Re: [RDA-L] ] The “A” in RDA

Posting to RDA-L

On 29/07/2013 21:31, Kevin M Randall wrote:

Even after a few years of hearing this, I’m still trying to figure out what are these “other types of tasks” users have that do not fit into the FRBR user tasks. Would it be possible to list just a few of them? And not dissertations about them, but just some succinct examples. I have a feeling (a very strong one) that if we’re able to come to agreement about the meaning of the FRBR tasks there would be much less disagreement about what users are actually doing.

I have already done this several times.

The FRBR user tasks (one more time) are to be able to find, identify, select, and obtain (what?) works, expressions, manifestations, and items (how?) by their authors, titles and subjects. (Again, this is short-hand because nobody wants to obtain all items of a work)

Please show us how you can do this in Google, or Yahoo. Sure, you can search by Mark Twain, but there is no telling what you will get, and certainly not anywhere near works, expressions… and so on. Show us how you can do the FRBR user tasks even in the LC library catalog. I have demonstrated this often enough, for instance in my podcast “Problems with Library Catalogs” I showed how something that worked more or less intuitively in print fell apart in the virtual, online environment.

It is impossible to do the FRBR user tasks in Google, Yahoo, and the like, but the uncomfortable fact is: people prefer Google, Yahoo and the like to library catalogs–that is, unless someone wants to dispute that. While the FRBR user tasks can be done (after a fashion) in the current LC catalog, if you are to do it, you must search by left-anchored textual strings, and even then, things fall apart because of the problems of alphabetical arrangement in the computer. In printed library catalogs, or card catalogs, the uniform title “Works” came in logical order: first under a personal name heading. This was clear enough to the searcher from the arrangement of the catalog. In the OPAC however, you have to look under the author’s name, and then scroll to “W”, so e.g. if you want the different versions of Twain’s complete works, you have to search: find author: “Twain, Mark,[date]” and then scroll dozens of screens to “W”. Nobody will ever do that, unless as I mentioned earlier, someone wants to dispute that people will do it. Even I refuse to do it although I know how it works.

Today, there are brand new ways of searching, by keyword, by citations, by “likes” of others, or of your friends, of your friend’s friends, or even their friends, by the idiosyncracies of your own personal profile, and by who knows what else, but the method uses all kinds of algorithms. I did an entire podcast on Search Plus there are all different new types of “items” that defy what anybody knew of before. To be blown away by new types of searching and new ideas, you can watch Daniel Russell’s talk at Princeton University awhile back: “What Does It Mean To Be Literate in the Age of Google?”

This is the reality for those who want to accept it. The FRBR user tasks, although I won’t argue that some people may still want to do them occasionally (such as myself), are 19th-century conceptions and comprise the minority of what people want. Let’s at least bring these tasks up to late 20th century, if not to really modern times.

We can pretend that nothing has changed since Panizzi’s days; that what he and the other greats of the 19th century spoke of are immutable and forever. But don’t be surprised if libraries end up totally forgotten and remembered as curious remnants of times past.