Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Re: [ACAT] New Bibliographic Framework: Update with Eric Miller

Posting to Autocat

On 10/10/2012 15:32, Humpal, Nathan wrote:
The idea that it introduces complexity rather than taking any away is probably why the younger generation (including me) is so infatuated with it. When in library school, these theoretical ideas that necessitate a paradigm shift seem tremendously attractive as it empowers you as an incoming librarian to really change the way the library world looks at things, but, of course it ignores the necessary balance between idealism and pragmatism. As I said, I've been out of school for three years now, which is a span of time that allows me to both be excited by the impossibilities of FRBR and recognize the impracticality of it, which is why Eric Miller's comments struck a chord with me. There's far too many records, and institutions that depend on those records, to reinvent the wheel at this point, so for those who work with an institutions catalog on a daily basis FRBR is a hilariously out of touch concept. Implementing a semantic structure in the still fundamentally phy sically card based catalog is a Sisyphean task, especially when a large part of catalogs is still based in pre-AACR2 records. How can you fully implement such a huge change to a database when the structure that you're replacing isn't even fully implemented? 
But, that's the way these things go, isn't it? There's some impossible ideal set out that is necessarily rejected in favor of a more pragmatic solution. RDA is introduced as a FRBRized implementation, and it comes down, mostly, as a new rule to spell out formally abbreviated things. And no one's really happy, but whatever. I still do think that a FRBR structure could be a fantastic way of arranging metadata, though only if people fundamentally thought about information in such a way. If that were the case, perhaps, intellectual entities would make such things more clear. But clearly people don't think about things in such a way so we get plenty of books which actually are manifestations of a former expression, but make no mention of it and the entire structure is harmed. So we do what we can: we try to link data with the fields we got (the fields Deborah Johnson mentions) even though those aren't fully FRBRized or even somewhat RDF/linked data compliant, hoping that at some point a cross-walk will be developed that bridges most of the gap.

Again, I have learned a lot from your post. I appreciate it. While I personally don't think FRBR is such a great way of arranging metadata--although I confess it appeals to the historian aspect of my nature since it harkens back almost 200 years!--that is a matter of taste. Nevertheless, the fact is that the public can have their FRBR navigation now if they want it, using the facets, plus facets allow for far more than FRBR envisions. So far as I am concerned, Lucene indexing is perhaps the greatest revolution in the catalog since computers were invented. Or at least it should be considered that way. I can't believe that the cataloging world simply ignores it! Unbelievable. There is so much a clever librarian could do with all of that....

Comparing my own viewpoint to yours is intriguing as well. My opinion: when the OPACs came in, they broke the functionality existing in the card catalogs, and this functionality was never fixed. Cross-references and subject browsing, so vital for searching the card catalog, became dysfunctional and these essential aids for the searcher were slowly forgotten by the populace over the years. (Forgotten by many catalogers too, as I discovered with many from the newer generations) For the public, they think our catalogs are broken and--they are right! The catalogs really are broken in part because the cross-references and browsing don't work any longer.

So, we could FRBR-ize everything and it still won't work until (at least) the cross-references and subject access are all fixed. It seems to me that it's more important to get the car started and not belching smoke than deciding on which mag wheels to buy and what colors the car should be painted. That's the way I see RDA and FRBR. They both ignore the real problems that the public sees in the catalog every single day. Once the catalog is functional again, then will be the time to do a lot of reconsidering. But there is a lot to do before, and fixing those things will have infinitely more significance to the public than typing out a bunch of cataloging abbreviations. Or tracing only one author.

All this should have been done long before, but catalogers have been pretty busy and unfortunately FRBR and RDA have been a false path.

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