Revision of existing bib records often gets trivialized as a superficial task undertaken by perfectionists when, in my experience, it’s a fundamental process to fulfilling our service commitment of connecting patrons with resources. (A little soapbox pronouncement for a Friday!)
As usual, Daniel is correct. These are the most frequent changes and additions we make, even to DLC and LAC records: http://special-cataloguing.com/node/1389 Some of the changes are for international consistency. For example, “WA” can be Washington State or Western Australia. Asian customers do not know the state in which cities familiar within the Beltway are to be found, and jurisdiction omitted by DLC. Imprint jurisdiction should always be supplied by use of a unique abbreviation (AACR2) or in full (RDA).
I agree with both of these statements, but it only emphasizes the importance of following generally agreed-upon standards. Catalogers keep talking about how great their standards are but then they say that the records they find for copy cataloging aren’t good enough and copy must be updated. (I have said that a lot too) As a result, the same records are redone over and over again in each library with incredible waste. Such a situation could never exist in other parts of our society, for instance with food, where each store does not have to inspect every candy bar before it is sold to the public to ensure that there aren’t too many roaches in them. Those are real, honest-to-goodness standards and the bibliographic community doesn’t have anything like that.
At one time, many libraries would edit all copy cataloging (that was my own experience), but many stopped–not because the quality of the records had improved but because the task became overwhelming. This is because there is no real need to follow bibliographic standards–after all, nothing happens to anybody. RDA and FRBR are certainly no simpler and there is no reason to think that catalogers will follow those standards any better than any other standards. But what would happen if people found that the candy bars they bought for their sons and daughters had roaches in them?
Because somebody can find a record from another library for an item your library has bought doesn’t mean that that item is any less important to your patrons. The record should be handled with the same care as anything that has to be cataloged originally. PCC has excellent motives but the records leave a lot to be desired, in my opinion.
I emphasized “should” in that statement. I am not finding fault with anybody–it is just that the task is becoming overwhelming with too few catalogers and too much is being asked of everyone. Yet, I think that there will eventually be a need for some sort of enforcement of standards, just like the rest of the world has to deal with, if anything level of efficiency can be achieved. A serious consideration would focus on what kinds of standards can realistically be achieved given certain levels of support and training, as opposed to what we believe should be achieved. AACR2 turned out to be too much; I think that can be accepted by everyone. RDA is at least as complex.