Friday, August 3, 2012

Re: [RANT] : on cataloguers and IT people : [was] : RDA questions from librarians at small libraries

Posting to Autocat

On 02/08/2012 18:21, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
<snip>
Example right in front of you. Abstract of article in the link I sent http://catalogingandclassificationquarterly.com/ccq50nr5-7.html
"What do Users Tell us About FRBR-Based Catalogs?" Yin Zhang and Athena Salaba
Point to the user studies that demonstrate that the public wants abbreviations typed out more than they want other options, such as links to free online materials.
Some background documents:
http://www.rda-jsc.org/docs/5chair9-chairfolup4.pdf
http://www.rda-jsc.org/docs/5chair9-chairfolup7.pdf
http://www.rda-jsc.org/docs/5chair9-chairfolup8rev.pdf http://www.libraries.psu.edu/tas/jca/ccda/docs/tf-iso1r.pdf
http://www.rda-jsc.org/docs/5m216-265.pdf
http://www.rda-jsc.org/docs/5cilip1.pdf

Of note in this document... "Whilst it may be impossible to avoid requiring a user to bring some understanding of catalogue conventions to his or her reading of our entries, rule makers must more than ever try to ensure that they place as few obstacles as possible in the way of those users less familiar with such conventions. Abbreviations not in common enough usage to be understood by the average user are going to be more of a hindrance than a help."

and of note for the overhead in maintaining abbreviation standards:
"Of rather greater significance to AACR would have been ISO Technical Report 11015, which was intended to provide an actual a list of such abbreviations. However this project, after many years of work, was cancelled – significantly, for AACR3, on account of the cost of publishing and maintaining such a list."

The responses to your other concerns can go on and on. It's best to actually read what's out there, rather than have others point things out to you.
</snip>
"Whilst it may be impossible to avoid requiring a user to bring some understanding of catalogue conventions to his or her reading of our entries, rule makers must more than ever try to ensure that they place as few obstacles as possible in the way of those users less familiar with such conventions. Abbreviations not in common enough usage to be understood by the average user are going to be more of a hindrance than a help."

How does this present a study of what users want? It is a general statement from a designer that ignores a lot, including the possibilities of modern systems that can vary display from what is input (a very simple task that computers do every nano-second of every day). As I have pointed out before, the public has a lot of problems with catalog displays that involve abbreviations. People see lots of abbreviations in the actual record that make "p." or "v." pale in comparison. Also, when someone sees a heading in a foreign language "Bank al-Taslīf al-Saʻūdī" for the Saudi Credit Bank, this is a real problem.

Also, modern computer systems allow the FRBR user tasks right now today, that is, if you have the correct computer system. This simple fact however, seems more of an embarrassment than a cause for celebration, and if we want to provide the public with the FRBR user tasks, it appears as if the public will have to wait for a long time yet--needlessly. Of course, the world won't wait. They will just continue on their own ways further and further from what libraries are creating.

I actually have read much of this literature, I confess not all, but none of them can be called general user studies, although there are a few exceptions that unfortunately have groups that are so small that no generalized conclusions can be drawn. Of course, there are many, very serious, concerns among the public about the information they receive. I mentioned some of these concerns in my paper at ALA, and none of those can be connected to RDA or FRBR. If libraries addressed the issues important to the users, (and to me!) perhaps libraries could receive at least some appreciation from the public.    

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