Re: Completeness of records

Posting to RDA-L

On 08/08/2011 19:00, Kevin M Randall wrote:

> James Weinheimer wrote:

I suggest you listen to my podcast on Search.

I was really hoping for something that could become part of the conversation *here*. I’m sure there are others who would appreciate it too.

That means redoing an awful lot which I really don’t feel like doing or have time for. May I suggest the opposite: would you point out why people do want the FRBR user tasks? Where is the evidence? Where is the research? Especially, why do we assume that they want works, expressions, manifestations, and items? How often have you yourself (not as a cataloger) needed a specific printing or needed to know the number of pages of a book? I have seen no evidence that very many people want this, but they definitely want other capabilities. As I had in my “Dialog between a patron and the library catalog”, the patron says:

“Well, I’m a user too and I need something else [i.e. besides the FRBR user tasks]. In full-text databases, I can do all kinds of searches and analyze the texts themselves and make decisions. I guess I can understand that if you don’t have any full text and that you cannot examine the items immediately, somebody will need to make a choice among similar resources. But if I am to make a meaningful choice, I need meaningful information. Giving me publication dates and page numbers doesn’t help me make a decent decision. If I can look at a thing directly, I can decide which one I want, so if I am able to examine the versions, I can decide that one is easier to read or one has pages falling out, or I just choose any one I want. Otherwise, I am being forced to choose texts based on information that means nothing to me at all. How am I supposed to decide I want something published in 1923 or another from 1962 without knowing what the differences are? Why is this information supposed to have meaning for me?”

Exactly the same arguments (other than the references to full text!) were made by several people, using different words of course, in the famous Royal Commission report discussing Panizzi’s catalog, so the complaint is nothing new. In addition, the information universe is growing very far away from our traditional tools, concentrating on different aspects of “search”.

Since I personally am interested in the history of bibliography, I actually want to know different printings and page numbers–once in awhile. In fact, now that I have an ebook, I have discovered that scan/print size has become important to me, and even margin width because I can see some pdfs more comfortably on my reader. Should we start putting in the width of the printed text on the page? Of course not, but it would come in handy for me now.

It has become clear to me that even in Panizzi’s time, the task of the catalog as *inventory tool* for librarians was absolutely critical and because of the ways the Library of the British Museum functioned in the 1840s, it was more important still. Today, the catalog as inventory tool is still vital and I don’t question its importance for librarians for a single moment. But that same function of inventory control is NOT important to the vast majority of users. So, why do we have this strange situation? I think it is because *everybody* has always had to use the same tool: the “library catalog” where the needs of the librarians and the collection necessarily and *correctly* trumped those of the “users” (in spite of what everyone has said).

For instance, who are these “users”? A huge group with so many different needs they cannot be lumped together at all. That is completely obvious. This is one aspect that the information companies understand *very well* and are exploiting to the full, I think, at our expense. And we have to confess that they are right. Expecting everyone to use a “one size fits all” catalog has never made much sense, and makes even less today. Formerly, there was no choice though since making separate catalogs for the people (i.e. various types of printed catalogs) became impossible both financially and practically.

Today, we do NOT all have to use the same tools. We librarians can retain our tools to maintain management of the collection and go on to improve those tools in whatever ways we want, without caring about the impact on the public, because the records themselves can be ported out into Drupal or Moodle or all sorts of other systems, so that people and developers can go crazy with them. *That* will be when we can begin to discover what people really and truly want and need from the information in our catalog records.

I hope to write an article on the historical aspects of this somewhere along the way, but it is still in development. Still, I’ve pointed to several things discussing search, etc. Can you point me to modern evidence done among the public (i.e. *not* asking library students or librarians!) that the *public* wants WEMI?