Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Re: Revolution in our Minds: Seeing the World Anew

Posting to RDA-L

On 21/02/2012 15:28, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
<snip>
You still haven’t dealt with the straw man argument. [about my not discussing the totality of the FRBR user tasks--JW]

By copying and pasting some phrases from Cutter onto a definition of FRBR, and turning around and saying “See, it’s no different than Cutter”, then turning around again and citing only yourself as an authority, you haven’t added anything useful to the discussion. It’s easy to criticize and ridicule something manufactured for the purpose of ridicule.

For a well-researched paper on the relationship between FRBR and Cutter, William Denton’s article is a good start:

In FRBR the full set of possible tasks is far more broad and inclusive than Cutter specified and allows users much more freedom” and Cutter’s means in FRBR “open up to allow searching and browsing by any attribute of any entity” – these statements of fact corrects the fundamental error in your initial presentation where you have manufactured a definition of FRBR to exclude everything except the original Cutter precepts.

As for “unproven theories”, continuing to pester people about “I suspect they do something else, but I don’t really know what that something else is and what’s more, I am not even sure how to begin to answer such a question” (http://blog.jweinheimer.net/2012/02/revolution-in-our-minds-seeing-world.html ) as a substitute for anything concrete, thoughtful, well-researched, and respectful of previous work makes most of your points vacuous and devoid of any utility.
</snip>
How can I make it clearer? I reject the straw man argument because I reject the entire argument. That includes the straw man, so I am setting fire to the straw man.

My contention that FRBR is of extremely dubious utility to the public is certainly no secret. Future research will probably prove that some parts are of use, but if librarians want to be relevant to the public, it is necessary for them to go outside of FRBR altogether and above all, rid themselves of the so-called "user" tasks to find out what the users really want and need. This will take time and resources.

Perhaps this makes some angry, but that's too bad. The library staff who lose their jobs because of the costs of implementing FRBR/RDA, that is, an unproven theory (or as described in earlier days, a "library superstition"), those people who lose their jobs will be a whole lot angrier, along with those patrons who can't get materials because their libraries will have to cut their acquisition budgets. They really will be mad since they are the ones who will have to pay the price.

Still, for those who insist that we absolutely must implement the FRBR user tasks for the public, and feel our current catalogs aren't good enough, they could install indexing that does what WorldCat or Koha does (Zebra indexing in the case of Koha, all open source. I believe the eXtensible catalog has these capabilities as well). All of this can be improved through automated means. It's a lot cheaper, can be achieved much more quickly and cleanly, and will provide the same functionality for our users in an FRBR-inspired universe, if not even better. I don't think it will make much difference to the public however, but I'll admit it is worth a try.

Then we can all move on to greener fields.

I am afraid that you and I have a very serious disagreement. And by the way, sorry for my vacuousness, but it seems to me that sooner or later, somebody has to step up and admit that the road we have been on isn't taking us where we want to go. Nonetheless, we have wound up where we are, but it's difficult to say from here which way is the right way to proceed. I think that when somebody finally says that the road we are taking is wrong, that is very, very useful. But it may not make you very popular.

While I have some ideas for the future (as I gave in my paper and I have had other suggestions), they may all turn out to be absolutely wrong. I'm willing to step up and admit that I don't know. But I am in good company because nobody does. I think lots of people agree.

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