Re: [ACAT] Must article to read

Posting to Autocat

On 21/07/2012 21:00, MULLEN Allen wrote:

As to non-librarian users of catalogs- again no disaster results from RDA that I can perceive (what crashes do you foresee?). As for non-librarian user information needs, you have made the case yourself that user information needs transcend the resources available in any library and that the quality and variety of quality academic and non-academic resources available, now and into the future, are enormous.


It is easy to define “business case” (Prince2 or whatever the norms in the business world might be) in such a way that no matter what is offered, it can be said it doesn’t fit a given definition of what a business case *should* be. However, the test committee report (as well as the Working Group, etc.) have defined a number of goals for greatly expanding the capabilities of the library catalog environment, and substantial work, including RDA is being done and has been done for several years now to achieve those goals. You feel that this is insufficient, I and other Autocat readers understand this and why. However, If RDA fails, users can still walk up to our catalogs and find local holdings as reliably (or not as one’s perspective might hold) as they can at present. I can come up with any number of imagined scenarios where this wouldn’t be true, but they would be idle speculation unless something more substantial than opinion is offered.

But identifying an ad hominem, guilt by association, attack such as “”Today’s believers in the superiority of their own creations, like the theologians of yesterday, are sure to blame Adam and Eve—and catalogers—for any and all problems that follow on the implementation of the Next Generation Catalog. That much is entirely predictable” as a profound insight does not seem helpful. It assumes that if RDA fails, catalogers will be blamed – an unfair and unsubstantiated assumption. It assumes that RDA developers are blinded by devotion to their creation without any substantiation that a single person, much less the scores or hundreds of librarians involved in RDA development is thus so arrogant and blind. This perspective has the same basis in reality that the accusations that IPCC and thousands of scientists around the world, along with government agencies and others, are engaged in vast conspiracy to impose massive changes under a delusion that there is anthropogenic climate c hange. It is tantamount to believing that Judith A. Kuhagen, Barbara Tillett, Chris Oliver, Pat Riva, Alison Hitchens, Daniel Paradis, Clement Arsenault, Jennifer Bowen, Athena Salaba, Robert Maxwell, Adam Schiff, Sue Andrews, Alison Hitchens, Lars Svensson, Mireille Huneault, and as I said, hundreds of others, who are involved in an endeavor bound to fail through their ignorance, and bound to be blamed on catalogers. SRSLY?

There definitely will be consequences to RDA implementation. Except for those libraries that have a knight in shining armor who will ride up and drop off the extra cash, money and resources will have to be diverted from other library services that are more vital to the public than implementing RDA. (To disprove this statement means to make the business case) Other consequences include lowered productivity because RDA is even more complex, split files, cleanup, paying for online subscriptions, plus there are always unforeseen costs–and that is only for the relatively small changes of implementing RDA. What will be the result? The public will be looking at the same catalogs that they have already rejected. Also, modern solutions are ignored with RDA. In the case of typing out abbreviations, it is no solution at all since the public will forever be looking at abbreviations until the end of time. This shows a steadfast refusal to look at matters from the public’s viewpoint (who will still be seeing the abbreviations in the older records) and is also guilty of implementing 19th century solutions (manual retyping) in defiance of far more powerful and efficient capabilities of the 21st century. The results to the users? Practically none. Except for changing the rule of three to the rule of one. Those who really believe that changing to the rule of one will “release the inner cataloger” or will lead to “catalogers gone crazy” and access points will go up have absolutely no understanding of human nature. It is only realistic to conclude that the number of access points will go down. Of course, when full FRBR implementation comes, I think we all know it will be even more expensive. The results on cataloging departments will be more work, more complex work, while staffing levels will at best remain level, and still–since there is no business case–the “bean counters” will be demanding more and more reasons why they should continue to fund tools that are falling farther and farther behind the needs of the general populace. They will not sit still to listen to explanations of theories or ontologies or be swept away by heartfelt declarations of faith that all will be fine when we reach linked data. I have been through all of this before.

So, there definitely are consequences.

I am very concerned about another point however. Allen appends the list of names “It is tantamount to believing that Judith A. Kuhagen, Barbara Tillett, Chris Oliver, Pat Riva, Alison Hitchens, Daniel Paradis, Clement Arsenault, Jennifer Bowen, Athena Salaba, Robert Maxwell, Adam Schiff, Sue Andrews, Alison Hitchens, Lars Svensson, Mireille Huneault, and as I said, hundreds of others, who are involved in an endeavor bound to fail through their ignorance, and bound to be blamed on catalogers”

Such a characterization troubles me immensely and I must reject it absolutely and completely.

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I am a librarian, and one of the major reasons I became a librarian was because I believe very strongly in freedom of thought and freedom of speech. These imply freedom of inquiry. Progress is made possible only when good, pointed questions can be freely asked of anyone. Excellent, uncomfortable questions do not constitute personal attacks and when they are considered so, freedom of inquiry disappears. Anyone–at any time–can be wrong. And of course, I can be wrong as well. History has demonstrated this simple fact innumerable times so it should come as no surprise that any or all of us may be wrong at this very moment. Questioning, so long as it is asked in a civil way, is not any kind of insult nor is it morally suspect. The absolute need for “falsifiability” is a vital part of modern society. If you are not free to ask questions and everyone is supposed to just accept the opinions of certain people as fact because otherwise it is an insult, modern society could not exist. The areas that are off limits are then termed “dogma”. Ptolemy, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and many many others could not be questioned for a long time. Right now in the Capitoline Museum, there is an absolutely fascinating exhibition from the “Secret Archives” of the Vatican library called “Lux in Arcana”. In it, you can see Galileo’s “confession” where he was forced to acknowledge that everything he had seen and written about the solar system and universe was wrong. He confessed to be in error and that the Earth is the center of the universe and does not move. Ptolemy, a much greater influence on the world than any of those you mention, or any of us, could not be questioned. Did Galileo really believe that he was in error? No. But he was not free.

Therefore, I feel that librarians, above all other professions, should be strongly in favor of free speech and free inquiry, and this means to be even more diligent when applying it in their own fields of endeavor. Otherwise, it is all empty rhetoric.
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I have great respect for those who have worked so hard for RDA, and I have gone on at length about it. Yet that still does not make them immune to being questioned. Especially from a peer, which I consider myself to be. Each and every one of them can be wrong about what users want, and it is no attack to say so and ask for the evidence. Of course, no one has to reply to any questions but in that case it doesn’t stop the inquiries. The people who question are equally free to draw their own conclusions from the silence and to share those conclusions with anyone they wish.