Re: [ACAT] NOW he dies!

Posting to Autocat

On 06/07/2012 15:36, Daniel Stuhlman wrote:

Adding dates of death adds to the credibility of library catalog. If a reader sees an open date for someone s/he knows died, the reader will question other aspects of the cataloging. While a date of death will not help a reader find a book, it will help in other ways.

I don’t really know what this means: “the reader will question other aspects of the cataloging”. In what ways? While I have read many, many, many criticisms from the public about library catalogs, never have I read anything about birth and death dates, or that the public questions “aspects of the cataloging”–they just accept whatever they see and mostly do not understand it. It would be like me questioning a wine list at a restaurant. I barely understand it, so questioning the list wouldn’t even enter my head.

One example I have heard personally where the public asks questions: they have asked me why they are looking at so many “duplicate records” but they have an idea of “duplicates” that is quite different from the library idea of “manifestation” or “edition” stemming from LCRI 1.0 where a subtle change in the date or title or paging is significant to librarians, yet not to the majority of patrons. This is one of the reasons why I maintain that the catalog is for the librarians first, and then for the public second. I have also maintained that there is nothing wrong with that situation.

Yet, the public very definitely does question the overall value of cataloging today for reasons I have discussed at length already. This is especially so when budget-strapped administrators are looking at professional cataloging. 

People have become used to seeing such bizarre things when they search the web, it makes a birth or death date seem like nothing at all. Probably very few would even notice. For instance, how many people realize that Worldcat doesn’t show dates of personal names, except when used as subjects? I have never heard of anyone complaining about it. I don’t think the public looks at individual catalog records very closely because when they see something of interest, they go get it and can safely forget all about the record. Still, they do look at the catalog search results much more closely than do catalogers. (This is what I discussed in my paper at ALA One possible modern need for the catalog record is to add automatic citations, but no citation format needs dates of authors.

I will say what I would make me question cataloging: if I were a member of the public and I needed that book I mentioned, ended up spending a bunch of money to buy it, to travel to examine it, or had to wait a long time for the ILL to come through, only to discover that I could have just download my own copy for free, that is something I wouldn’t like at all.

We should build catalogs of use to the public–we already have ones that are useful for our own purposes.