Posting to RDA-L
On 22/08/2011 20:28, Casey A Mullin wrote:
Jim, you raise an interesting point with regards to the different functions of the 245c and the 700. However, I’m having a hard time reconciling this functional difference you cite with your subsequent comment about users’ lack of ability in using our retrieval tools. Would this average user you invoke even be aware of such a nuanced distinction, then? These two arguments seem to contradict each other.
As for your second paragraph, I find it rather hyperbolic to say that such a display would be confusing to “everyone”. Outside of the most poorly-designed system, I find it to be quite a bold supposition. This is not to say that such displays don’t have the potential to be confusing to some, but again this says more about the system in question than about cataloging standards.
Concerning your first point, I completely agree that users do not understand the subtleties of 245$c and 7xx. But they don’t need to understand, just as they don’t need to understand a lot of the information in the catalog record and never have. I tried to demonstrate this in my “Conversation Between a Patron and the Library Catalog” http://catalogingmatters.blogspot.com/2011/08/cataloging-matters-podcast-12.html. There are two, equally important purposes to the library catalog: for the users to get a fairly good idea of what is in the local collection, and just as important: an inventory tool for the librarians. The 245$c is an example of information important to the librarians for inventory control, just like a lot of the rest of the information in the record. There is nothing wrong with adding information for librarians since we need to manage the collection.
But we should not try to justify our needs by stating that the users need this information too, and therefore, they need to be trained in information literacy courses to understand this information. No, they don’t need the information in 245$c–at least, not 99.99% of the time–and they certainly don’t need to know the difference between 245$c and 7xx. Why should they? I don’t understand how my Italian water heater works, or even why the remote of my television set works at all. So what? I have lost absolutely no sleep over this lack of knowledge. The same happens with patrons and the 245$c and 7xx. I hope they know a bit how to get the 7xx to work, just as I know how to push the buttons on my remote or turn on the hot water, but that is not so much to know. If they want to know more, they can take on the task of learning, just as I might ask if I want to know more about how my remote works. But ultimately, I don’t have to care about these things, and they shouldn’t have to either.
The catalog can, and definitely should, be reconfigured to work when patrons know less than they are “supposed to.” Simplicity should be the aim for patrons, but librarians still need their tools. We should not mix the two in our minds.
Selectors, reference librarians, and ILL are the main ones who need information such as 245$c since they can’t waste their budgets buying materials already in the collection, doing ILL for duplicates on the shelves, or on the other hand, missing variant editions, and selectors and other librarians should not have to waste their time by running into the stacks whenever they have this kind of a problem. We have our own needs and we should make no apologies for any of that. But our needs are *not* the same as the needs of our patrons. They have other needs, and everyone’s needs should be recognized and dealt with seriously.
In your second point, I use that kind of hyperbolic language because of my own experience with users, plus the recent research I pointed out earlier shows that the library catalog is becoming increasingly irrelevant and strange to the average user. (here is another excellent one: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/publications/digital/) While it may be hyperbolic to say that such a display would be confusing to “everyone” (obviously, this doesn’t mean literally “every single person in the world” but instead, the overwhelming majority of patrons and librarians), it is just as hyperbolic to say that such displays would *not* be confusing, since there is no research one way or the other that I know of. Still, the research that does exist suggests that most would have serious problems with such displays, while the need for that information has not been demonstrated and should certainly *not* be assumed. Consequently, it would not make any sense to redo our processes to provide information that people do not need and would find confusing.
If there were evidence that people need the information, e.g. that searching by refinements such as “editor,” “author,” “compiler” and so on, is important, perhaps coherent displays can be designed to accommodate it. But it only makes sense to ask why do this extra work when it has not been demonstrated that people either want or need it, especially when these methods were discarded once already?
In my opinion, the real questions should be based on practical issues instead of vague possibilities based on disputable theories, and this refers to the first part of my sentence: “I still do not see how this would help anyone find anything.” I still don’t. Basing our considerations on practical concerns will allow us to know that our resources are being focused in the most useful directions. Would adding relator information make any difference to the vast majority of our patrons? Of course not! We should say this boldly. But what do people *really* want? That is when it all starts to get interesting, and we must open our minds to far more than the quaint FRBR user tasks.
One thing: I believe that people would love good, solid personal name authority control, but they would have to learn what that means since the concept has been forgotten by the majority of people because most use keyword searches. It has been discovered that very few use a catalog, and when they do, even fewer use it correctly. Yet, I think people would like authority control once they understood more or less what it means. Personal name authority will also have to be revamped to function in a modern information environment. At least some good solid research is being done now that can point us toward solutions.