Re: [ACAT] Advance Notice: Phase 1 of the PCCAHITG Phased Implentation of RDA to begin soon

Posting to Autocat

On 17/07/2012 23:13, J. McRee Elrod wrote:

Stephen McDonald said:

In fact, most of the 1xx changes will make things a lot _more_ consistent than they ever were before.

It seems to me “consistent” is being used in two ways here. I was speaking of the same form of entry for the same person or body over time and across cataloguing agencies. I assume Stephen means consistent principles for forming entries.

I’m all for consistent practice in establishing *new* entries, but established ones (apart from those representing more than one person) should be left as they are. Those forms will remain in older records in underfunded catalogues, resulting in split files, if changes are made.

Precisely. Consistency in heading construction is really a matter of aesthetics for catalogers. People have never understood how or why a specific heading is the way it is. Why should they need to? As I mentioned in a previous posting, people do not know about the concept of “bibliographic identity”. How in the world could they ever understand the apparent inconsistency when one subordinate corporate body is entered subordinately to the main body while another is entered independently? Why does one corporate body use IBM while another one uses “International Business Machines Corporation”? Why should people need to understand? Why should they care, so long as it all works?  Still, back when everyone was trapped in a printed catalog environment, book or card, perhaps more of a case could be made for consistency in heading construction since the requirement for left-hand text search made some things more clear, much more so than in a keyword environment with relevance ranking.

But instead of adding information that already exists in other databases, e.g. gender of an author, address of a corporate body, it would make so much more sense to link these databases together instead of retyping the same information over and over and over and over again. That is 19th century thinking and one of the major points in favor of linked data, after all! Information about the sex of an author can be found in all kinds of databases so why do we have to duplicate that labor? Yet, it does seem reasonable to ask: why is this information so much more important than other services catalogers could provide?

Also, in a computerized environment where the emphasis is on the URI instead of text, a single form becomes less important because displays become much more flexible. One example of a change that I think would be much appreciated by everyone is if language were added to each form of name. I think many people (including myself) would prefer to be able to choose the English form “Bank of China” to “Zhongguo yin hang” while others could choose French or German or whatever. Catalogers wouldn’t necessarily have to do much work to add this information since it is the sort of task that could be crowdsourced.

I want to emphasize once again that the RDA changes are all theoretical. While some have requested these changes in the past, it does not follow that just because someone requests something, that it is best to fulfill it. For instance, why add the addresses of people and corporate bodies? If someone wants an address, the web is the only decent place for that kind of information now. Are catalogers supposed to check the addresses and update them in the records? Or are catalogers now in the business of creating city directories? The usefulness of adding this type of information that can be found elsewhere, especially at the expense of other services when you are in a time of restricted budgets must be questioned. As an example of this, our British colleagues have created this map which I found illuminating. Even the libraries that are listed as “Saved” I am sure still have seriously lowered budgets. I haven’t found a similar one for other countries. Is there anything like this for the US?

I think I have shown that I am not against changes, but any changes introduced must demonstrate that they make genuine and useful differences to the public to provide something that is found nowhere else. Plus, we really should be trying to get the cross-references to work along with making the subject headings functional again, and it’s a good idea to add URIs whenever possible.

This would be a modern way of handling it.