Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Re: Radical proposal for RDA inclusions

Posting to RDA-L

On Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 7:41 AM, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
<snip>
I see two big issues here (among many more lesser ones) that should not be taken too lightly:

1. MARC as input standard has made sure that it was (more or less) the same everywhere. Someone trained at X could go to work at Y immediately without a lot of retraining.

2. Dealing with raw data at the person-machine interface of data input has at least two advantages:
-- Directness: What you see is what you get, no layers of transformation and interpretation between you and the data.
-- Ease of human communication: The format became the very language of catalogers' talk about the data; precise, succinct, unambiguous, international (numbers, not words!). Just listen in on any AUTOCAT discussion.

For all the flaws of MARC, these are great advantages.

Considering what modern systems can do, there could be any number of highly convenient but widely different input systems. As soon as two different ones are adopted at X and Y, points 1. and 2. are both lost. And then, modern input systems will evolve, they will change over time, get refined, modified, replaced by new designs. What will that mean for the productivity of the cataloging workforce? And how are they going to talk on AUTOCAT, for instance?
</snip>
As always, you ask some great questions and I certainly don't have any answers.

Even catalogers don't work with the raw data format of MARC (don't worry. I won't begin my ISO2709 diatribe again!) but they are looking at a formatted display. Taking this further, the display catalogers work with could easily show human-language explanations instead of numbers, as many catalogs do now, since they often show the field/subfield along with the description.

Still, the numbers for the fields and subfields allow a degree of almost scientific accuracy when discussing catalog issues that I don't think can be easily replicated into human language.

*Perhaps* the new RDF coding could be the solution, but at least to me, the very idea of catalogers speaking in RDF triples somehow brings to mind images from some of the wilder scenes of sci-fi/terror movies or the show The X Files. It's enough to give me the shivering horrors!

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