Monday, August 27, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Detailed critique of RDA

Posting to Autocat

On 27/08/2012 18:47, Marc Truitt wrote:
<snip>
Autocat-ers having difficulty wrapping their heads around this whole notion of relationships and why they are such a prominent part of RDA may find useful a couple of articles published in LITA's _Information Technology and Libraries_ (ITAL) a few months ago.  Are they *about* RDA?  Not really.  They are about bibliographic relationships and the graphing of same.  I think some of you may find the concepts useful in understanding better the relationship issue as it pertains to RDA.

- James E. Powell, Daniel A. Alcazar, Matthew Hopkins, Tamara M. McMahon, Amber Wu, Linn Collins, Robert Olendorf, "Graphs in Libraries: A Primer", ITAL 30 (December 2011): 157-169. http://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/ital/article/view/1867

- Robert J. Murray, Barbara B. Tillett, "Cataloging Theory in Search of Graph Theory and Other Ivory Towers", ITAL 30 (December 2011): 170-184.  http://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/ital/article/view/1868

The Powell, et al., paper is, as it's title suggests, a primer for those new to the subject of bibliographic relationships and graphs.  Read it first, unless you are an old hand at this stuff.  The Murray and Tillett paper is much more... and highly recommended, in my view.
</snip>
The main thing, as Kevin and Thomas have mentioned, is that to add this level of relationship is nothing essentially new for the cataloger. All we would be doing is putting the same headings in, but adding more specific coding, e.g. the parody example I gave would just have some special "is parody of" coding instead of 700     1_ |a Shakespeare, William, |d 1564-1616. |t Hamlet. While this would be a bit more complicated for the cataloger, it would allow more focused searches, so that someone really and truly could search for all parodies of Hamlet.

But this ignores the entire problem. If this were implemented, the public could search for the parodies of Hamlet but not find them. Catalogers must begin to see matters primarily from the point of view of the public and this is a great example. The public works primarily with the catalog as a whole and not so much with individual records; therefore catalogers must not lose sight of what the public will experience. So long as there is no retrospective conversion of the zillions of records that we already have, any searches for, e.g. parodies of Hamlet will be completely wrong since all searches will be limited to records created post-RDA implementation.

We see the same thing occurring with subject headings: the heading "Apples" changes to "Apple" (or vice versa) and, if the public is supposed to get a valid search result when they search for apples, there is no choice except to change all of the earlier headings of "apples" to "apple". Catalogers understand this problem with authorized forms and undertake the changes. It happens with other headings as well, and I personally remember the incredible changes I had to do when the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe fell apart and nearly all headings from that part of the world changed. It would have been a lot easier to ignore the earlier records but catalogers recognize adding an updated authorized form without changing the earlier ones will always give false results. Precisely the same problem will occur when "updating" the coding, which makes everything cataloged before obsolete.

Is it in the interest of the public to make a tool that will find only .01% of the total resources that are parodies of Hamlet? I say that this limits access to the materials the public wants. As I mentioned before, in other types of databases, it is possible to just create a new database and archive everything before a certain date, but a library catalog does not have such a nice option. It is too bad, but you must play the cards you are dealt. There is no choice except to willfully ignore the problems that everyone will see who uses the catalog: the public, the reference librarians, the selectors and everyone else.

These are the sorts of cataloging changes that may be well-intentioned, I understand, but the final product does not and cannot serve the purpose of the public and in fact, is what I maintain gives cataloging a bad name.

1 comment: