Monday, March 19, 2012

Re: [RDA-L] Card catalogue lessons

Posting to RDA-L

On 19/03/2012 15:24, Mike Tribby wrote:
<snip>
On 3/17/2012 6:42 AM, James Weinheimer wrote:
Why is the local catalog definitely not the correct tool here? Because of a few facts: There is LCRI 21.0D where it is stipulated that LC will not put in relator codes. They are also not required in BIBCO.
Jonathan Rochkind responded:
This is awfully circular. You started out saying that it was a mistake for the local catalog to try to do this, it was the 'wrong tool' for this job. When someone asks why, you say, basically, because the way we do things makes the catalog fail at this. Right. So, um, why not do things differently? Your answer looks like simply "because we never have, so we never should"
Unless, Jim's point has something to do with the unlikelihood that enough records will have the relator codes included to be a really good source given LC's heavy output of records. Unless LC and BIBCO change their policies (and amp up enforcement) or there is a concerted effort by other cataloging agencies to add the relator codes to LC's and other BIBCO records, there are other, better places to find the desired information. Doesn't mean the catalog couldn't support this kind of thing, just that as currently constituted it might not be the optimum source.
</snip>
Mike is absolutely right. We can always add search options for information that isn't in the catalog, but it will always retrieve zero.

This is an example of why I keep saying that we have to look at the catalog through the eyes of the *patrons* and not our own eyes. Patrons are not going to know, or understand, that you have begun to start encoding authors as "producer" but have this coding only on .001% of your records, that a search for "producer" will not only be useless, it will be *worse* than useless because people will come away thinking, after getting a zero result for Mary Pickford as a producer, that you don't have those materials, although you very well might. It was just that the relator code was left off of all of the older records.

So, what choices do the catalogers have? Well, a project can be started that will upgrade the records, but as long as you are looking at a record, you may as well recode all the names and not only the producer. Now, you are talking about a lot of work that will take significant resources away from doing new materials. So, these are the sorts of things that people work on "in their spare time" which means, it takes many many years, or more likely, just never gets done.

The only other choice would be to hope the public doesn't notice, but first, they will notice because they are not stupid, and besides, I think this is an unethical attitude toward the catalog, since I think that we should be in the business of telling the truth whenever possible. If somebody searches for Mary Pickford as a producer and retrieves zero, but every one of these films is in your collection http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0681933/#Producer, and her name appears in the records but without the relator code, then the catalog is lying when someone does this search.

So, you decide to tell the truth, and try to make the public aware that when they search by relator codes, they are only searching a tiny, tiny fraction of everything that is there. Of course, they won't understand this, they won't understand why, and they will come away with a very poor opinion of the catalog. When they complain, they will complain to public services, who will agree with them, and they will all complain together.

This would be another example of cataloging setting itself up for failure, at the same time alienating the public and the rest of the library. A reference librarian could see such a response in a second, and that is why I say they are so sorely needed in these matters today. What is the *truth* for searching producers of films? Do not use the library catalog because it is the wrong tool. But you are lucky that there are other, free and easy tools available.

In this environment, we have to ask ourselves seriously: what constitutes a "better" or a "worse" record? Throw out wishing and imagining grand things, but what these records are, and can be, in reality. Because reality will rear its head sooner or later.

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