Re: dates

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 27/07/2011 02:50, Karen Coyle wrote:

Quoting “Beacom, Matthew” <matthew.beacom@YALE.EDU>:

FRBR work and expression records could go pretty far to giving something like you are asking for, but it is not a sure thing that they would have to include dates to unambiguously identify a particular work. The date would be a valuable but not a necessary piece of information. To justify the need for the date of first creation (first conception would not be measurable in any practical way), a new generation catalog would need to be specifically defined and understood by users as a tool that would do much more than current library catalogs do.

I feel like library cataloging has become so focused on the OBJECT that is being cataloged that we almost forget that there is CONTENT in the object, and that the point of the object is to convey that content. I think libraries should be less focused on the object and more active in helping users learn about the content. (When was the last time we had a long discussion about subject analysis or classification?) I don’t care if we call it cataloging or subject access or bibliography, just as long as we do it.

In cataloging terminology, this is called “content” vs. “carrier”. For all kinds of reasons, the vast majority of which are practical, libraries have almost always concentrated on “carrier”. This distinction and the reasons for it have been misunderstood by many from the beginning, and I am doing some research on some of the earliest debates about this, now that I can through the magic powers of the Internet!

If catalogers had an unlimited amount of time to do their work, they could research all kinds of things, but the fact is, catalogers don’t even have the time to do what they are assigned to do now and their numbers can hardly be expected to increase anytime soon, if ever. Thus, there are and will continue to be tradeoffs. For example, would you rather that a cataloger spent his or her time researching the original dates of the “works” and “expressions”, or that they focus on cataloging new materials? What would the majority of library patrons prefer?

The library catalog that we have inherited is designed to perform in certain ways. We can go a long way toward enhancing those traditional “objectives” as Cutter termed them. But to pile on additional objectives makes the entire thing fall apart. As I wrote in my previous post, *if* we could crowdsource these additional objectives (another version of outsourcing) and put together different databases, e.g. dbpedia for Gilgamesh, this is something that might be realistically achieved. To do this though, Task No. 1 is to start using XML in some form. Then, all kinds of developers can begin to build tools that will exploit our databases, and we could exploit theirs.

To expect catalogers to spend even more of their precious time to figure out the dates of works, expressions, as well as the manifestations, while catalogers watch their numbers remain static or diminish, and their administrators watch the backlogs grow, is simply unrealistic.

We should be focusing on what we can do NOW, with what exists out there NOW. There are so many rich resources out there just waiting to be tapped. They could begin to be exploited NOW. I repeat that this should be the job of the next generation catalog. This would be much better than waiting for something that might appear in ten or fifteen years… maybe. And most probably not ever.