Monday, May 14, 2012

Re: [RDA-L] RDA, DBMS and RDF

Posting to RDA-L

On 13/05/2012 19:49, Karen Coyle wrote:
<snip>
All,

After struggling for a long time with my frustration with the difficulties of dealing with MARC, FRBR and RDA concepts in the context of data management, I have done a blog post that explains some of my thinking on the topic:

http://kcoyle.blogspot.com/2012/05/rda-dbms-rdf.html

The short summary is that RDA is not really suitable for storage and use in a relational database system, and therefore is even further from being suitable for RDF. I use headings ("access points" in RDA, I believe) as my example, but there are numerous other aspects of RDA that belie its intention to support "scenario one."

I have intended to write something much more in depth on this topic but as that has been in progress now for a considerable time, I felt that a short, albeit incomplete, explanation was needed.

I welcome all discussion on this topic.
</snip>
This is really good. I question whether libraries primarily need a new relational database model for our catalogs, especially one based on FRBR. I still have never seen a practical advantage over what can be done now. The power of the Lucene-type full-text engines and the searches they allow and their speed are simply stunning, and nothing can compare to them right now. There are versions such as the Zebra indexing system in Koha, which was created for bibliographic records and very similar to Lucene. http://www.indexdata.com/zebra and the guide http://www.indexdata.com/zebra/doc/zebra.pdf.

A relational database would be far too slow if used in conjunction with a huge database such as Google. So, some catalogs use the DBMS only for record maintenance, then everything is indexed in Lucene for searching, while the displays are made from the XML versions of the records. The DBMS is there only for storage and maintenance. This is how Koha works and could be more or less how Worldcat works as well, but these are not the only catalogs that work like this.

Still, I will say that much of this lies beyond the responsibility of cataloging per se, and goes into that of systems.

But on the other hand, your point that library headings are not "relational" and are actually based on browsing textual strings really is a responsibility of cataloging. It is also absolutely true and should be a matter of general debate. The text strings haven't worked in years because what worked rather clearly in a card catalog did not work online. I've written about this before, but there was a discussion on Autocat not too long ago. Here is one of my posts where I discussed the issue and offered an alternative to the current display of the headings found under Edgar Allen Poe: http://blog.jweinheimer.net/2012/04/re-acat-death-of-dictionary-catalog-was.html

I still maintain that we do not really know what the public wants yet. Everything is in a state of change right now, so it will take a lot of research, along with trial and error, to find out. I do think that people would want the traditional power of the catalog, but they will not use left-anchored text strings. The way it works now is far too clunky and new methods for the web must be found. Paths such as you point out would lead to genuine change and possible improvements in how our catalogs function for the public, which is the major road we need to take.

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