Re: [RDA-L] Title proper vs. other title information …

Posting to RDA-L

What concerns me is this blanket rule of “cataloger’s judgment” which means no standard at all and leads to the slippery slope that anyone can just do whatever they want. I can’t imagine what else “cataloger’s judgment” could mean. Perhaps allowing such freedom is good, but there should be at least some kind of effort to discover any consequences to the library, as well as to the patrons. Otherwise, we must conclude that nobody cares.

Lubetzky’s rule of “Why is this rule necessary?” should, and will be asked sooner or later, so let’s pose it here: why do we have a title proper vs. other title information? And why should we continue having rules if the other title information is optional anyway?

A quick historical view.
It would seem that the reason we distinguish title proper and other title information would be to browse titles. For instance, it could be argued that “War and peace : the definitive edition” should file before “War and peace in the nuclear age” since it helps bring titles proper together. Yet, try as I might, I can’t find that this has ever happened in either printed or card catalogs, but a strict, left-anchored alphabetic order of title mixed with subtitle has always prevailed. Title access was far less important than author access, as we can see in Princeton’s scanned card catalog where a left-anchored browse search of “War and peace” as a title retrieves “War and peace aims of the United Nations”, “War and peace and Germany” … completely mixed up with “War and peace” as title proper with other title information.

I can understand this, since the public could not understand what a “title proper” was, it was best to just bring it all together into a single alphabetical arrangement.

This was also normal with other catalogs as well, e.g. the “Catalogue of books added to the Library of Congress” from 1871, which has Dickens’ “A tale of two cities” under “D” for Charles Dickens, but nothing at all under “T” for “Tale” ( vs.

Although I would prefer catalogs to search 245$a separately from 245$b, the unavoidable fact is that they have always been searched together.

If we are supposed to code these bits of information separately, there should be a use for it by someone, somewhere along the way–otherwise, it is only academic. What is the use of separately coding 245$a from 245$b if they are searched together? Therefore if there is to be a use to separate codings, we should imagine a computer system that will utilize them in some way. The trouble with this is that it has never been searched this way in the past and more importantly, today almost nobody (except the rare cataloger or two and even then, only once in awhile) searches the catalog with left-anchored browses. These searches and browses are obsolete and are further evidence why the dictionary catalog has been dead for a long time. Do people want to search titles proper separately from other title information?

Returning to “Why is this rule necessary?” it is only logical to ask if the distinction between title proper and other title information, and to conclude that it is simply an atavistic holdover from earlier times. Still, what does seem very important however, is transcription of the main source of information (with all of the complexity this entails), although the coding and punctuation may be less important.

From this analysis, it would seem that there is little use to code separately 245$a from 245$b, but transcribing the information is important. Yet, RDA does not deal with any of these considerations.

Should there be in-depth rules for other title information? Or should it just be left to the vagaries of this thing called “cataloger’s judgment”, which has never been defined? Too bad there is no research one way or the other and we are only left with subjective opinions of catalogers–not of the public or even of public services staff.

More and more evidence of sloppy thinking.