Re: Revolution in our Minds: Seeing the World Anew

Posting to RDA-L

On 20/02/2012 20:04, Kevin M Randall wrote:

Very interesting paper, James. And it is very clear to me where our communication problem lies in regard to FRBR: you’re talking mainly about the user interface. Of course FRBR is going to appear irrelevant, because FRBR is talking about the underlying data, not user display. FRBR makes no assumption about what catalog records have looked like, nor what they should look like.

I realize that FRBR *claims* to make no assumption about display, but I have problems accepting this claim. FRBR certainly adds no access from what we have now, so searching remains the same. Therefore, what and where are the actual changes? To me, I wonder if FRBR represents the same mentality as those catalogers in the past who always claimed that it was much more important for the library catalog to fulfill the needs of the readers at the expense of the needs of the library. Of course in practice, (as I wrote in my paper) this meant “…not *only* the needs of the library” but #1, it had to fulfill the requirements of the library and therefore everybody else would have to fit in. To believe anything else is incredibly naive. I’m not saying this attitude was wrong for the librarians of the time, just pointing it out.

The very purpose of imagining different entities for work, expression, manifestation and item seem to me to imply that each entity displays one time. (I realize I am jumping to incredible conclusions and will probably be excoriated for it, but FRBR and its examples imply this very, very, very strongly) This is similar to ISBD that prescribes very specific ways to describe a resource, and thereby implies what is a copy vs. what is a new edition. After all, that is why you describe a resource in exactly the ways as it requires. Some variation is possible, but relatively little.    

I realize the displays can be interactive, as we saw in OCLC’s former Fiction Finder, which I found terrifying (as I mentioned earlier). Even in that case, every entity displayed one time which makes perfect sense in an FRBR universe. Consequently, in my own mind, with each entity displaying one time only, I can imagine nothing substantially beyond the printed book catalog, and such a structure is replicated over and over in the examples we find in FRBR itself.

But it seems to me that we are discussing how wagon wheels should look. We are in the 21st century with powerful tools just waiting for us to exploit them. 

So, I am not discussing the user interface, but rather questioning the very purpose of FRBR. I am questioning the assumption that the user tasks are the tasks that the *users* want to do. This is far too important and consequential of a statement to be accepted without evidence.

I think we can probably agree that if a company builds a product the public does not want, it will be exceedingly difficult to get anybody to buy that product. Therefore, the task for that company would be to convince the public to buy something it does not want. Yet, an outsider will reasonably ask, “Why not build something that people want?” while an investor would probably not want to invest in that company.

Why should libraries and FRBR not be considered in the same way?

If we are discussing new computer coding, that’s great. But it is a completely different discussion.