Friday, September 21, 2012

Re: [RDA-L] Cataloging Matters No. 16

On 20/09/2012 16:55, Karen Coyle wrote:
But I find it interesting that for so many of you (and I refer here to others who replied) that you are more motivated to declare change impossible than to think about ways to make possible changes. That's not only self-defeating, that is library-defeating. You seem to prefer to go down with the ship than steer toward shore. In fact, I'm pretty much done having this discussion because there is no progress to be made when talking to the "profession of no," where every answer to every suggestion is "no" rather than "Well, not quite but you could ALSO do...." No suggestions, no options, no dialog. It's a dead end. In contrast, there are lists where if I had made that suggestion someone would have come back with a complete list of types and possible algorithms to get the best results. Why anyone would prefer the worst results than the best is absolutely beyond me.

This is unfair. I don't believe that those who have chosen not to climb onto the RDA bandwagon are saying that change is impossible, and there have been scads of suggestions for improvements from lots of people. The issue really comes down to: are RDA and FRBR really improvements? And if so, for whom? These are only reasonable, responsible--and necessary--questions to ask in a professional environment at such a key moment.

The answers are often not so readily apparent, as my podcast tried to show, especially when taking the point of view of the patron--the audience that RDA purports to be aimed at. If the RDA rule for relators is implemented, along with the bibliographic relationships (for adaptations, summaries, satires, etc.--something else I cut from my podcast), and everything is coded in the new format, the practical result will be that access to library materials will decrease. I think I showed that clearly. Is this what we want? This seems to be a reasonable question.

If access is not to decrease, searchers need to know and understand a lot. A lot more than they know now or perhaps ever had to know and understand. It therefore foists everything off on public services. It is a huge task. This seems to be a rather poor road to go down.

I personally have come up with tons of suggestions, in posts here, on other lists, and in papers I have given. I remember when I suggested that instead of RDA's mandate to physically type in the cataloging abbreviations (which is an obsolete 19th century solution), it could be programmed, something far simpler than what you suggested with role information, I was completely ignored. The faceted capabilities allowing for the public to rather easily do the FRBR user tasks have also been resolutely ignored. Why? That one I have never understood. Working to make better user interfaces to these indexes could go a long way, and I have made suggestions there, too. Again, silence.

How about finding out what the public really wants from a collection of metadata records? I have done a little work there, too. How about admitting that the catalog hasn't functioned since the moment it went to an OPAC, and fix the subject headings, and get the cross-references to work? There's plenty that can be done and suggestions are everywhere.

Instead of "the profession of no", I think it is more a matter of RDA as "the project of no business case." There is a huge amount developers can do with our records right now, today without turning our catalogs into "legacy data" as RDA seems to intend, at such great cost.

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