Tuesday, November 30, 2010

RE: Seeking a Web-based FRBR Catalog (catalogue)

Posting to RDA-L

Mike McReynolds wrote:
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I've been seeking examples of FRBR catalogs on the Web to point to as examples. Despite searching the RDA-L archives, library literature, the IFLA Web site and Google, I've not been able to locate a single example of a FRBR catalog. This would be helpful to justify the amount of time I've already devoted to modifying our cataloging software to simply accept RDA records imported from OCLC and then the amount of time I will spend re-learning cataloging.
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The problem with finding a genuine FRBR catalog is that it exists only in theory: for a true FRBR catalog to exist, you need another structure underlying the edifice, one based on the FRBR entity/attribute model, and nothing like that exists yet (that I know of anyway). For that to happen, we need a complete change in MARC format (which was created to exchange information on separate cards, i.e. complete information for each manifestation or edition), plus we would need changes in rules, to ensure that the information required in each entity is there, e.g. that the work record has the required information for all the relevant authors and subjects, that the expression record has the information for editors and versions, etc. etc. To create such a structure will require quite literally a sea change in how every cataloger works, and more importantly, how they think. Naturally, there would be tremendous concerns over retrospective conversion; otherwise we risk making everything we have now more or less obsolete.

In the meantime there are some projects that attempt to replicate the experience of an FRBR catalog, and the others have suggested several excellent ones. I personally like the example at http://zoeken.bibliotheek.be. Such projects are incredibly useful since they demonstrate that there is a lot we can do with the records we have right now, and these projects by no means exhaust the possibilities. I think it would be wise to take a step back and, using these projects which simulate a genuine FRBR tool, to ask seriously: would building a genuine FRBR sort of tool really provide our patrons with what they want or need? Does an FRBR tool answer the real-life questions our public brings to the catalog? Is it best, in these exceedingly trying financial conditions, to redo everything to build a tool that people *may not* find particularly useful?

I am as yet unaware of any user studies along these lines in relation to FRBR/RDA, but there are many studies of users, how they search for information and what they expect from it, from other viewpoints. Two of the latest are at: http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/communityacademiclibraries/887740-419/discovery_face-off_draws_a_crowd.html.csp (the Charleston Conference. I only read the LJ account, but I just discovered that some of the presentations are up at http://www.slideshare.net/event/2010-charleston-conference) and Project Information Literacy’s report at: http://projectinfolit.org/pdfs/PIL_Fall2010_Survey_FullReport1.pdf There are many other highly useful studies however, some of the most interesting coming from “library anthropologists”(!).

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