are not without controversy. What is suggests is that each such augmentation should be treated as a manifestation of an expression of a different work; i.e., that we need to treat each introduction, preface, bibliography, index, etc. as a distinct work. While this might make sense in terms of modelling the data and
understanding the complex nature of expression-manifestation relationships, it is not at all clear what benefit is to be derived from such treatment. Most of the people that I have talked to about this want to interpret the statement above as indicating that
augmentations *may* be treated as distinct works -- and there are cases in which this might be useful, such as a famous author's introduction to another author's work -- but that in most cases, it is the work and expression embodied in the principal content of the manifestation that needs to be described.

In other words, I wouldn't push this FRBR provision too far.

As an additional consideration, we should try to keep in mind what our users want and the realities of how the universe of information *for everyone* has changed irrevocably (and is still changing) since FRBR was written. Just as John and Karen have demonstrated how the traditional concept of a single "bibliographic record" is out-of-place in this new universe, and the record is being slowly deconstructed into little bits and pieces using URIs, my own experience with students and faculty shows a similar deconstruction taking place: very, very few really and truly want entire manifestations (or items) of anything at all. They want something else.

They want to find bits and pieces that they can take out and put back together. Once in awhile you will get someone who wants an entire item, e.g. James' Portrait of a Lady, or Shaw's Pygmalion. But even then, I have never found a patron who wanted the WEMI enshrined in FRBR. I confess that it's not what I want when I am searching for my own purposes and not as a cataloger. Think about how you search when you are *not* a cataloger: is it for WEMI? Has it ever been?

My own suspicion is that catalogers have decided that people "want" entire manifestations only because that is always what we had on our shelves. Although people may have only wanted a chapter, they were stuck with taking the entire thing. The world has moved on and I don't believe *anybody* out there today would venture to claim that in the World Wide Web, people *really want* WEMI. If so, when people are using our catalogs, why in the world would we believe that what our users really want is to find works, expressions, manifestations, and items?

Google searching has changed things forever and I think it is very dangerous to ignore it. In my reference work I have discovered that undergraduates find the very idea of searching things by authors, or titles, or subjects to be very strange, since they are used to that single search box. I have also noticed a change in how catalogers assign subject headings, in that more and more I see signs of what I will call "Googlized subjects," i.e. using the LCSH as descriptors by putting in multiple keywords with a minimum number of subdivisions, limited only to the geographical and chronological ones, but often none at all. Maybe it's a better way of doing it (ouch!) because people search our catalogs as if they were searching Google. Of course, searching a catalog demands different skills but I don't think I need to delineate them here.

Again, I believe that FRBR reflects a world that no longer exists--if indeed, it ever did.

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