Posting to RDA-L
I almost changed the subject line, but this still *seems* to concern the bibliographic framework, or perhaps not.
Of course, relator codes require more work than not assigning them. That is a simple fact that no one can dispute. The question is: are they worth it?
This is not the sort of question that can be answered with a simple “Yes, I think so” or “No, I don’t think so”. Different aspects must be considered first. The first fact that must be accepted is that the old records will not be upgraded and this has consequences for everything else.
First, will the relator codes be indexed for searching, i.e. will people be able to limit their searches to “editors” or “compilers” or “contestee” or “process contact”? I certainly hope not since the results will be unpredictable. Therefore, if the codes are not there for searching, what are they there for? There seems to be only one answer: for display.
Another aspect must be to see matters from the public’s viewpoint. That viewpoint certainly should never be ignored. Since the old records will never be upgraded to add relator codes, they will see records with relator codes and records without relator codes all mixed together in every single search they do. What will be the correct way for a non-expert to approach them? Therefore, they will see, in every search, in one record, made post-RDA, there will be a relator code for a specific role, but in another record, pre-RDA, there will not be a relator code for exactly that same role. What then, is the purpose of the relator code? How can we keep them from being confused? How should people approach our records then, and how do we inform people what they should and shouldn’t believe concerning the relator codes? What are the best ways to use them and what are poor ways? And remember, these will be exactly the same people who can’t be expected to know what “p.” or “ill.” mean!
Naturally, another important aspect of the matter is the amount of work and the effects on productivity. When an experienced cataloger says that it has a noticeable effect on productivity, that statement should simply be accepted. It is in the nature of things that there will be easy items in English, just as we still get new editions of “The old man and the sea” and with very little work, we can count it as an original catalog record in our statistics. But there are other materials that are not in English, strange items with unclear roles that demand time. These kinds of strange roles can only get stranger with online materials.
It seems that there will be serious consequences both to catalogers and the public. This is normal when you decide to add new parts to the basic functions to the catalog. The only way to answer these considerations is to do at least some amount of research and find out if the consequences are worth the effort. Otherwise, we dive into the effort armed only with suppositions based on limited knowledge and personal beliefs.
Of course, in a regular business environment this sort of research would have been done at a very early stage, not at the very end.