Re: [ACAT] Added Title Entry to Include Initial Articles

Posting to Autocat

On 14/08/2013 18:08, J. McRee Elrod wrote:

<snip>
Diane Goodman said:

I agree with James – creating added entries for all these [initial articles] would be a monumental undertaking.

Making them for all would be overkill. We make them when the language of the title differs from the language of the item (e.g., the motion picture “La Mission”). We should also do them on request based on how patrons search for a particular resource.
</snip>

I look at it differently. The original post said:
“I had a request from a reference librarian to add an added title entry to the journal Der Baumeister for “Der Baumeister,” that is, she wants me to add an entry that includes the “Der”.
She says that students will, do, and have searched for this title using the Der and have come up result-less…”

This should not be seen as a single occurrence–it probably happens with many other searches and they don’t say anything. It actually reveals a very serious misunderstanding among our patrons of how the catalog functions. “Fixing” it for this particular title, or for all German initial articles, or all French, etc. would be only a serious disservice to the users of the catalog. From the user’s standpoint, they search “der baumeister” in the catalog and come up with zero. What do they do? They will do exactly the same search in a Google-type search engine and they find it. What is their conclusion? The library catalog doesn’t work, OR, the library doesn’t have the resource. Either conclusion will not lead to an appreciation for libraries. I don’t see it as any different from “The adventures of Huckleberry Finn”–people do not understand about how initial articles are handled in a library catalog.

So, what have we learned about our users? Not so much that they don’t understand initial articles. We learn that they assume a keyword environment, and in a keyword environment they search differently. They don’t search for the same thing in different ways (as title vs. series, by author name or pseudonym, using authority files etc.) because they don’t understand such methods. In Google, when they don’t find what they want the first time, what do they do? They choose other words search those and if those don’t work, choose other words, etc. etc. etc. We all do this, myself included.

In the case of searching “der baumeister” and getting a zero result, what are the other words someone is supposed to choose? There aren’t any! And so, they are out of ideas and are absolutely helpless. Yes, you and I know they should search without the initial article, but what is more important is to understand that when someone does a search for “der baumeister” they are assuming a keyword search. That is why they can find it in Google pretty easily. Therefore, making an added-title entry “246 Der Baumeister” only makes matters worse. To me, it seems like when your car is overheating and you go to a mechanic. He finds that your radiator has a leak, but instead of fixing it he just covers the leak with Bondo and tells you it’s fixed. You’ll be back–he hasn’t fixed it and he knows it, and you don’t understand anything at all. And when you do come back, he just puts more Bondo on, and after a few times of this, you decide that the mechanic is incompetent. And yet, he may be completely competent, but he needs to replace the radiator and for some reason, he doesn’t want to do the work or tell you about it.

The library catalog is a “dictionary catalog” and as I have said several times, we should consider that the dictionary catalog should be declared dead and that it has very little or no place in our modern information world. Doing otherwise leaves it to others (public services who hear the complaints) to “train” the entire world to search our catalogs as if they were a 19th-century dictionary. Not very forward looking and an absolutely impossible task.

Besides, if people can’t handle initial articles of titles, how are they going to figure out that they have to search for “Twain, Mark” instead of “Mark Twain” or “Art–Italy” instead of “Italy–Art”. Searching a dictionary catalog is hard, very hard, and in fact, is just out of step with today’s world.

So yes, adding “246 Der Baumeister” is only like putting Bondo on the leak in the radiator, and assures that the public will consider us to be incompetent. Information about how users search that comes from reference services, such as we have here, is absolutely golden and should lead catalogers not to just cover the problem for the moment, but to search it for wider problems along with broader solutions.

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