Re: [RDA-L] Access to the knowledge of cataloging

Posting to RDA-L

On 12/5/2013 9:03 AM, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:

<snip>
04.12.2013 21:07, Laurence S. Creider:

I think that the most we can hope for is for other content standards that we can make compatible to RDA so that data can be exchanged in the other format.

We have to realize that schema.org, mentioned by Jim, is not a content standard but a markup standard. What you put under a microdata tag is up to you! There are no mentionable content rules for names or titles or just about anything you can record in microdata. So, there is actually no choice between RDA and microdata. Not even, I’d add, between MARC and microdata, for the latter is just much less granular, and certainly too much so for RDA stuff.

OTOH, Jim’s view about what standards we really need seems to be more radical…
</snip>

This is true, and while Bernhard certainly knows the difference between a content standard and a markup standard–and how important that distinction is–and many others on this list understand as well, the vast majority of non-catalogers either do not understand the difference (and don’t care) or they do not understand why it is important. For instance, an IT person would very possibly say that all you need to do is encode your information in schema.org, put it someplace where the Googles can ingest it, and then the algorithms will clear up any problems with content. The Googles do this all the time. I think there are lots of problems with that, but it doesn’t mean the idea itself is entirely wrong either.

Laurence’s point is also telling: that other content standards can be made compatible to RDA. I ask: Why shouldn’t it be the other way around: make RDA (or library-created records) compatible with other content standards? This would be the real change and, I think, is inevitable no matter what we do.

Whether we like it or whether we don’t, libraries are not the main places where people go to for their information needs. When was the last time you saw in a movie or TV show that when someone needed information, they were told: Go to a library and ask a librarian. No–it’s always Google and they always find exactly what they need quickly and easily. That is the popular mind today.

Even when people do come to a library for information and not just for a cup of coffee or to watch the latest “internet meme”, but when they come for information, lots of times it is to get access to search the web, or to get access to proprietary databases (e.g. proquest, ebsco, etc.) where they search full-text and/or non-library created records. Does Ebsco use RDA? Or AACR2? No. And I don’t think there is a chance in h*** that they will–that is, unless someone can demonstrate otherwise to them, or can (pardon) make the business case.

So, from the user’s standpoint–which must take precedence (as we have always claimed but have rarely lived up to)–the number of places to get information is going up at an exponential pace, while the library-created information becomes an ever-diminishing fraction of the whole of that. Everybody knows this, but yet we are supposed to think that all of those information providers need and want to become compatible with us? Why? If we wait for that, we wait forever….

So, are there choices? Of course there are choices–there are always choices even though many try to deny that there are choices. The first step–I think–is to eliminate the mind-numbing fantasy that FRBR is some kind of ultimate solution. Finally, there seems to be a major push against it, as shown in this excellent paper I found by Amanda Cossham: “Bibliographic records in an online environment”, given at a conference in Copenhagen in August. http://www.informationr.net/ir/18-3/colis/paperC42.html#.Up8arieKJWF She also provides an excellent bibliography and has graciously included some of my thoughts, so this gives me a chance to “pound my own chest”.

The next step for catalogers is to deal seriously with the reality of keyword searching. Keyword searching was immediately popular with the users and it just as quickly destroyed the logical structure of the catalog. (Yes, there was one!) It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the public, which was never enamored of our catalogs anyway, now finds our catalogs much less useful than ever. That has been the case for–what is it? Going on for a quarter of a century now?! What a librarian attitude! How much longer can we put it off?

How can we make the traditional logical structures–that are still!–found in our catalogs but hidden away, useful for the searcher of today? And while we are at it, how could we make our records useful with a full-text search? Full-text searches do exist and people like myself like them. Could those full-text results be improved by using our records somehow? Wouldn’t it be nice if they were improved, and we could demonstrate how important our work is, or at least, how important our work could be? Shouldn’t we try to find out?

But it seems more important to figure out the new relationships, thereby making all the records we made before a year ago ever more inconsistent (but let’s not talk about that!), adding those incoherent 336-338 fields, typing out cataloging abbreviations and including the entire alphabet soup after people’s names in the statement of responsibility.

Very strange when there is so much that could be done that could make a real difference to the public.

-330

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