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 19:14, Kevin M Randall wrote:

James Weinheimer wrote:

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

Okay, here’s the example you gave in the message you referenced: “Do you have [some author’s] book on the brain?” I completely fail to understand how FRBR is not applicable here. I’ll put a specific book into this example, “The brain : a neuroscience primer” by Richard F. Thompson. … [etc.]

If you read my actual post, you will see what I was actually searching for, which was something quite different. I am quoting myself here from that post:

“First, we should read the user tasks more carefully: to find what? To find *entities* in various ways. The entities are: work, expression, manifestation, and item. Is this *really* what people ask for today, no matter what words they happen to use for these entities? 

When Cutter wrote his rules, he prefaced them with questions asked at the reference desk. “These are the questions asked,” “This is how the catalog can help answer those questions,” “And oh yes, it’s an inventory tool as well.” pretty much sums up what Cutter wrote. 

Here is a practical example of what I see as a modern reference question, the work involved and the power of the modern tools. I would love to point everybody to a scan of this book where he [i.e. Cutter–JW] discusses this. I don’t know the title, I don’t know when it was published. All I remember (I think!) are a few words from his first question: “Do you have [some author’s} book on the brain?” I may be mistaken in this, but this is the item I want. At one time I used these questions in a presentation, but the presentation is long gone.”

So, I was looking for something written by Charles Cutter, unknown date, I thought I knew the title but it turned out I did not [and yet I did!], and all I could remember was “Do you have [some author’s} book on the brain?” somewhere in the text–and even that could have been a mistake. Therefore, I was actually looking for a single page from an unknown book by Charles Cutter, and I had no interest in the book that (to the best of my recollection) Cutter mentioned and built his catalog around.

I then described how I went about finding it, along with the false leads I took and problems I encountered. As I said there, my information need had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the FRBR user tasks, and is an illustration of how powerful the new tools are. I certainly did not want a work, an expression, a manifestation or an item but a single page. It turned out that I could do it, sitting on the Janiculum Hill in Rome Italy. That just astounded me. But I could never have done it just 10 years before.

As I mentioned in my last reply–I don’t think what I wanted is anything really new. I have no doubt at all that people have been asking this kind of question for millenia, and will continue to do so for quite some time in the future. This would be one suggestion for a modern and genuine “user task”.

I believe it was in this same thread where Bernhard came up with the, I think, brilliant insight that Cutter in his Rules assumed that a highly skilled and knowledgeable librarian would always be available for the user. This made a lot of sense to me and still does. That no longer applies and has not for a long, long time.

Cutter’s objects and means served their purpose, but they should now be placed alongside the typewriter for documents, the village smithy’s bellows for fixing wagons, and the metate for grinding corn. I would love it if catalogers would begin to ask what these incredibly powerful tools can do instead of forcing our antiquated methods onto them.