Saturday, July 16, 2011

Re: [NGC4LIB] "Is a Bookless Library Still a Library?"

Posting to NGC4LIB

On Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 4:48 PM, Karen Coyle wrote:
And yet ... look at the cataloging rules and you will see a culture obsessed with the THING itself and with very little concern about the information within the thing. Yes, there are subject headings (3) and one (1) classification code, but note that those aren't addressed in the cataloging code and aren't being discussed today the way that RDA is. Where is our interest in the information?  Why aren't we putting hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of person-hours into developing new ways to get at content? (And I don't mean expanding keyword searches over more and more databases with mainly descriptive metadata.)

(Apologies for the tardy reply, I have been away)
This is because cataloging has always concerned itself much more with the carrier instead of the content. For printed/physical items, this makes sense from a practical viewpoint. A catalog record I made 20 years ago that describes a printed book still describes that book.

But this is what I think is one of the biggest problems with RDA (and FRBR): they still concentrate on carrier, and bring that same focus to web resources. This results in an almost impossible situation where you have a static catalog record describing a resource that changes unpredictably. So, it's not such a strange occurrence to find that a whole series of items you cataloged last week had changed a lot in the meantime! And if they changed that much in the last week, what will be the differences in 20 years?

The rules we have for describing physical resources have proven themselves, but websites are a completely different animal. They need a completely different approach to ensure that the work done on them today is not simply wasted effort when the item changes, as it will inevitably. PDF will change to QDF or PEF or something--we know that. The URLs will change. Almost everything will in the record. So, the cataloging problem we facing is not with cataloging rules, but with record maintenance.

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