Re: [ACAT] Lack(?) of research, or, Let’s hear it for the nobodies

Posting to Autocat

I’ll let some of these comments pass and go to the more important ones:

On 19/07/2012 18:43, Kevin M Randall wrote:

James Weinheimer wrote:

The technological triumph that now permits searchers to follow the FRBR functional requirements, and with *no need for any expensive, structural changes* should be universally acclaimed by all librarians as one of the great accomplishments in 21st century catalogs, but it has gone strangely unremarked. Certainly more needs to be done with the user interfaces, but nevertheless, FRBR can be done right now. That is a fact. And it is good.

Catalogs have been “doing FRBR” for a very very long time, since long before the FRBR study was ever begun. The point is, *how well* are the functional requirements being met? I think most people would say that at our current state, we’re doing much better than before, but nowhere near as well as we could.

Because of this fact, the purpose of the FRBR structure of WEMI has disappeared.

Such a bold statement needs something to back it up. I have seen nothing showing that there is no need to have various editions of HAMLET relate to each other; or no need to have various renditions of “New York, New York” relate to Kander and Ebb; or no need to be able to find a specific copy of A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY when searching by that title or John Irving’s name; or to be able to find an article in DICKENS STUDIES NEWSLETTER when the only citation I have is for the later title DICKENS QUARTERLY. These are things that FRBR and the WEMI entities are all about.
Of course there is always room for refinement and improvement in the FRBR model. But any criticism of FRBR must have a basis in an understanding of what FRBR is actually saying. It is not helpful to put forth a misrepresentation of FRBR and criticize that. What would one make of a review of THE WIZARD OF OZ that complained about how poorly it told the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

There are various issues here. First is your statement “Catalogs have been “doing FRBR” for a very very long time, since long before the FRBR study was ever begun.  The point is, *how well* are the functional requirements being met?” Concerning the first sentence, this has certainly not been my experience at all. I have pointed to examples of WEMI in old printed and card catalogs in several postings. When keyword was introduced however, people were stopped from finding WEMI for a long time because of the way keyword results have been displayed. At first, as I remember, keyword results were arranged by the order input into the file; then it was by date of publication, then by “relevance”. Now, default is normally by relevance but the searchers can change the order by author or date if they wish. So, there has been a disruption in the searchers’ ability to find WEMI, which has gone on for a long, long time. Now, some allow searching WEMI to a point, but the searcher must do it with a left-anchored text search, which is like expecting people to go back to rotary telephones. (I miss them by the way!) Some catalogs do not even allow that.

Your second sentence is more consequent however: “The point is, *how well* are the functional requirements being met?” Again I disagree and say that we must determine first if the functional requirements really are what the public wants. There has simply been too much water flowing under the bridge for too long a time to simply assume that the functional requirements are what the public wants. To accept such an unproven statement unquestioningly is, as I have said, the same as believing in a superstition. But I have said this before and I am sure all are as tired of it as I am.

Finally, concerning my “bold statement”, look at the facets with Worldcat with Hamlet: (the links I have given before don’t seem to be working, so I will use this. The search is just au:shakespeare and ti:hamlet. This search can be made more exact). Take a look at the result: the searcher can limit by all kinds of formats, by other people, e.g. Olivier,  by dates, languages, etc. As I keep saying, all this can be improved. Therefore comes my “bold” statement, which is after all, based on experiment that can be repeated: If the purpose of all of this is to make it possible to navigate the WEMI, it can be done right now and there is no need for RDA or FRBR, that is, so long as the catalogers add the correct uniform titles and you have the correct system. That simple statement of fact seems to make people angry however …

But, since people have not been able to do WEMI for such a long time now, it is only logical to question whether they want it now. But I would like to avoid these questions since others are much more interesting, such as: what does the catalog really provides a searcher other than the simple WEMI, or separate unit records? Yet, I guess asking such questions is akin to blasphemy.

Of course, I have demonstrated more than anyone else how I do not understand anything about FRBR! 🙂