Posting to RDA-L concerning “A Bibliographic Framework for the Digital Age” http://www.loc.gov/marc/transition/news/framework-103111.html
Well, I take a slightly different position from my esteemed colleagues. The transition from our outdated format will have to come sooner or later, and the sooner we do it, the sooner we can actually enter the larger world of metadata, be it for better or for the worse.
Format considerations themselves are, I think, not the real issue for catalogers. To me, the issues are similar to those back at the end of the 19th century, when libraries wanted to share copies of their catalog cards, but the sizes of the cards were different in each library. This had to be dealt with first. Therefore, it became a duel to the death to get the size of *your own* library’s cards as the accepted standard, otherwise you would be forced to recatalog everything on the other sized cards. At Princeton University, their cards were larger than was ultimately accepted, so they tried cutting down the cards and writing what was cut off wherever they could. (I never found one of those, but I would have loved it!) That didn’t work out so well, so they had to use other solutions. Still, after all of that fighting, all that everyone had agreed upon was a *blank* card. Then came the real fight, about what information should be written on the card, and where each bit of information should go. That took a long time to agree upon, with ISBD solving part of it.
Deciding on a common format is similar to deciding on the standard-sized card back then. While this is a very important step, it is nevertheless necessary to point out that everyone will be agreeing on an *empty* format. What will fill up that format is what cataloging should focus on. To be honest, what interests me much more than this:
is what actually goes into that 245 field, how to enter the title itself in a standardized way so that others can find and understand the record. Whether the format is:
I don’t really care very much. Most of this must be determined by technicians. Catalogs have their needs and these must be kept in mind, but some of their needs are very probably outdated now. One format may be more accurate, one may have indicators for alphabetical browsing (which almost nobody does anymore), and of course, some formats will be ignored by developers because they are too much of a pain to work with. In my opinion, we need to make our formats as amenable to developers as possible, because then they may be willing to include us rather than exclude us.
Once everyone moves to XML-type formats, there will automatically be the flexibility for various groups to add their own “name spaces”, e.g. I can imagine something like:
In this way, different communities could add their own metadata, while still being able to cooperate. I think a lot of communities, and individual libraries, will like this possibility. All in all, I think something like this should have been done a long time ago, as a first step before considering RDA. Once the format is dealt with in some way, (just as the standard-sized card so long ago) then changes in cataloging rules may make more sense–or they may not.
Also, in deference to Bernhard and his statement
(ISO2709, BTW, is *not* among the flaws and issues. It is a very marginal issue of a purely internal nature and is in no way related to MARC as a content standard. MARC can perfectly well work without ISO, no one needs to bother with it except the few systems that are still unable to ingest anything else, and they can use MarcEdit to get what they want. Abandoning ISO in favor of the external format MarcEdit uses, you get rid of the 9999 character field length limit as well.)
I must disagree 100%. Maintaining that ISO2709 is not a problem is like saying that the water in the local stream is fine. While you can’t drink it immediately, all you have to do is take a few buckets of that water, let them sit for 5 or 6 hours to settle, then skim off what’s on top. Boil the water you skimmed off for 10 minutes or so and then throw in a couple of chlorine tablets at the end. Shake it all up and voila! You can drink it. Therefore, the water is safe to drink!
We can’t expect people to do that when there are all kinds of other, more friendly methods out there that will let you do what you want without jumping through hoops. I want to be able to drink water directly out of the tap! How in the world can we hope to change our format if we don’t see the problems with a format that is over 40 years old and everybody has to work with *before* they can begin to do anything with it?
I am willing to make a wager. I’ll bet 100 euros that whatever format they or NISO comes up with, will *not* be ISO2709. I am not a betting man–I only bet on sure things. And while ISO2709 served its purpose, its time has passed. Of that, there is no doubt at all.
I hope the new format comes out soon, but I doubt it.