Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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

Posting to RDA-L

Hal Cain wrote:
My point is that what we provide in cataloguing should be accurate as far as it goes, and it should go as far as is reasonably foreseeable to be useful.
Absolutely agreed, but my point is: in the environment we are entering willy-nilly, where everyone and everything is supposed to interoperate, the definition of the word "accurate" must be reconsidered. This is why I added the ONIX example:
"500 illustrations, 210 in full color, 35 figures, 26 line drawings, 8 charts" 
"illustrations (some colo*u*red)"
as possible descriptions of the same item depending on who made it.

How does "accuracy" figure into this? Are we to consider them "equally accurate"? How does looking at everything in the aggregate affect matters, i.e. multiple records displaying multiple methods and the user sees differing practices more or less randomly? Will this trouble the users, or will they not even notice? How does the librarian figure into this? Does trying to maintain consistency in this bibliographic area not matter? Also, in the huge metadata universe beyond RDA/AACR2/ONIX, there are even more practices.

Personally, I don't think maintaining consistency is worthwhile in this case, but I am sure others would have different opinions.

I grant that illustrations are less critical, but counting the pages (extent) is far more important to decide that we are--or are not--looking at the same resource. There are lots (and lots and LOTS) of ways to count the number of pages. I discussed this at some length in that book "Conversations with Catalogers in the 21st Century". (I need to put my chapter up on the web) This is an area that certainly requires consistency.
A great deal of the detail provided in cataloguing has been irrelevant to the majority of users -- but vital to the people who manage the collections and make decisions about selection and discard, and significant to a fraction of end-users.
This is a key point that needs to be kept in mind. Libraries have their own needs and purposes (collection management) and this is reflected in their metadata. For the ONIX community, illustration information is added for their purposes, and represents an important *advertising* point, as they say in the Best Practices document under "Business Case" (these sections are absolutely vital to understanding ONIX):
"For many illustrated books the details on the illustrations are a critical selling point. Customers purchasing art books, for example, want to know the number of color plates included in a book.
Customers purchasing atlases want to know the number of maps included in the book. This information can only aid in the sales of illustrated books to both trading partners and end consumers."
Of course, this is quite different from the collection management purpose within the library catalog since there it is not a matter of getting people to open up their wallets and actually purchase a book, but rather simply to help them decide whether to consult it. (ILL is another matter)

I keep going back to the talk Michael Gorman gave at the RDA@yourlibrary conference. It still strikes me as the best way to move forward in the current environment.

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