Tuesday, April 12, 2011

RE: FRBR

Posting to RDA-L
Megan Curran wrote:
<snip>
I just feel like if our catalogs are on the web, and most of what we catalog is in the web environment, then the rules should be made for that environment. Using coding tricks and discovery layers to force paper-based cataloging rules into a web environment amounts to putting lipstick on a pig. The data display can only be as good as the data underneath, and the data should be relevant to the environment in which it's processed.

I understand the reticence of veteran catalogers. Unlike other areas of librarianship, the rules have stayed relatively static and continued working for a long time. I think the RDA skepticism is good, because the discussion will result in a better set of standards in the long run. But I think RDA has a lot of potential, I'm looking forward to seeing how it pans out in the day to day.
</snip>
As one of those veteran catalogers, I honestly do not see how the changes in RDA have a lot of potential. Which changes do you have in mind? The abbreviations? The changes in the headings of the Bible? The lack of the $b in titles?

While the potential changes with FRBR would be noticeable to the public because of different displays, I truly do not see how the changes with RDA will even be noticed by our public. What will they notice first? It seems to me that if people really do not like our catalogs as they are today, it is RDA that will be the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig.

There are many, many problems with our library catalogs and they should not be ignored. Very few of those problems are with the rules--it's how the catalog works in an environment that is not a card catalog. This should have been discussed a *long* time ago, but it wasn't. Now, it's coming back to haunt us.

Our rules have always been made for non-changing, physical items: books, serials, scores, recordings, maps, etc. but in the online environment, any record a catalog creates may not describe the remote resource just 5 minutes after it was created. Remote-accessed, dynamic resources are substantially different from printed items and special rules should be made for those resources. So far as I know, the book as we know it may become far less important in our society fairly soon (lots of people are saying that!), and other physical items may follow fairly quickly. Are librarians only interested in physical items that are arranged on shelves? I hope not!

There is a place for librarians and people who "describe and organize" all of these resources, I am sure. But where is that place? How do they (we) remain relevant in such a society?

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