Thursday, March 10, 2011

RE: question about RDA: title capitalization and ME relator codes

Posting to Autocat

On Wed, 9 Mar 2011 09:58:19 -0500, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
<snip>
These authorized access points are there for backwards compatibility-- for card catalogs and for linking of headings in MARC environments. So no, the main entry is not just an anachronism-- it is still a critical component tied into the current functionality of our catalogs, whether collocating headings or in linking headings in a MARC environment. So one still has to know the instructions for main entry to create card catalogs and MARC catalogs. But RDA is organized in such a way that future catalogs can be constructed without them, and therefore without the idea of main entry.
</snip>
That's nice to know that the need to choose a single main entry will apparently no longer be needed someday in the future, but for now, we still need to do it. Nevertheless, I have always said that main entry is a vital concept, but a single one is, without a doubt, anachronistic.
<snip>
>"Finding" can mean scattershot keyword searching, or it can mean controlled searching where you find **all** the resources related to an entity. In the case of Clint Eastwood, you can find all resources he is associated with, or you can find those resources where he played a particular role. Indicating that role with something like a relationship designator helps people find the resources they're interested in. A statement on the resource specifying who's the director is an identifying element, but the function of the relationship designator (a different element) is to help people find those resources.
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>The task is "find" not "identify" in this case.
</snip>
I still don't agree, but I am tired of discussing the 19th century user tasks, and I am sure others are sick of reading (or listening) to me about this. Besides, the next point is more important:
<snip>
>Many years ago, in my SQL course, a class assignment had everyone create a database for DVDs. Within no time we had tables for the equivalent of manifestations, expressions, items, persons, and roles. That's Mom-and-Pop stuff for DVD rental store databases, and every kid in the class got it. My take was that this was so similar to library cataloging except that we seemed scared stiff about things like relationship designators, when in fact the idea is elementary and widely used.
</snip>
I've done the same thing, but there is a tremendous difference between the rather elementary (today) task of creating a brand new relational database with different tables, and the library task of taking what has been handed down to us after over 100 years' worth of work and dealing with what we have. If librarians were setting up a brand-new database, I am sure they would never choose a MARC type of format, and I am even more sure that they would not choose ISO2709 for record transfer. If they did, they would be laughed out of the office! Plus, the amount of change in the cataloging procedures and rules themselves since the beginning of the modern library catalog has been breathtaking as well. These are just facts, and is what we have now.

Libraries are also different from most other organizations in that we are supposed to make resources cataloged from 150 years ago (and more in some cases) just as easy to search and available as anything processed today. Most other organizations do not need this sort of accessibility for their older materials and therefore, archive anything that is over 10 years old, if not less. Therefore, to find those materials is more difficult but they don't care because older materials are considered less important and needed very rarely.

I have met several database designers who say libraries need to do the same thing: just throw your old stuff into a separate archival database and start in with something entirely new. If this happened, then your example of a Mom and Pop DVD store might be applicable. (I have a sneaking suspicion that something like this may be in the plans, and it may actually be more or less achievable--but I am merely guessing)

But no matter what: we will still be dealing with our legacy *data*. Whether we like it or not, our predecessors did not include information that we would like to have today and we don't have the sci-fi option of getting into our time ship, travelling back and saying, "You dummies! Do it THIS way!!!" We have what we have.

So the only *correct* answer for someone wanting to find people by relator codes (relationship designators) of "editor", "author", "translator", "director", "actor" and so on is: the library catalog is not the correct tool. Although the information is there, you have to dig it out of the statements of responsibility and/or the notes. The library catalog is not and will never be the correct tool for such a task because it wasn't designed for it. There's nothing awful or terrible about stating this: it is also not the place to find journal articles, or specific chapters in books (although sometimes the chapter titles are entered) or tons of other things. Certainly, people expecting full-text keyword searching should not use a library catalog (but many don't understand this).

In the case of searching for directors of films however, this is not any kind of a problem at all for the searcher since there are other tools that can be consulted *just as easily* as our library catalogs, if not easier. With other types of resources, there may be other tools out there. For all I know, there may be a database that lists people working only as editors or translators. If so, maybe we could work with it.

The problem at this point is to figure out a way so that the searchers know that they must switch to other tools to find information that either doesn't exist in the catalog, or that another tool is much more efficient for them. How do we let them know? At one time, people were supposed to ask the reference librarian, but not that many people asked, and it sure doesn't work today. Today, the catalog must supply that information somehow. I don't know what is the best way, but I know there are several possibilities. I am sure there must be a number of different solutions, so long as we are innovative and decide to honestly cooperate.

Working with the other information providers on the web would certainly be a lot of work for the IT staff, but far more progressive than just adding the relator information to new records, which would forever provide false information to the catalog searcher, yet, it would also be far *less* work than a mind-boggling retrospective conversion, which would waste tremendous amounts of library resources on a very minor task when we are faced with real problems.

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