Wednesday, March 2, 2011

RE: Subjective Judgements in RDA 300s????

Posting to RDA-L concerning a record with the 300 description
"319 pages : |b illustrations (some coloured, all beautiful), maps ; |c 25 cm."

Jonathan Rochkind wrote:
Because like I said, I suspect that whether illustrations are present in color or not is not of much concern to 99% of patrons 99% of the time. In fact, if you think about it too hard it's a bit frustrating that expensive cataloger time is being spent marking down whether illustrations are colored or not (let alone correcting or changing someone elses spelling of colored!), when our actual real world records generally can't manage to specify things the user DOES care about a lot -- like if there is full text version of the item on the web and what it's URL is. (Anyone that has tried to figure this out from our actual real world shared records knows what I'm talking about; it's pretty much a roll of the dice whether an 856 represents full text or something else, it can't be determined reliably from indicators or subfields.)
Hal Cain wrote:
I don't agree -- maybe so in an academic environment, but for other kinds of libraries (school and public, and maybe specials too) the presence of illustrations can be a significant element in making a choice of the possibilities. The LCRI for AACR2 which enjoins just "illus." for all kinds of illustrative material doesn't help!
I think Jonathan is absolutely right. Cataloger time is valuable, and at least I *very much* hope cataloger time will become increasingly valuable in the future (since the opposite is a terrifying possibility!). It has always been the case that creating bibliographic records/metadata involves a tradeoff of including some information at the expense of other information. For example, the rule as it states now is that a cataloger needs only to add the first of a number of authors, and "use cataloger's judgment" concerning adding any others. Why should there be such flexibility on rule as important as this one (and which I personally believe is unwarranted), but then worry so much over whether the illustrations are colored (or coloured)? And Jonathan is completely correct about the problems with the 856 field, which I see miscoded much of the time anyway.

Yet, it is always interesting to compare matters with the rest of the metadata universe out there, since we should be trying to interoperate with them. If you look at the ONIX Best Practices look at p. 85 for "30. Illustration details & description" and see their guidelines. Frighteningly detailed, e.g. "500 illustrations, 210 in full color" but we see it can also be: halftones, line drawings, figures, charts, etc.

So, how are we supposed to handle this? If we get an ONIX record with "500 illustrations, 210 in full color, 35 figures, 26 line drawings, 8 charts", do we devote the labor to edit it down to AACR2/RDA thereby eliminating some very nice information? But if we just accept it, what do we do then with the materials we catalog originally? "illustrations (some coloured)" looks pretty lame in comparison and can certainly lead to confusion.

Finally, we should ask: how important is this issue compared to the many others facing the cataloging world today, and how much time should we spend on this issue when, as Jonathan points out, one thing people really want to know is that there is a free copy of Byron's poems online for download in Google Books, the Internet Archive, plus lots of other places, and here are some links. While you're at it, you may be interested in these other links to related resources that deal with Byron's poetry in different ways.

My own opinion is: people are confused in general by library catalogs and their records, while the "illustrations" section is one of the least important areas of confusion.

Considering all of this, maybe "illustrations (some coloured, a few beautiful, several less than aesthetically pleasing, and a couple downright nasty)" isn't so bad after all!

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