Re: Justification of added entries

Posting to RDA-L

On 30/08/2011 23:04, Heidrun Wiesenmueller wrote:

It might be worthwhile taking a look at cataloguing conventions used outside the Anglo-American world: According to the German “Rules for alphabetical cataloguing”, we’ve added relator terms for persons such as “editor” or “translator” for some 30 odd years – only we call this information “function designators”, and the list of possible designators is much shorter than those in RDA. I suppose it would be possible to extract this information from German catalogues and add it to the corresponding records in Anglo-American databases. This might be a starting point for enriching AACR2 legacy data with this kind of information.


I don’t think people have forgotten the concept. I’d argue they never knew what it was in the first place, and I also believe that it would not be fair to demand that users of catalogues struggle with that kind of thing – this is *our* job. It’s also *our* job to design systems for authority control which work in keyword searches. In German catalogues, this is no big deal: It simply doesn’t matter whether the preferred form or a variant form of a name is entered as a keyword – you always get the same title list as a result. And, of course, this also works for subject headings. The reason why German catalogues don’t have a problem here is due to the different data model used in our systems: Instead of typing in authorized forms as a text string, we create links between the title record and the authority record for the person, corporate body, or subject heading in question (using the ID number of the authority record). This means that not only the preferred form is available for indexing, but the variants as well. Actually, it’s been puzzling me for some time why American librarians seem to be simply putting up with the fact that an essential tool of our trade does not work with keyword searching in their systems. Shouldn’t there be crowds of librarians demonstrating in front of the offices of ILS suppliers, demanding that a technical solution be found for this problem?

Of course, I agree. There are so many technical solutions available today for problems that had been seen at one time as practically insoluble. This demands a different mindset however, one that agrees to really give up a certain amount of control and to trust in the information from other initiatives. This brings me back to the idea of genuine, enforceable standards as a basis for that trust, but I have written about this already several times.

The only point I might take exception on, and it is a small one, is I think people did grasp the *concept* of authority control in a card/printed environment because it was the only way it functioned. When there was no possibility of keyword searching and all you could do was browse, if you wanted something by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, you could look under “Johann” and would find nothing or almost nothing. One hoped that you would then either ask for help or decide to look under “V” (would anybody look under “W”?!) to find a cross-reference to “Goethe” where you would then walk over and see everything arranged very nicely. People could, even subconsciously, get an idea that there was a real organization to it although they did not understand it. The complexity was clear to them however. Maybe they didn’t have much of an idea of BT, NT, RT because often those cross-references were in a separate place. Today, all of that structure has gone unused with keyword, at least in US catalogs.

Ultimately, this is an argument only of historical importance since I think everyone agrees that people just do not understand it today. Apparently, even searching under surname is being lost! Plus, we need to separate out what we can do today from what people genuinely want and need. This is also called creating a valid business model. Certainly, there are some things that we can do today that we couldn’t before, but it still doesn’t follow that we should do those things *if* they are not what people want and need. That would be throwing away our resources on pointless tasks. Basic, traditional authority control (or conceptual searching, as I have tried to explain it to patrons) is something that I think people really do want, but it must be made to function in today’s world, and this means to somehow interoperate with full-text and other types of databases using different thesauri.

After getting things to work more or less are they are supposed to, then there will be plenty of time to change the cataloging rules.