Friday, November 26, 2010

RE: Copyright vs. publication dates

Posting to Autocat

On Thu, 25 Nov 2010 13:56:59 -0500, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
<snip>
[Mac wrote:]
>>
>> >It's $c [2009] or $c [not after 2009]
>>
>> How is the redundant: 260$c[2009], c2009, or $c[2009],$g2009, or all three, helpful to anyone?
>
Because they draw attention to the fact that different data elements are referred to. How hard is it to get people to see that the first element after 260 $c is ALWAYS the date of publication or the probable date of publication? Otherwise we rely on people inferring "Oh, a copyright date by itself. I guess the cataloger made the decision to double up its meaning for both Date of publication and Date of copyright." Quite frankly, I've found some staff and catalog users mystified by the presence of such marked up data when the expectation that it's only one kind of data and not crammed with several.
</snip>
I have found over the years lots of staff and many more users mystified by all kinds of things in the catalog, but we sure don't do much about them. How about the inane heading "Tolstoy, Leo, graf, 1828-1910" which mixes an English-form of his name with his Russian title instead of Count? I've had lots of questions of that sort, and nobody likes the answer. The rule about separate headings for different pseudonyms has made lots of people mad. ("You mean I have to look him up under *all* those forms of name?! Yes.) How about us not making separate records for items with different ISBNs? The use of "1 v. (various pagings)" is a big one. Subject headings are particularly weird for lots of patrons. The list could expand for a long time.

What I am getting at is just because people don't understand something in the catalog is no reason to consider it a problem. I don't understand lots of things on a car, my tv set, my dvd player, my computer and lots of things at work, but I don't worry about them. If I wanted to learn about them, I know that I could, but it's not that important to me to put out the effort. This happens to every single person in the world every single day. So I ask: why should it be different for a catalog record? Let's be realistic about it: most users don't have the slightest idea how a library catalog works anyway. Understanding a date is the least of their problems!

In any case, I cannot imagine that the proposed RDA practice that repeats redundant information, e.g. [2009], c2009; or 2009, 2009 can possibly be less mystical to users than what we have now.

We can reform the dates in the catalog record, that would be fine, but it should be for practical purposes (as I mentioned concerning its possible use for cataloging simplification) and we should not delude ourselves that this will be any clearer for our users, because it simply won't be. A lot of the information in a catalog record is not for the user, but for librarians to manage the collection. There is nothing at all strange or wrong with this and as I mentioned above, we run into this same practice in other professions dozens or even hundreds of times every day in our lives, and we forget it immediately. Our users are no different from us: they see lots of things in a library they do not understand. Some of those many things are in catalog records. Big deal. Most of them don't even notice, and those very few that it bothers can ask.

I repeat, the changes we institute should have practical goals, not abstract, theoretical goals. We no longer have the luxury for theory.

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