Re: [RDA-L] Illustration terms in

Posting to RDA-L

On 8/20/13, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:

20.08.2013 15:07, Mitchell, Michael:

… This is a rant against the folly of RDA,…
I just don’t understand how the profession can embrace such folly though.

High time to figure this out indeed.

When I have mentioned that it was necessary to make sense of the RDA project in practical terms, or in other words, make a business case, it was obviously deemed unnecessary. The report from the national libraries said so explicitly. RDA is not aimed at practical concerns but at something else.

A genuine concern of mine is when I consider what it is that makes a catalog fundamentally different from a simple listing of items. So long as someone understands the language of a resource and has some kind of an idea of what it is about, then anyone in the world can sit down and describe that resource and give it some keywords. That’s easy but that is not cataloging. What is difficult to do is to do it all consistently: consistently finding the same chief source of information, counting the paging in the same way, tracing the same people, writing the same kinds of notes…. It goes on and on. All of the rules and all of the procedures are actually there to ensure as much consistency as possible. And of course, whether we like it or not, this includes making our records consistent with what came before.

With all of the changes proposed by RDA, they almost never address the problems of breaking the consistency with what we already have and what that means for the public. The relator codes are a clear example but so are the cataloging abbreviations and the tracings, and a whole number of changes. The idea of consistency does not seem to be very well understood within the cataloging community but it is not understood at all outside that community. For those who are interested I discussed this in more detail in a post that discussed a talk of Clay Shirkey, “Authority in an Age of Open Access (an analysis)” The
discussion on the lists was revealing.

Even bringing all of this up makes someone look like a crusty, creaky old dinosaur who doesn’t want to change anything, and I suspect that catalogers today are not really concerned with consistency, except when hundreds of thousands of headings have their cataloging abbreviations changed! Otherwise, it doesn’t seem to enter anyone’s minds, or it is just relegated to “baggage from the past”.

Still, I would be interested to know what has taken/will take the place of the principle of consistency in the catalog, if anything. When I search Google for the phrase “is the new consistency“, I find:

  • Unpredictability is the New Consistency
  • Familiarity is the new consistency
  • Commitment is the New Consistency
  • Variety is the new consistency
  • Change is the new consistency

Which way for cataloging?