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 14/02/2012 16:36, Kevin M Randall wrote:

James Weinheimer wrote:

My stance is that the public does not want or need the FRBR user tasks in the vast majority of searches they make. I certainly don’t need them most of the time, and I understand all of that better than 99.99% of the patrons out there. My evidence is that people are abandoning our catalogs for more modern tools based on various types of search engine optimization in turn based on keyword. FRBR aims only to give our patrons a new version of something they have already shown they do not want. What people want is… I don’t know. I readily confess that.

If you “don’t know” what the public wants, then how can you also say “the public does not want or need the FRBR user tasks in the vast majority of searches they make”? Those two positions appear to be contradictory. Furthermore, I have been looking for quite a long time for any indication of what the typical things users want that aren’t covered by the FRBR user tasks. But of course I won’t find any examples, since you “don’t know”… How about giving some typical examples of what you do yourself, and we’ll actually compare those to the FRBR user tasks. (I’m not sure how hopeful I should be that examples will be forthcoming, since in a prior message you did say, in a rather interesting paragraph, “… I don’t even know what I am doing when I search for information …”)

I don’t think I am contradicting myself; I think I am just being realistic.

Do you know how you search when you are looking for information? I already wrote about this, on this list a few years ago, in fact in a reply to you, available at That post doesn’t seem to have made it to my blog. The link there to the item doesn’t work any longer but this one should Another thing I shared was about Wikileaks, but that was answering a reference question, not my own.

What do people search for? We can get ideas from Google Trends: You can also use Google Insights I did an entire Cataloging Matters podcast on Search For those who have Google Mail, there is a Web History option that will retain every search you have ever done. If you have that implemented, I suggest you look at it. I turned mine on for awhile and found it vaguely enlightening about myself, but I don’t know exactly what I learned. The Google gurus could probably tell me much more about myself, which is a scary thought! There is a vast amount of research being done by super-rich information organizations about how people search since there is money and power to be gained.

None of these tools have anything to do with the FRBR user tasks, and yet people use these new tools several times every single day quite successfully. When compared with our catalogs, which are very clunky, the outcome is obvious.

I have been doing some research using older materials on cataloging (now that I have access to many of them through the digital projects–thanks to all!) and one thing I am mulling over: perhaps the *real* user tasks haven’t changed all that much. People pretty much wanted the same things back at the British Museum during Panizzi’s day that they want now. Of course, they would talk in terms of “books” while we talk in terms of “bits of information”, but I am finding that what they wanted is surprisingly similar to what I hear today. The development of Panizzi’s catalog was based on local concerns and various physical limitations, so he devised a tool that could have his librarians help the users quickly and efficiently. Therefore, the library catalog took its present form.

Therefore, it seems that FRBR mixed together two different things: 1) how the catalog functioned, with 2) what library patrons want and how they search. We are really discovering now that the two are not at all the same.

Things are happening so quickly however, that perhaps in five or ten years’ time people really will have moved far beyond anything we have seen in the past.

NONE of this means that our cataloging is useless, since there is a lot there that is nowhere else, but we must make it useful and meaningful in the new information environment. Unfortunately, neither FRBR nor RDA do this, which looks backwards towards our beginnings. This is what I tried to show in my paper in Buenos Aires.

I normally try to save criticism of RDA and FRBR for other lists, but this one sort of grew and the other lists have been quiet. Apologies to all.