Re: [NGC4LIB] The Return of Cards? [mailing list]

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 10/9/2013 8:53 PM, Eric Lease Morgan wrote:

This morning I was on the verge of shutting down this mailing list.

A number of years ago we — the library profession — were debating the advantages of more traditional OPACs versus indexes (read “discovery systems”). Now-a-days we, in general, are using both. Maybe this list has outlived its usefulness.


Concerning my own motivations, I have tried my best occasionally to bring up a topic that has been little discussed, and to discuss it not only with catalogers (as happens with Autocat and RDA-L) but with what I hoped was a larger community. NGC4LIB seemed a nice place for that. Autocat is populated by catalogers asking questions that mostly discuss technical issues of little interest to anyone other than catalogers: how to create a specific heading, what is the punctuation in a certain field, how to input diacritics into specific catalogs, which rule do I use for [fill in the blank]. RDA-L is almost exactly the same as Autocat, it just includes the RDA flavor to it but the discussions are essentially the same.

There are few places where systems staff really get to discuss matters with cataloging staff, so that each can find out what is important to the other, how different groups think and so on. Of course there are differences, and discussions can get a bit heated once in awhile. Thank goodness! It shows that people actually care!

I feel I can discuss issues on this list that would be completely incomprehensible to catalogers on Autocat or RDA-L. For instance, there was a thread recently about the A of RDA and it was on a few lists. The topic was about “Resource Description and Access” but 99% of all of the discussion on RDA-L and Autocat is about “Description” while “Access” is, for all practical purposes, not discussed. On this list, I don’t think I have to explain that the public is most interested in “Access” but on the other lists, it can be a struggle. There are legitimate reasons for that. It turned out that the discussion was different on each list: Autocat pretty much ignored it, RDA-L had one take on it, but the NGC4LIB take was different. That difference is important.

Access wasn’t (and hasn’t been) discussed on RDA-L or Autocat, and it is clear that it won’t be. For instance, I am still waiting for somebody to demonstrate how the changes with RDA or FRBR or going into linked data is going to make a difference that is both practical–in the sense of how much work and expense will it be–and will also be meaningful and useful to the public. No graphs, no promises, no heartfelt testimonials, no reliance on faith. All I have seen is the assumption that once we get “out there”, that is, into linked data (now that people seem to have given up assuming that the FRBR user tasks are what people really want to do) then everything will change, just like everything will be all right when Godot manages to show up.

It’s important to ask: Why will it change? How will it change? Will our records suddenly get into the magical top three hits in a Google search and people will find the usefulness there? Will there not be spam to filter out? Will SEO not be trying to crowd out our records? Will the incomprehensible headings used in the catalogs suddenly make sense? Something brand new will spontaneously appear that the public will love? Why? How?

Few want to touch these topics, and prefer to cross their fingers and hope. It’s nice to have a place to discuss these matters in a wider context.