Monday, May 31, 2010

RE: AACR2 and RDA sample records from LC

Posting to Autocat

"Mark K. Ehlert" wrote:

<snip>
LC is now offering some comparative sample bib records constructed under AACR2 and RDA rules: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/RDAtest/rdaexamples.html
Linked to from LC's RDA Test documentation site: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/RDAtest/rdatest.html
</snip>

These are interesting examples that show how little RDA is changing anything of substance. If the general public thought catalogers were weird before because we were obsessed over our semicolons and dashes, this new focus on abbreviations and capitalization will not make us look much better. Of course, with the exception of eliminating the rule of three-which has both definitely positive and definitely negative points-none of this has to do with access, but simply how records display.

This reminds me of a debate I saw many years ago on the MacNeil-Lehrer news show, where one man had "translated" Shakespeare into modern English, while there was another man who didn't like the translation. It turned out that the second man had no problem in general with translating Shakespeare, but it was important to translate the work to make it more understandable to people today. They focused on Juliet's famous line, "Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?"

This had been translated as "Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore are you Romeo?" and the second fellow said this was wrong. People don't really have much trouble understanding "are you" for "art thou". The problem in this line lies with another word: wherefore. Most people assume it's just another way of saying "where" but it really means "why". If you think Juliet is just wondering where Romeo was at that moment, the later soliloquy makes little sense, but when you realize she is saying "why are you Romeo?" things become clearer:
"Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet."

And she continues on to,
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet."

So, a better translation would have been something like "Romeo, Romeo! Why are you named Romeo?" or even "Romeo, Romeo! Why art thou named Romeo?"
The second fellow convinced me!

LC's RDA examples illustrate a similar dilemma, in my opinion. Because of changes in technology from the last 20 years or so, people have lots of problems understanding and using both our catalogs and catalog records, both of which are based on an earlier time. But the changes in RDA will not lead to a better understanding among the public of how our catalogs function or how to use the catalog records to do things you can't do in Google. We need to concentrate on the real problems facing our patrons and not just deal with the display.

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