Posting to RDA-L
Laurence Creider wrote:
Please do not tell me to consult the workflows; if you are making a cataloging code, the rules should be structured not according to a theoretical model but to facilitate the production of metadata, in other words, the very nitty-gritty contact between any model or rules and the varieties and perversities of the ways information resources present themselves.
Well said! Although theory is fine, it all ultimately comes down to a very practical task: I have this *thing* I need to add to the collection, so I have to make some kind of metadata for it. One part of this metadata is a title. My resource has three possible titles on it, plus a fourth if I use my imagination a bit (this happens a lot with books, which may have different titles on the title page, vs. the half title, vs. the running title, plus there may be a series title or title of a related variant). Which titles do I need to enter and how do I enter these titles into the record in a way that is coherent to patrons and to other librarians? This may seem easy, and often it is easy, and other times it is very difficult. Naturally, this same task needs to be extended to every single part of the record. Catalogers do not have time to sit around and theorize about these matters since there are mountains of materials waiting.
For many years, I was the moderator of SIG-IA, the ASIS&T list for Information Architecture, and sometimes the discussions would veer into metadata creation. Most of these people were web masters who had no idea that there even were any rules for such an esoteric task. I remember in particular, one woman who was trained as a dancer, who said that she created her metadata through “her feelings”. Looking up rules and practices of others was *not* for her. Another time, I had a series of discussions with a faculty member who was trying to set up what would later be called an open archive and he wanted to get faculty to create metadata for their own resources. This fellow actually listened to my explanation of what cataloging is: following rules and trying as best you can to maintain consistency (I showed him the rules and LC classification tables, which blew him away), and he finally became very depressed about faculty making their own metadata, because he came to understand the importance of consistency, and as he put it: faculty members see metadata creation as extensions of their own creativity. Obviously, these popular views of metadata creation reveals something quite different from following cataloging standards as closely as you possibly can.
Also, there are practical issues that could be more or less safely ignored in that past, but we must discuss them today, as exemplified in the recent Autocat thread: “Help! “Elevator speech” for keeping a cataloger” http://tinyurl.com/645bdgl, where the thread’s originator wrote: “I am hoping your feedback will sway my boss. She has a general disdain for “traditional” library activities, which includes the library catalog and cataloging in general. She has described authority control as a waste of time and wonders why we should bother with a catalog at all.” This type of administrator is not at all unique today. In many cases, there are no “friends of the library” in upper echelons.
Ultimately, I think it is the lack of a sound and reasonable business case in favor of RDA which is the real problem. This has been brought up over and over again, including in the report of the Working Group. Everyone is just supposed to accept that it makes sense to spend all this time and effort training people how to use the new rules, with the final result that abbreviations are spelled out and that N.T. and O.T. are not entered into their headings anymore. People will see weird dates and some relator codes here and there, but otherwise, they will see no changes of substance. Searching will be the same, the records will look the same, everything will be the same except for some details here and there that probably, no one will even notice unless catalogers point them out.
Compare this with the ONIX Best Practices at http://www.bisg.org/docs/Best_Practices_Document.pdf and you will see that *each field* has an associated business case in its favor. Although I don’t think this level is necessary for library cataloging rules, at some point something will have to be done, because otherwise the changes RDA offers seem completely random and strange with no overall purpose–at least this is how they seem to me and I am sure how they seem to many others. I still see *no tangible advantages* whatsoever and I cannot imagine that a non-library administrator would see any more than I do.
As a result, if there is no convincing business case–and it will have to be a pretty convincing one–I fear that the attitude above must win out among administrators who absolutely have to save money today. They are thinking: where can I cut? I can imagine that they would conclude: if this is all catalogers can offer, why should we bother with a catalog at all? What else can we do that will offer savings and access?