Posting to RDA-L
On 08/08/2011 23:42, Kevin M Randall wrote:
James Weinheimer wrote:
On 08/08/2011 19:00, Kevin M Randall wrote:
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.
I specifically stated that just one example would do. If you don’t feel like contributing something to explain an argument that you have been making for a long time, what choice have I but to question your commitment to serious involvement in the conversation
That is really unfair. I have spent many hours discussing my opinions of FRBR, on this list and several others, plus doing a number of podcasts, each of which takes some time. Therefore, to conclude that because you don’t want to look at those things and I am supposed to redo it, means that I am not serious, is unfair and I must protest. So far as I know, I was the first one to attack the FRBR sacred cows and for some time, I was alone. Many out there don’t agree with me and that is fine. We can agree to disagree.
One thing I want to point out (again!) is that I am *absolutely not* claiming that no one, ever, wants works, expressions, manifestations, and items because they do. I have said this over and over and over again, so many times I am thinking about making a macro for it. You mentioned that you have wanted WEMI, and I have said I have wanted it too. So what? We are both library-types. Knowing how the public searches is what is of the highest importance. In any case, I consider that the argument is moot since our catalogs allow WEMI *right now* and they have for almost two centuries (if not much longer). The problem is that the structures for this type of access worked much better in a printed environment where people were forced to browse pre-arranged individual records (of varying types). In several ways this structure simply fell apart with the transfer to computers because of keyword access, the weird alphabetization of the computer and the problem of adding cross-references to the headings in a keyword environment. The catalog became even less comprehensible to the average person. Add the fact that people now search library catalogs like they do Google (very understandable) and they necessarily get inferior results. It is no wonder that things have broken down.
Finally, these problems with the online catalogs have begun to be recognized and they must be corrected. So how do we go about it? Do we recreate the original ideas from the 1840s as FRBR envisions? While that would satisfy my historical sensibility, does it make sense to create something like that for our users? It does only *if* you claim that our users want the FRBR user tasks. If you claim otherwise, it makes no sense. Creating a tool *for the public* is of primary importance to the future of the catalog, and I believe, to the future of the library itself. Therefore, such a vital question should be researched and answered very seriously whether people really want the FRBR user tasks so badly, and such a statement should *not* be taken as a sacred commandment handed down from our forefathers that can not be questioned. The future of the profession is at stake.
Additionally, it has been demonstrated that we could make the FRBR user tasks operable in today’s environment *right now* by systems people who can create the correct queries and views, and is *not* a matter of reworking our rules and formats. I personally think it would be a highly positive achievement to “claim victory” and then move on.
I will skip to a major point in your message:
That’s an awfully self-centered way of looking at the bibliographic universe. So the only information that should be in there is the information you want to have in this one particular instance? How in the world is a cataloger right now in Library X going to know what exactly it is (and nothing more, apparently) that you want to know five years from now when you do a search? *ALL* metadata has meaning depending on the context. The FRBR report acknowledges this, and that’s the whole point of the tables in chapters 6 and 7 of FRBR. The elements are analyzed in terms of their general value (high, moderate, low) in meeting the user tasks. If you’re interested in research on FRBR, an excellent first step is the FRBR Bibliography at http://www.ifla.org/en/node/881
That is *precisely the point* of the new information environment: it is a personal one. This must be understood and accepted, whether we like it or not, and it is an environment where the library has sharply decreasing control over anything at all. I personally do not care for this environment and explain why in my podcast on search, but I realize–and say as much–that my feelings are 100% irrelevant. This is where many say that the “one size fits all” library catalog cannot work in this new environment, and even that human-created metadata is obsolete.
This can be shown in the excellent question you ask: “How in the world is a cataloger right now in Library X going to know what exactly it is (and nothing more, apparently) that you want to know five years from now when you do a search?” The answer is: the human cataloger can’t. But in a semantic web, with full-text content at its disposal, constantly gathering all kinds of information about *you*, from what you, and people similar to you, are searching for on the web, what you look at for 3 seconds as opposed to 5 minutes, the pages and sites you return to, reads your messages on facebook or wherever, always analysing and comparing them in incredible ways that boggle the imagination–then many people say that that kind of system actually *can* do what you say. In that future, searching disappears almost entirely, or becomes almost irrelevant. This very well may come to pass, and may happen rather soon. Lots of very big players are preparing for it. In any case, it is beginning to happen now. I don’t like such a scenario but accept that it is coming. That’s why some people conclude that catalogers are obsolete. You’ve made the case for them!
Anyway, if this happens, everything in FRBR obviously disintegrates. “Find” changes its very meaning and becomes an app you download, “select” becomes crowd-driven page ranks, while “item” becomes different types of mashups. It’s something that could not have been imagined not that long ago.
I do not accept the pronouncement about catalogers being obsolete and maintain that even in such an environment, human expert-generated metadata is important, but how? Not because I believe that people want the FRBR user tasks because who knows what they want today and will want tomorrow? What do libraries *really and genuinely* provide that others do not? Librarians–all of them–need to consider and debate this seriously and at length.
One thing I have decided: there needs to be some kind of–I’ll call it–objective view of the information (please read on before throwing tomatoes!)–in the sense of providing standardized and equal access to information (which follows library ethics).
Of course there is much more, but this is enough…