Wednesday, September 22, 2010

RE: Whiny and demanding; rude and arrogant; clueless and uninformed

Posting to NGC4LIB

A short reply back:

Daniel CannCasciato wrote:
<snip>
> What is my evidence that catalogers don't have the imagination? They *STILL* insist that people primarily want . . .

that isn't evidence, since there's no data out there proving your assertion. Take a browse into the RDA or Autocat discussions on the matter and it would appear the assertion is baseless.
</snip>

Which proves my point: you can't prove anything like this using only catalogers. Autocat and RDA are lists for catalogers. You must go outside. Please point me in the direction of any kind of research that says that our patrons really do want the FRBR kind of access so desperately, as opposed to other needs. One article I find particularly interesting is: "The Pragmatic Basis of Catalog Codes: Has the User Been Ignored?" Jon R. Hufford http://wendolene.tosm.ttu.edu/bitstream/handle/2346/510/fulltext.pdf?sequence=1 I agree with the conclusions, but will point out that when user needs were really debated was in that Royal Commission that we all learned about in library school, where Panizzi defeated everyone. After that, later catalogers pointed back to the Commission, as if the matter were settled for all time. I think it is long past time to genuinely open up the debate again, and assume that we know nothing. Apparently however, such a stance is considered by many to be just too controversial.

As I have pointed out many times: the debate is being reopened now, but much of it is not necessarily in the library field. A lot of research is being done now concerning scholarly communication; but I think that it is even more important for people to just sit with a regular user and do some reference work for awhile. Simply talk to people who need information and try to help them. It is very difficult, and incredibly enlightening. I have learned a lot from every patron: both negative and positive. Unless you are really lucky and you get a day where everybody just happens to ask for editions of something that we already know about, (What is the latest version you have of the Iliad?) you will discover for yourself how little use FRBR is for answering real, everyday questions. Reference librarians see it every day, and they have known it for a long time already.

This is a sad fact to accept. The reason I point out feelings is that this realization has hurt my own feelings. After all, I have spent years working on improving my cataloging abilities, and this is very hard to accept, but it is a fact. Once we face up to it though, the question becomes: where do we go from here? In my own experience, I think that's when we become free. That is where we discover that our skills and our records are, and still can be, immensely useful (or at least, I hope so), but we must repurpose them. It sounds as if Christine Schwartz is a great example in this way. I agree with her completely. I have tried my best to follow the same track.

My next podcast will probably prove interesting.

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