Wednesday, December 8, 2010

RE: Recording Relationships in MARC

Posting to RDA-L

Jonathan Rochkind wrote:
<snip>
I don't think anyone is realistically suggesting that existing legacy records be manually changed to not have abbreviations.

RDA is just suggesting that going forward they are not used.

For all the carping from catalogers that love abbreviations, I do not
understand what the benefit is supposed to be. [For what it's worth, it
would actually be _easier_ for software to take fully spelled out words
and abbreviate them in display, then it is to expand abbreviations.

Although not neccesarily a walk in the park either way.]
</snip>
Why shouldn't we change? In a word, to maintain consistency. Isn't it the systems people who complain all the time that our data is lousy because data is entered in all kinds of different ways? So, if we don't redo the old stuff (which I agree certainly isn't worth it) but we change going forward, we break consistency and make automated solutions even more difficult, as has been pointed out in different ways by many programmers on various lists.

If we change without touching the legacy data, the argument that we are doing it for the utility of our patrons falls apart since they will still have to face the onerous task of figuring out what "p." means for a long, long time. (And as an aside, I realize that there is some inconsistency now, with older records having "illus." for instance, but there are relatively few of these)

When it comes to abbreviations, we must see the real problem: our users have to face records in our catalogs that have all kinds of abbreviations: IBM, etc., p., et al., Oxfam, AIDS, FAO, UN, GOP, and on and on and on. If we were serious about dealing with the "abbreviations problem" from our *patron's point of view*, we should not expect our patrons to be able to distinguish library-controlled abbreviations from all of the others, and then deal only with that part of "the problem", which is the part of the least interest to our users, and ignore the huge number of other abbreviations they see all the time that they may not understand. Therefore, if we consider that there is an "abbreviations problem", then it should be discussed and the parameters should be delineated; then we should determine the relative importance of abbreviations vs. other issues facing us, and then take steps to deal with it if it is decided it is important enough.

But we should realize that breaking consistent practice has major consequences in a computerized environment.

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