Re: Browse and search BNB open data

Posting to RDA-L

On 04/08/2011 21:33, Karen Coyle wrote:


But the rule is that mostly, you use the publication date of the first manifestation of the “expression”.  (I can’t find the rule for this right now, since I don’t have access to a lot) The only example I can find right now is King Kong:, where if you look at the related titles, you will see 1933, while the date of publication of this item is 1984. “King Kong (Motion picture : 1933)”

Aha! Thanks. Although… isn’t this an even more arcane bit of data than the first date of the work? And many (including you) were doubtful that catalogers could supply that.

Not really, because focusing on the manifestation assumes that there has been something published somewhere. Most of the time this is fairly simple, because often, your (later) item discusses the earlier version and saves you a lot of time. If your item does not supply this information, too bad, but by following the rule of “Seek and ye shall find”, which sometimes might take quite a bit of work, by using Worldcat, the NUC, and all kinds of other catalogs out there, plus a bit of ingenuity, you can normally find a record or citation to that first item published. Besides, most normal catalogers do such an amount of research very rarely. It wouldn’t surprise me that if the lack of real consistency in these fields reflects the cataloger’s lack of time, plus the general feeling that few patrons understand, use, or want uniform titles so it is not worthwhile spending the time. (I don’t necessarily agree, as I discuss below, but the feeling is out there)

Comparing this to hunting out a first date of something as vague as the “work”, which would have to be done much more often and would probably always require research, is quite a different matter.

In general I am having a hard time understanding how we will treat these kinds of composite headings in any future data carrier. They seem to be somewhat idiosyncratic, in that what data gets added is up to the cataloger, depends on the context, and probably cannot be generated algorithmically. This whole part about headings (access points in RDA, I believe) has me rather stumped from a design point of view. At the same time, if all of the individual elements are available, and one links manifestations of a single expression, then some system feature may be able to display this distinction to the user without the use of individual cataloger-formed headings. This would also mean that the records can be created without being dependent on a particular context, which should make sharing of data even more accurate.

In defense of catalogers, the entire system was originally designed for a card/print world where everyone had no choice except to browse, and the method worked fairly well back then. This is shown in Princeton’s scanned catalog for Cicero’s “Pro Archia” (,+Marcus+Tullius–Individual+works–Pro+Archia+%3E&g=52977.500000&n=47&r=1.000000&thisname=0000.0047.tiff) and browsing forward from there, you can see how the uniform titles worked, and kept things more or less in order. (At Princeton, most of the uniform titles were handwritten in pencil in the top right hand corner and unfortunately pencil came out very poorly in the scans. Still, I think you can make out the titles and dates.)

You will see that the language translations are mostly mixed together, although one includes the qualifier “Greek”. In spite of this, the final product worked fairly well though, because it was pretty easy–once you got to “Cicero. Pro Archia” to browse through the cards.

Still, I think that instead of trying to shoehorn our data, which was created for another time, to function more or less crudely in the new environment, it would be far more progressive to reconsider how to use the power of the current systems we have at our disposal. Uniform titles are a great case in point. As we saw in the Princeton catalog, even when they weren’t done perfectly, uniform titles worked pretty well in a physical environment where browsing was the only way of finding things, but they fell apart in a computerized/keyword environment, just as much of the rest of the catalog did. (For those interested in more on this, see my posting on Autocat Today using Worldcat, I can search for au: homer and ti: odyssey and get a very handy, useful list that I can do a lot with: limit to books, by language, by dates, by translators, novel sorting etc. Today, Zebra-type indexing extracts the headings and other information and makes them available for further refinements, so we get something that so far as I am concerned, is far better than how the clunky, old card/printed catalog ever worked. (Compare the Cicero example from above: Simple, and understandable to everyone.

And what’s more, it’s *easier* for the catalogers: all they have to do is add the uniform title “Homer. Odyssey” while the information in the individual records do the rest of the work. I’ve mentioned this before in other posts: how modern systems have almost completely obviated the FRBR ideas from the 19th-century, so long as their power is used. A lot of this has to do with the use of the uniform title. Perhaps I should write on it some more at some point. Uniform titles for some materials, such as the Bible or for music, may or may not work so well in this, but I think they would. Anyway, it would take some time to think about it.

People no longer browse like they did back in the old days. They probably never will again, so we should not be making browsable strings. We should be rethinking matters completely.

Of course, I have no doubt that the Worldcat functions can be improved in a lot of ways, both by systems people and by catalogers (right now, I see cleanup: I can click on the obsolete term “Homerus”, or on language “Undetermined”) but it can all be done *right now*. The collective uniform titles (Works, Selections) may or may not be a different matter, but in any case, they don’t work in our catalogs today. (See the posting I mentioned above).

It would only take a few minutes for the systems people to create a link in records that automatically searches the au/ti, 1xx/240, or whatever permutation, to get all the versions; e.g. in, a link could be made easily titled “Other versions” that would do the search.

But here is an example I found of something that might be considered as “falling through the cracks” in such a system: a play based on the Odyssey (Zimmerman, Mary, Robert Fitzgerald, and Homer. 2006. The Odyssey: a play. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press.) OK, traditional uniform titles wouldn’t help people know about the existence of a play either.  But how would someone discover there is a play available? How about a word cloud created from all of the 245s?

Other ideas?

We should be imagining how to use the powers at our disposal instead of cracking our heads.