Tuesday, November 9, 2010

RE: Centralization (was: Catalogers and [no] respect)

Posting to Autocat

On Sat, 6 Nov 2010 11:51:09 -0800, J. McRee Elrod wrote:
>Marian Veld said:
>>Well, I like to think that our records *are* artisanally crafted, but I certainly hope we're not creating the massive duplication of 500 records for each work.
>I suspect what led to this strange assertion is that we each have *copies* of said record in our individual "silos".
>Personally, I find great comfort in this decentralization. It is a mistake. I think, to place all our eggs in one basket by having a national, continental. or international single linked database.
>Such a singular database could be disrupted or even lost by a natural or human made catastrophe.
I'm sure that everyone would agree with this, but the emphasis of Rick Anderson about the "500 artisanally crafted catalog records" is not, I think decrying the ultimate duplication of the records themselves, but the duplication of effort. Do we need 500 artisans each creating their own record for the same thing?

Naturally, this is overstating the point a bit. Where I disagree is that often, a non-cataloger will see some of the problems and then decide that the records we make are unimportant, especially so today with new tools, but attacks on the practice of cataloging have always occurred and is not at all new. Although it must all be repurposed and rethought, it seems obvious to me that bibliographic information is just as important today as ever before (just look at the "metadata trainwreck" debate http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1701), but the problems are in "how" those bibliographic records are created. If an OCLC master record for a book is terribly done, whenever another library buys that same book and uses the OCLC record for copy, then each library has to edit the record. If there were 500 libraries buying that book, then in effect Rick Anderson would be correct and the result is a completely unsustainable situation. RLIN would at least allow you to choose the record from the library you wanted, but with the master record, what you see is what you get.

Of course, the problem we are dealing with here is that our current standards are not being followed in many cases and in consequence, these are standards only "in theory" with the consequence that significant resources must be allotted to copy cataloging, or, libraries are forced to give up. I fear that RDA will only complicate this further.

Naturally, in the greater metadata universe of information from publishers, with other bibliographic agencies and lots of others, we meet lots more duplication. When looked at from this viewpoint, the duplication is staggering. I don't know how, but someday, somehow I am sure it will sort itself out and become more efficient.

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