Re: [RDA-L] and

Posting to RDA-L

On 16/12/2013 21.09, Kevin M Randall wrote:

Adam Schiff wrote:

LC’s policy, however, implies that the compiled work does not become known by its title except through the passage of time (e.g. Whitman’s Leaves of Grass), and that for newly published compiled works, a conventional collective title must be used instead.

What I would really like to see is some kind of justification for this idea. Is there any evidence that catalog users or the general public do NOT know the the title of a compilation by the title that appears on its title page?

Can anyone tell me–with a straight face–that the book “Everything is nice : collected stories, sketches and plays” is not known to anyone by that title, but rather is known by the title “Works. Selections. 2012”???

Of course, our predecessors understood–probably better then we do–that nobody will ever search for “Works” or “Selections”. That was not the purpose of collective uniform titles. It turns out that this is an example of how the transfer from card/print catalogs to online catalogs changed something very fundamental in the workings of the catalog. It is clearest to show this through an example.

If we examine the “Catalogue of Printed Books in the British Museum” (that is, Panizzi’s catalog where only volume 1 came out and because of popular outrage, it was stopped and the Royal Investigation began) the purpose of these “collective titles” (which didn’t really “exist” as they do today) was used for arrangement, and there was no need for anybody to search for them because once you found a person’s name, the first things you saw were the “Works” and “Selections” etc. As a result, when you found the person, you found their works (if there were any).

To see how it worked, we can use the wonders of Google Books to look in Panizzi’s catalog under Aristophanes: and we immediately see “Works” (didn’t have to search for it) and after browsing we eventually come to “Separate Works”.

If we look under the more complex arrangement under Aristotle, we see “Works” and eventually (much farther along) we come to “Two or More Separate Works” (or our “Selections”). This reveals an incredibly complex arrangement, with see references everywhere to other places in the catalog, and we can begin to understand the outrage among the people who saw this catalog and why they demanded an investigation.

These arrangements were transferred wholesale into the card catalog. This can be seen in the Princeton scanned catalog, where we find the following arrangement for Aristotle:
Even more complex is Cicero
Complete works and selected works were often interfiled. With the card catalog, at least some very nice notes were possible.

All of these careful arrangements completely disintegrated when they were placed into the computer catalog. Since computers are rather mindless, the uniform title “Works” is now placed alphabetically under the author’s name (“W”) and as a consequence, people are supposed to actively search for “Works” (or browse to “W”) although everybody, including our predecessors, have always known that no one will ever do that. So, I agree that collective uniform titles do not work, but it is also true that they haven’t worked for a long, long, long time.

Does it then follow that these collective uniform titles are useless? That people do not want the group of records collocated under “Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Selections. English”? I think they do want that, but those groups of records are impossible for people to find in our current catalogs. Changing it to “Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Works. Selections. English” is certainly no improvement at all for the user and seems senseless.

But, is it possible to make collective uniform titles useful and functional for today’s information tools? I believe they could and that people would appreciate it, but that would take complete reconsideration from the user’s point of view–something I don’t see happening very soon.