Posting to Autocat

On 23/07/2013 22:38, Kevin M Randall wrote:

Believe me, the people who are responsible for the content of RDA live in the very same real world that the rest of us do, and they are very aware of it. RDA as published is the result of a huge amount of compromise amongst international participants, and is intended to allow for flexibility (thus the definition of core elements as well as the inclusion of alternatives and options). It was developed with the understanding that, e.g., the Library of Congress has different standards from the British Library, which has different standards from the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, which has different standards from the Tulsa City/County Library, which has different standards from the AACA Library & Research Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It is just as unrealistic to expect that all of these libraries should produce identical records, as it is to expect that a cataloging code could be written to conform to all of the libraries’ specific standards at once. Thus the core elements, alternatives, and options, which were developed with the understanding that individual libraries, consortia, and certain cataloging communities (such as regional networks, or international agencies such as the Program for Cooperative Cataloging) would come up with agreed-upon application profiles to use within their libraries, consortia, and communities.

It would be very nice to believe this, but the evidence is to the contrary. And yet, I want to emphasize something: I have great respect for the abilities and commitment of the designers of RDA/FRBR because I believe they are sincere. But this does no exclude them from criticism. For instance, I am a pretty nice, committed, sincere guy with some abilities but it certainly hasn’t stopped anyone from criticising me!

Not living in the real world means not understanding, or ignoring, the consequences of the decisions you make. The changes to the RDA headings are a case in point: these are already beyond the resources of many libraries that have been stretched to the breaking point for years now. Even the Library of Congress,, NYPL, the UK, and an article from LJ on budget cuts In our current economic climate, almost every organization is cutting costs (except the NSA apparently) and libraries are feeling it everywhere in various ways. Here in Europe, libraries are being cut very, very seriously.

So, what does this mean? Anything that calls for spending library resources should be taken extremely seriously–especially so today. That is the only responsible attitude to take because it will have consequences on staffing, acquisitions or something important to a library. Therefore, if the powers-that-be of RDA have decided that it is so vital to change hundreds of thousands of headings such as
Agatha, Saint, d. ca. 250
Agatha, Saint, -approximately 250

and it should be done at the expense of other services of the library, then it is only responsible that those concerns should be explained. Because it is not just a matter of changing headings. It will have an impact on people–real, live human beings–and their lives. So, the people who feel the impact should understand why it is so vital to do this, and to do it now, at the expense of other tasks that a library may feel are just as important. A responsible attitude would have the RDA designers understanding this, and they would offer methods to help those who cannot implement it by e.g. helping them find additional funds somewhere or something. Otherwise, libraries and their people are left to their own devices and treated like cannon fodder who either cannot ask questions or their questions are just ignored, such as in “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson:

“Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.”

This is especially true when it is becoming clear that much, much more will be needed before everyone reaches the idyllic empire of FRBR and Linked Data (heavenly chorus). And of course, that goal can’t be questioned at all.

So, no–the designers of RDA clearly do not live in the real world–because they mandate these changes without regard to their consequences. I understand this is not such a popular thing to point out but people are hurting.