Posting to Autocat
Joel Hahn wrote:
There may be evidence that people want FRBR-type displays, but it’s kind of hard to do that sort of research in the absence of comparable bibliographic metadata designed to support FRBR-type displays, let alone the absence of a truly bleeding-edge FRBR-type display.
I cannot agree that we don’t know if people will want something until we make it for them. Businesses do this kind of research all of the time. I haven’t seen any studies at all, but I have seen the statistics and people tell me how much they love the new tools, and are using library catalogs less and less. My experience working with young people is that they have conceptual problems with the idea of searching “metadata/summary records,” which is much more abstract for them than the Google-type searching they can do, which leads them right into the full-text. I don’t think young people are stupid at all, it’s that they are having troubles relating to what we make because it is becoming more and more distant from what they use much more often: full-text searching. The task is to fit what we make into their world and not vice-versa.
But I can’t count how many times I’ve heard catalogers mention here and elsewhere that they follow local practices like cataloging mass-market paperbacks and trade hardcovers and multiple editions of each on the same record, just so that patrons can find all print versions of that work in one place and place one hold that can be filled by any version. (And often e-books and large print versions, too.)
I have also heard several times from ILL librarians who’ve had to deal with patrons who were absolutely irate that the version of a book that came to fill their request wasn’t the version they wanted. (Different editor, different afterward, different edition, different CD-ROMs, print
size too small, etc.) That is likely a case of a loud minority getting the most attention, but any library metadata scheme that isn’t granular enough to also support bibliographic research isn’t doing its patrons any favors, whether they realize it or not.
If there are problems with holds because of versions, that is a separate issue from FRBR and RDA. But concerning ILL: that has to do with the quality of the metadata, where I have seen a lot of problems, too: wrong editions attached to the wrong resources, and don’t even get me started on lousy subject analysis! Again, this is a problem with training of staff who are supposed to ensure that the description (and subjects?) follow agreed upon standards and genuinely represent the item. Enacting FRBR/RDA will only be yet another standard everybody can ignore.
That has already been done to some extent–OCLC’s doing it right now in worldcat.org, for example, and I saw a VTLS demo at ALA shortly after the original FRBR report was published of FRBR “tree” displays–but without the proper direct links in the metadata itself, the process of grouping related records is somewhat error-prone and not as useful as it theoretically *could* be, and the programming required to try to work around the inherent blind spots is very laborious to come up with. (It’s also difficult to programmatically split up existing MARC bibliographic records into three levels–but a split into two levels can be done without nearly as much difficulty, by co-opting and, where necessary, generating title & name/title authority records for the “Work” level and the existing bib record for the “Manifestation” level.)
But is it less laborious to redo all of the cataloging, retrain people all over the world, change all the systems and documentation, etc. etc. etc.? While I am sympathetic for the poor programmers, after all, that’s their job, no matter how laborious it is. It is their job to save our labor, and not the other way around. For example, the records themselves really do not need to be split in order to have novel displays of multiple records. That can readily be seen in all kinds of information databases.