Wednesday, September 1, 2010

RE: Time and effort

Posting to RDA-L

Miksa, Shawne wrote, concerning the initial steps of implementing AACR2:

Again, all very interesting and I think pertinent to current discussions surrounding RDA development, testing, and possible implementation in the years to come. I would not suppose that any implementation is going to happen next year—mostly likely not for a few years—in which case it would prudent to start planning now on how to implement, or not. As I have said in previous postings (either here or on NGC4LIB), we don’t yet have enough data to make such decisions. In looking back at the context surrounding AACR2 implementation we can see that we obviously enjoy a vast technology communications advantage and the ability to exchange information almost instantaneously. However, funding training and implementation and the amount and length of individual time and effort each of us has to put into studying and learning a new way of cataloging is, in my opinion, unchanged.

While this may be correct for that historical moment in the implementation of AACR2, the basic purpose of the recommendation of the Working Group (at least as I understand it) is that no arguments are made for actual improvements over what we have now (again quoting from their report):
"The business case for moving to RDA has not been made satisfactorily. The financial implications (both actual and opportunity) of RDA adoption and its consequent, potential impact on workflow and supporting systems may prove considerable. Meanwhile, the *promised benefits of RDA-such as better accommodation of electronic materials, easier navigation, and more straightforward application-have not been discernible in the drafts seen to date*." [my emphasis--JW]

To state it yet one more time, if a case can be made that all these changes and disruptions are worth it for something better, I think there would be fewer problems. But I still have not seen how RDA or FRBR will make anything better for anyone: not for the users, not for reference, and certainly not for catalogers. Can someone please explain where we can expect to see the improvements and capabilities over what we have now?

When the library world was moving to AACR2, although all knew there would be incredible disruptions, there were definite, concrete advantages that everyone could understand, although many still didn't think it was worth the change: if all of the English-speaking library world would accept the same rules and practices for description and for name headings, then the amount of copy cataloging could increase tremendously (as it in fact did), but nothing similar is planned with the implementation of RDA, at least so far as I know. For example, are publishers really ready to get on the bandwagon to create RDA records, even though they won't create AACR2 records? It would surprise me, but I am willing to be surprised. If not publishers, then are there other bibliographic agencies who will join in? Which ones? Are RDA/FRBR displays really what our public want and need? Will there be improvements in access? Will productivity increase? Where and why?

Is all this really too much to ask? If there are no improvements going forward, why do it? (That was what my first podcast was about) Although such questions may be awkward to raise, we must nevertheless raise these sorts of questions, and answer them as well, since sooner or later, upper echelons will ask these sorts of questions and demand answers. I think it would be better to answer such highly predictable questions sooner rather than later.

There could be many improvements made right now without major disruptions, first, by moving toward a more XML-type format that the public could utilize and making our records open. Participating in cooperative projects such as dbpedia could make our work more widely used and appreciated far more than it is now. I am sure others on this list would have many more ideas.

Beyond all of these considerations, at least some efforts should be made toward understanding what are the needs of our users, and since these needs are obviously changing, to try to determine in what direction their needs are heading. Only then can we start to decide what to build and how we should change. But it must be accepted that catalogers are *most definitely NOT* the people to know what people need from information. That can only come from reference librarians and the public, the researchers, scholars, and students, themselves.

While I am the first to declare that we need major changes--*real changes*--they must be changes that move us forward, and not simply toward another, more complicated way of doing what we do now.

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