Re: RDA as the collaboratively created way forward; was Is RDA the Only Way? An Alternative Option Through International Cooperation

Posting to RDA-L

On 13/02/2012 17:33, Karen Coyle wrote:

Jim acknowledges some of the issues that we face today in his presentation, but unfortunately concludes, once again, that the solution is to be found in cataloging rules. (That could be because his talk was focused in that direction.) Cataloging rules alone will not solve our current problems, and cataloging rules created without participation by the whole of the library community (reference librarians, systems librarians, vendors, management, etc.) by definition can’t solve the problems of those who were not involved. To make this point even more dire, as we move to the Web as our platform, creating any standards involving only libraries means that we isolate ourselves from the rest of the information universe.

So I would modify Jim’s title to say:
“Is cataloging the only way?”

If we answer “no,” then I would suggest that we make sure we understand how to move forward into new technology *before* we assume that RDA is the answer. Developing the cataloging rules before making sure that we can create viable modern data is putting the cart before the horse.

I guess I am not making myself clear at all. I do *not* believe that the problem is with cataloging rules. The problems that libraries are facing are much, much deeper and I think, must be faced by the library as a whole–not as separate bureaucratic departments based on workflow and historical reasons for the current bureaucratic structure. This is one reason why I am against RDA. It will be disruptive to what we have now–that is beyond any doubt at all–and nobody can make a coherent business case for it except that we have to hope that it will make a big difference somehow. And we are expected to do this at such an incredibly dire economic moment in our history. So, it seems clear that after we implement RDA, we will be in *exactly the same place* as we are now, with exactly the same access, most displays, and so on. Plus we’ll still be stuck with that completely non-interoperable MARC format. The cataloging rules are not the problem at all.

The reason I am for maintaining what we have is that work needs to continue of course–we have catalogs and systems that continue to function well enough for our purposes now. We should not jeopardize our current functionality in this vague hope that implementing RDA will be a step forward. I think that at best, it will be a step to the side, and one that nobody at all will notice, except the administrators who will see catalogers ask for more money for training, for new systems, for access to the rules, with nothing tangible to show for it in return, except that we are on the road to FRBR. But everybody in the world can do the FRBR user tasks now so long as you have the correct system. Worldcat allows it, and Koha (open source catalog) allows it at least, and probably others do as well.

Still, nobody cares about the FRBR user tasks–that’s why these innovative capabilities in Worldcat … [et al.] go unremarked on and unused.

Change MARC first. And I’ll say it one more time: if we can’t even give up our beloved ISO2709 format, we are absolutely shot! Nobody wants ISO2709 except us. Changing that format is the absolutely first step. But of course it is not the end. Find out what people really want, then we can begin to change rules. In the meantime, there is a lot of other work needed. How about making the subject headings function coherently in a keyword environment instead of just expecting everybody to know that they have to search them as left-anchored text strings? Come on! There is a lot more too that could make a real difference to the public.

I will confess that I don’t even know what I am doing when I search for information and I’ve thought a lot about it. In fact, I wouldn’t even know how to begin finding that out. Can others out there really and truly say that they know how they search for information? If we don’t even know what we do, how in the world can anybody say that they know what others do? Some out there, such as Google, are doing serious, in-depth research.

This would be so much more forward looking instead of banging the tired old, FRBR user tasks drum. And far more interesting!

Wait for the paper I gave in Oslo!