Posting to Autocat
I normally go to great pains to document my assertions, but I didn’t this time when I wrote how “information managers” (by which I mean non-catalogers), very often slight the importance of strict accuracy in our records. In an upcoming chapter in a book that (I hope!) will be published, I go into the need for accuracy and standards in quite some detail, but people will have to wait. If it’s not accepted, I’ll put it on my blog.
I have heard this assertion very often that a metadata/cataloging record is for the ease and utility of the user, and very often this assertion is made by “information managers” who have studied the innards of the cataloging database and perhaps even designed major parts of it, but they have rarely, if ever, actually done the dirty work of creating a catalog record from scratch, and often they have never used the library’s collection itself.
Although they may even have a subject expertise and therefore some experience as a user, they certainly do not have any reference expertise, which is a completely different task where you can immediately see how good or poor data (not just the computer coding) can help you find or not find relevant information. Yet, because of their computer expertise (not bibliographic or subject expertise) they are in a position of authority, where they can make decisions. Often these people become bean counters and cannot imagine how there could possibly be a problem with something so “mundane” as entering the title. If there is a problem, it must be either with you, or your guidelines.
It would not be good for me or anyone to state any names, and off hand I can’t find anything on the web, but I can point out that this is nothing new. (When I am in the realm of library history, I immediately feel more sure of myself!) Ernest Richardson, in his ” The curse of bibliographicalcataloging,” which I cannot find online, began with, “The general function of the library catalog may be said to be, in simplest terms, “to connect the reader surely and promptly with the book that he wants to use.” (Quoted in Stevens, Rolland E. “A Summary of the Literature on the Use Made by the Research Worker of the University Library Catalog” Univ. of Illinois Library School Occasional papers, no. 13 Aug. 1950. “http://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/3886/gslisoccasionalpv00000i00013.pdf?sequence=1“).
But he goes on to say something I find even more interesting, (quoting from memory) “Everything else that does not pertain to this is luxury.” (the rest of the Library school paper is very interesting in this regard, too. Thanks to the U. of Ill. for putting these on the web!)
Also, I maintain that the decision by LC not to trace series is an offshoot of this same idea that everything in the record is for the user, and the needs of the library managers are thereby ignored, as I discussed at some length in my first “Open Reply” to Thomas Mann at
Now, I will say that the user tasks in FRBR are only a repetition from the ones codified by Charles Cutter in the 1800s and that they must be completely reconsidered in the light of today’s technology, and in this sense, I agree with the “infomation managers.” But that is another topic. I am saying that some of the user needs should be expanded to include the needs of the experts who create and maintain the collection. While this may be obvious to the people on this list, it definitely is not obvious to non-specialists.