Sunday, November 28, 2010

RE: Statement Naming More Than One Person, Etc.: Mark of omission before supplied information

Posting to RDA-L

J. McRee Elrod wrote:
<snip>
Mark Ehlert said:
>(Something to fall back on when the RDA text is wishy-washy--which says something about the RDA text as is stands now.)
The end result will be increased variation in practice among those
creating bibliographic records.
</snip>
Although I am a fervent believer in consistency, I believe that the future of bibliographic standards will come to resemble other standards, e.g. standards for food. As an example, you can look at the standards of the Codex Alimentarius and how they work: http://www.codexalimentarius.net/web/standard_list.jsp
If you look at almost any standard, for example, the following is taken from the one for honey, we see standards such as:
3.4 MOISTURE CONTENT
(a) Honeys not listed below - not more than 20%
(b) Heather honey (Calluna) - not more than 23%
or
3.5.2 Sucrose Content

(a) Honey not listed below
- not more than 5 g/100g

(b) Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), Citrus spp., False
Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia), French
Honeysuckle (Hedysarum), Menzies Banksia
(Banksia menziesii),Red Gum (Eucalyptus
camaldulensis), Leatherwood (Eucryphia
lucida), Eucryphia milligani
- not more than 10 g/100g
(c) Lavender (Lavandula spp),Borage (Borago officinalis)- not more than 15 g/100g
I freely confess that I do not understand the first thing about making honey, so all of this means nothing to me, but I accept that to experts it means something very specific and is very important. And as a consequence, everybody who cares about honey actually cares about these standards, although the vast majority of people who eat honey don't even know these standards exist and even fewer have read them. We can also see from just these little examples that food standards are almost always minimums and not maximums, i.e. they allow plenty of room for additional quality but certain minimums are guaranteed. I think there is a lot we can all learn from such standards.

So, I think that as future bibliographic standards evolve, they will become guidelines for minimums, and not how they are now: "thou shalt transcribe the statement of responsibility from precisely these sources of information using precisely these methods".

Exactly how these new types of standards will work in practice, I cannot very well imagine at this point, but it seems something like this may be the only way to ensure some level of reliability that different bibliographic agencies can achieve. We have to face facts: it is becoming ever more essential that libraries and library catalogers get all the help they can. This will mean real and true cooperation with other relevant bibliographic agencies. This was never possible before but today, using modern technology, the possibility for cooperation on a previously unimaginable level is available. This will mean however, fundamental changes for absolutely *everyone* involved, not least of all, libraries. Based on the development of standards in other areas, perhaps determining minimal levels is a more profitable way to go than the traditional library method of: everyone will do *this* in precisely *these ways*. This has a possible consequence of lack of consistency, and this must be dealt with in some way. Right now, I don't know how it could be done.

Incredible changes are happening now anyway, and apparently more will come very soon. Here is a recent article from the Guardian that describes a bit of what our British colleagues may be seeing. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/nov/22/library-cuts-leading-authors-condemn
"Writers Philip Pullman, Kate Mosse and Will Self have criticised government cuts that could see up to a quarter of librarians lose their jobs over the next year. Widespread library closures are expected as councils cut their services and look to volunteers in an attempt to balance budgets hit by the coalition's spending review."
Profound changes are happening to the profession right now and practical methods must be taken to deal with them.

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