Friday, April 6, 2012

Re: [ACAT] New rule implementation

Posting to Autocat

On 30/03/2012 15:41, wrote:
I've probably already shot myself in the foot a couple times on the list as I too am trying take in the learning curve of RDA and arguments for and against it, but I might as well blow the rest of my toes off. I will admit to "car crash" fascination to the whole debate. Hals statement "Let it rise or fall according to its value as implemented" struck a chord with me, as innovation precedes or fails on trial and error. I guess the argument against this is the cloud of urgency in the profession, that we have a very thin margin of error left to us, and that a misstep may be fatal. Whether, to take one side, giving RDA enough rope to hang itself, will also hang the profession seems to be the background fear. Of course, when there is disagreement on what exactly the misstep is, we take our chances. We are all damned in someone's theology. That said, with the valid concerns of libraries not buying in to RDA because of financial constraints, one wonders whether there are steps that might be taken to soften the split between rule sets affecting all the records circulating in library database. We will be stuck with "legacy records" one way or the other. Given the need to develop crosswalks, transformations, what have you for dealing with metadata of multiple and much more wildly different origins than the debate in hand, this might be a fruitful avenue of endeavor. It would be wonderfully instructive to have a summation/distillation of the arguments on each side of the debate. The sheer weight of vollies back and forth can make the head spin. Is there disagreement over the foundation principles of what our tools (whether rules, standards, and technology) should be accomplishing? Disagreement of over the applicability of the FRBR user tasks seems to point in this direction. Is there an alternate list of tasks that would suffice? Is "tasks" even the right word? Would a statement of problems be better place to start then deconstructing the current solutions?

I leave it at that for now. I really should be doing some (AACR2) cataloging.

At least I, for one, think you are asking some great questions. My own concern with Hal's post is, it seems to me, it just gives up, and the fact is, real people will nevertheless be forced to make some real decisions. I am sure these people won't want to make those decisions, but even if they refuse and resign, someone else will have to. And the people who make the final decisions whether to advance the funds for RDA subscriptions and training etc. will not be catalogers. That needs to be kept in mind. Catalogers are not in charge of their own funding--most of the time, anyway. The people who decide may not even be librarians. And those decision makers will be listening to all kinds of other folks who are telling them how important their own pet projects are.

Since the purposes and benefits of RDA are still so vague, it puts an enormous strain on people who may want to implement RDA but who have to make a case for the money, something that would in any case be exceedingly difficult, but especially so during these difficult times. What is a responsible decision in such a case? There is no smiling Daddy Warbucks doling out cash to everybody, so the decision is: what do you give up? And what do you get in return? Drawing graphs of the Semantic Web and talking about entity-relationship structures will probably not get very far with these people. They will (or at least should) ask: What will I be able to do in the future that I can't do now? How long will reaching that future take? What are the real costs involved, including the hidden ones? These are very normal, responsible questions to ask and catalogers will have to have some pretty good answers ready because cataloging has almost always taken a back seat to other endeavors.

This is why I said in the paper I gave in February in Oslo that librarians need to have a revolution in their minds. We have to see ourselves as we *really are* in the information universe, which is very small. It is humbling, that is true, but it can also show where you are unique. Libraries do provide unique information and tools.

There is a lot of work that can and should be done and maybe eventually it will turn out that we should change some cataloging rules. But cataloging rules do not represent the problems that libraries are facing. At least not at the moment.

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