Thursday, September 23, 2010

RE: Will RDA make OPAC design better?

Posting to Autocat

On Wed, 22 Sep 2010 10:58:34 -0500, Scott Piepenburg wrote:
>RDA does not (not really), nor should it, address retrieval, manipulation, display, etc. of information in an ILS. That is a function of system design and what it is supposed to do. While RDA (or any cataloging code) has a hand in it by determining what MUST and/or SHOULD be in the data record, how that data is used is ultimately up to system designers and us as librarians.
and Carolyn Baker wrote:
> Does the library have what I want/need?
> Where is it?
> Can I check it out and take it home?

First, I want to thank Tony La Luzerne for his vote of confidence. I really appreciate it, and while I fear that while he may be correct about "too little, too late," I believe it is far better to fail after your very best attempt than just to shake your head and say that it's hopeless.

Concerning the question that RDA does not address issues of retrieval, display, etc. although that may be its stated goal, I don't believe that is correct. Embedded into RDA is the FRBR world view of work/expression/manifestation/item (WEMI) using controlled access points for authors/titles/subjects. An embedded world view occurs also in MARC21, where we see the world view of AACR2, which in turn is based on the cards in the card catalog (e.g. single main entry, as only one example). No additional access is provided through RDA than what we have right now (aside from the elimination of the rule of three, which I don't know is such a great idea, and anyway could just as easily have been done through a new Rule Interpretation).

RDA is designed to present the FRBR world view (WEMI), which we must admit, in the ultimate scheme of things, is not that much different from what we have right now, except it essentially devalues or even eliminates the unit record, and in its stead envisions a more coherent multiple display of different variants; a display that is extremely reminiscent of those found in 19th century printed catalogs. But the end result, even if we assume that our patrons really do want to find/identify/select/obtain works/expressions/manifestations/objects by their authors/titles/subjects, we must recognize that they can do *precisely the same things right now*, today. The difference in FRBR and RDA is in the multiple display. In fact, I suspect that the current MARC format in XML format could probably generate these displays now. At a superficial level I see nothing preventing it, but I could be proven wrong.

Concerning Carolyn Baker's:
> Does the library have what I want/need?
> Where is it?
> Can I check it out and take it home?

This is true to a point. But additionally, (at least I believe) the catalog should allow the patron to explore the intellectual contents of the library. This means that we must move further back in the process: I'm not even sure of what I want or need; can someone or something help? This is where the subject heading arrangement that allows for all kinds of exploration of concepts through its subdivisions, plus the syndetic structure of the main headings (BT, NT, RT, and notes) could be much more valuable to the public than it is now. So, I think I may be interested in "Dogs" but discover that what I am really interested in is "Dogs--War use--Vietnam--History--20th century." or "Hiking with dogs." In this way, the card catalog arrangement helped us to think. This undoubted power of the card catalog, which can be easily demonstrated, is something I have not encountered anywhere else and has been lost in the conversion to electronic form because it has not been adapted to the new technology. This is something that needs to be reconsidered from the beginning, in order to bring back a power that, I think, is sorely missed.

But beyond this, we must reconsider the question: what does the library "have" today? Is it only the materials that the library pays for, i.e. the books on the shelves and the expensive databases? If our catalogs allow people to search only the materials we pay for, it is automatically limiting and any person who uses Google will see this immediately and the result is that many conclude our tools to be defective.

Of course, including resources that are essentially out of the library's control (on the world "wild" web), means changes in selection, workflow, reference, etc. Yet, I think it is inevitable, since these are the directions the world is taking.

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