Friday, December 3, 2010

RE: Web catalog

Posting to RDA-L

Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
<snip>
RDA means a lot more than just some new or differently structured tags. That, indeed, should be done most easily in any system worthits salt, though no system will do it out of itself. If it does not empower you to do it for yourself (although it should), then reach for the telephone. But this aspect is superficial and and wouldn't justify the whole endeavor behind RDA, nor do it justice. It's about functions, not just fields.
</snip>
Yes, RDA/FRBR changes the entire Weltanschauung (poorly translated in English as World view) of the catalog, and therefore of necessity, of the cataloger as well. This was terribly difficult for me to understand at first, but when I realized that the fundamental changes were in the *displays* of the *works and expressions* (NOT the manifestation), then I began to understand things a bit better, and I tried to describe this through my series of podcasts. FRBR/RDA have nothing to do with additional ways of finding resources (still through the traditional author/title/subjects).

Our current catalogs and policies and almost everything we have done for the last several centuries has always been based on an individual piece--the physical manifestation of an intellectual creation, and relating it in various ways to the entire collection. FRBR/RDA turns that on its head and we can see this very well in the AustLit example provided by Deirdre (thanks a million!).

If we examine the page she gives at: http://www.austlit.edu.au/subscribe/samples.xml, and look at the "Broken Shore" example http://www.austlit.edu.au/common/samples/BrokenShore.htm, this demonstrates how it will work, where the descriptions are grouped together. The cataloger who imagines the "metadata" underlying those displays can sense that it will be quite different from what we have today since the same information is not repeated over and over again, as we see when we compare this to the list of separate records, as in a similar search in Worldcat: http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=ti%3A%22broken+shore%22+au%3Atemple&qt=results_page. I think the AustLit FRBR-type displays are much more understandable to the public.

Additionally, we look at the author page for Peter Temple and see the arrangement: http://www.austlit.edu.au/run?ex=ShowAgent&agentId=Aja where we see the totality of his works. Again, the cataloger should try to imagine the underlying information and structure to create such a page.

I think these views provide an excellent example of the different "Weltanschauungen" of the traditional catalog(ers) vs. the new methods, plus suggesting some of what the "new and improved" cataloger will be expected to do and perhaps more importantly, to conceptualize. This is why just adding a few extra fields and subfields to the catalog record is not/will not be adequate.

Once again, I have pointed out that as happens so often, what may seem to us today as new and innovative, is in reality very old, and the FRBR/RDA displays we see here are almost the same as what people saw and used in 19th-century printed catalogs (and earlier). Anyone taking the time to peruse the "new" and compare it with the "old" will see it immediately. Plus there is the imperative that we no longer see ourselves and our data as separate from the rest of the metadata universe; therefore, we must cooperate with many other bibliographic agencies out there, which have their own practices and purposes.

My own comments pertain to the wisdom of (re)creating such functions and displays in the 21st century, but that is a separate topic.

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