Thursday, September 9, 2010

RE: Elementary errors (Was: Rule of three--gone??)

Posting to Autocat

Kevin M. Randall wrote:
James Weinheimer wrote:
> As I wrote before, I still believe that people want the traditional information that library catalogs provide, but that we should no longer believe that people primarily want to "find/identify/select/obtain: works/expressions/manifestations/items by their authors/titles subjects".

This is still useful access for many, but we really need to go beyond these traditional tasks and why I believe FRBR is already obsolete.
You are continually making this assertion, but I have yet to see any kind of example of what you are talking about. What exactly is it that people are trying to do, in regard to bibliographic metadata, that FRBR doesn't address? I would like to see even just one example.
I reply: look at how you, yourself, search in Google. Are you doing the FRBR user tasks? No, because it is impossible to do them since there are no options for author, title, or subject, while retrieving the WEMI is completely out of the question, and yet nevertheless, the results can be quite good, and many people out there vastly prefer those results over traditional catalog access.

I recently addressed this up to a point on the RDA-L list, a copy of my post is on my blog at: The main problem is that the FRBR structure of WEMI is based on printed items that do not change (taken almost completely from Cutter in 1876, which is actually quite amazing!), and it really does not fit virtual materials, which can be incredibly complex. Just a bit of working with the public as a reference librarian shows that people have incredible difficulties with the catalog. And yet, we must admit that people have always had trouble with a library's catalog. It is nothing new and has been with us for a long time.

The public searches the library catalog like they search Google, and necessarily they get very poor results. That's one reason why many prefer Google. The very idea of searching by author is strange to these people, while the concept of authority control is almost impossible for them to grasp. The rare times when they do listen long enough to really understand it, they tend to like it a lot, but the difficulties of explaining the idea of authority control to people who are not interested (i.e. the vast majority of people) should not be underestimated.

Several non-librarians, non-catalogers, and even some catalogers that I have conversed with, have concluded that since this is undeniable, what we make is obsolete and should be dispensed with.

I want to state categorically that I *do not agree* with that at all, but we must recognize that there are these deep problems--and the problems are *not* with the public, who just do not know or understand how to search the catalog, and are therefore somebody else's problem, the problem lies elsewhere, and in many cases, with us. Exactly where? I'm not sure, but certainly the traditional catalog interface and searching methods are from another time. There is a lot of research going on right now, trying to find out how people are relating to and using information, and what they expect. One problem (or promise?) is that we are in a time of transition, where new tools come out almost daily, so anything that may be discovered today, may turn out to be changed in only a couple of years or so.

At one time, catalogers built their tools and the public was expected to adapt their behavior and "needs" to them or do without. Now, this situation has turned around: we are the ones who must adapt to them, or ....

There are many other issues that I won't go into now, because I am saving them for my podcasts.

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