Monday, December 13, 2010

RE: Dublin Core as a replacement for MARC21

Posting to Autocat

Thomas Krichel wrote:

<snip>
> Expecting outsiders to understand our MARC standards is simply
> asking too much of them.
It's still rather straightforward compared to semantic web
standards, such as, say, RDF in XML encoding. Once they waded
through that, they will find that MARC is like a holiday on
the beach.
</snip>
It is the programmers who are the experts in RDF in XML encoding, not catalogers. The problem for programmers understanding MARC is the actual semantic meanings of the fields and subfields themselves. The example I gave was a single subfield: 245a, which the programmer thought was title, but it is actually "title proper" which means nothing to the layperson, but something highly specific to the expert. When you look at the definition in the MARC standards for "245a title proper" it is:
"Title proper and alternative title, excluding the designation of the number or name of a part. Subfield $a also contains the first title of separate works (by the same or different authors/composers) in a collection lacking a collective title."
A non-specialist should not even pretend to understand this, with its references to all different types of titles. Yet, we need to remember that the genuine rules for the bibliographic concept encoded in 245a are in AACR2 and ISBD. These rules are far more descriptive.

We are discussing only a single subfield, and not even the hardest one. How is a non-specialist then to understand bibliographic concepts such as "Statement of responsibility" or "Series statement" or "Uniform titles" and so on and so on? Certainly, a programmer can learn, just as a cataloger can learn programming fundamentals, but very few programmers, who are focused on building a functioning system, want to immerse themselves in such bibliographic minutiae.

We should not expect them to, and this is why I say that MARCXML on its own is not the answer. I don't know what the answer is, but we must be fully conscious of having the attitude (as I did for such a long time): "Well, our records are in XML now and that's enough. It's up to THEM to figure out what to do from there."

No, it's still OUR problem, since it is we who must enter their world, and not the other way around.

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