The purpose of standards

Posting to RDA-L

On 12/21/2012 09:52 PM, Deborah Fritz wrote:

<snip>
At the risk of sounding even more obsessive-compulsive than Bob, I offer you this.
</snip>

and on 12/21/2012 05:29 PM, Heidrun Wiesenmüller wrote:

<snip>
Here’s a postscript to the discussion (for those of you who still care):
</snip>

I want to make clear that I believe that all of these concerns are indeed very important if we want to create and maintain high-quality standards. The people who create the records (i.e. standardized products of any type) must care because if even they don’t care, why should we expect anybody else to care? And why should the public provide money to create products that nobody cares about?

Bibliographic records that conform to high-quality standards are the only products we have. Anyone off of the street, or any computer can easily make garbage records, and make them easier, cheaper, faster, and if garbage records are considered to be the same as anything else, they will be “better” as well.

Specific matters of quality aside, what I challenge is the re-opening of questions that were solved long ago. If someone can demonstrate that the former methods don’t work any longer or if they can demonstrate that there are better and more efficient ways to do the same job, then those would be good reasons to re-open such questions.

For instance, long experience has proven that transcribing the title of an item exactly is extremely important to the running of a library. Therefore, accuracy and even extended rules for titles became necessary. And yet transcribing the same rules for titles may have little purpose in an internet world where the title of a resource can change in an instant and the earlier title no longer even exists. This is a fundamentally different situation from title changes for e.g. printed serials and series because the earlier issues held in the library will forever bear the former titles. So in this regard, re-opening the question of transcribing titles may make sense.

Another example of a fundamental difference from printed copies versus materials on the internet is that everyone is looking at the same file. In the physical world, each library that adds an item is examining an individual copy that might, or might not, differ in certain specific ways from other similar items. In the printed world, for the sake of coherence and efficiency, all of these individual items have been lumped together into what is called a “manifestation” in FRBR terms, or an “edition” in earlier terminology, based on certain definitions. The definitions for manifestation can and have changed, leading to the situation where something that on one day had been considered a different manifestation/edition, on another day becomes a new manifestation because of changes to the definition.

With online resources, everyone is looking at exactly the same files so the utility of even considering an online resource in terms of a manifestation may be far less useful. In terms of work/expression/manifestation/item, I ask what could constitute an “item” when considering webpages and websites?

With manifestations, it seems that the only way to consider the different manifestation aspects of a webpage would be to relate it to the Wayback Machine in the Internet Archive somehow. But I certainly wouldn’t want to catalog each one of those “manifestations”. The website of Microsoft.com currently has 3226 earlier versions (or manifestations/editions) in the Internet Archive! http://wayback.archive.org/web/*/http://www.microsoft.com

Yet for physical materials, the idea of the manifestation/edition still makes as much sense as it ever did.

So, I am not against the need to re-open old questions, but I maintain that there need to be good reasons for re-opening those questions. In the current cases, I cannot find any reasons at all–in fact, I have tried to point out in some of my podcasts how there will be serious negative consequences for the public. These consequences should not be ignored. It seems to me that the motivation is some need to shoehorn everything into a highly dubious and unproven metaphysical construct such as FRBR. A construct that is unproven especially in relationship to online materials.

So, I applaud those who take these matters seriously. They are doing a very important task. What I question is the need to re-open questions if there is no practical utility in it.

-386

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