Re: [RDA-L] ] The “A” in RDA

Posting to RDA-L

On 29/07/2013 15:53, JSC Chair wrote:

RDA is about describing bibliographic resources and their relationships and enabling access to those resources to meet our users needs. It is intended to be used as an online tool that can be consulted as needed once a cataloger has learned the basics. That is not different from earlier cataloging codes. What is different, is that now we can access those instructions online and we can build on the expertise of thousands of people to help improve those instructions and vocabularies to offer even better descriptions and access to those resources for our users — now.

These are the sorts of platitudes that we have heard over and over but everything remains abstract because nothing is ever demonstrated. As a result, everyone can interpret for him- or herself what e.g. “user needs” means. I think that very few catalogers today would maintain that the FRBR user tasks are what people really and truly want more than other types of tasks. With the introduction of keyword searching, the traditional, logical arrangements in the card catalogs was destroyed in OPACs and was replaced with arrangement by latest date of publication, or now with the term I do not understand (at least in catalogs) of “relevance” ranking. Only in the last few years has it been possible to do the FRBR user tasks in catalogs with facets, such as Worldcat, it’s easier to do the FRBR user tasks than ever before! And yet nobody flies up and announces “Mission Accomplished”. Why haven’t people been happy with this accomplishment? The answer is obvious: the FRBR user tasks are not what people really want to do.

Therefore, words such as “user needs” wind up meaningless because nobody has done the work to find out what those user needs are. Additionally, things are changing so fast that it is probable that once someone determines a genuine “user need” it already will have changed.

Once again, cataloging must change–only a blind person couldn’t see it–but RDA does not represent any of changes that are needed. The irrelevant RDA changes to the headings are a case in point: those changes are already too expensive for many libraries to undertake, and the changes are just silly. They don’t deal with any of the real problems people have with the catalog. (This was discussed on Autocat) At the same time, libraries are closing. What will happen in Detroit and Chicago? We just saw about Miami-Dade county. People are losing their jobs.

And yet, catalogers are supposed to spend their time typing out abbreviations and inputting relator codes that won’t be able to be implemented for years and years and only after enormous cost. We can no longer accept the tired, old mantra of “user needs”. Unfortunately, RDA is just one more set of cataloging rules that people will not follow.