Posting to RDA-L
[I deleted some of the RE: in the subject line]
On 1/22/2014 5:46 PM, Arakawa, Steven wrote:
The practical problem is that different systems or even different sites using the same system have made different indexing decisions, and that causes more user frustration than missteps by the cataloger. I don’t see how catalogers are supposed to anticipate every search scenario. On the web, it seems to me more likely that the fine distinctions allowed by MARC subfields will be ignored and everything will be indexed, and if the web model will be the basis for future discovery, it may not matter where you stick “novel.” At a certain level, the rules are there less for the user than to allow catalogers to sleep at night in a universe where there are more discovery paths than the mind can anticipate.
Well, RDA changes very little of anything about discovery for the user, and expects some behavior from catalogers that seems rather neurotic to me. It turns out that with RDA, you can do almost anything… sometimes. Some areas are completely opened up: trace the number of authors based on how well you slept the night before, but you still have to trace one even if you stayed up too late (and don’t forget those illustrators of children’s books!); if your digestion is good, go ahead and add the 245$b; depending on how well your relationship is with your significant other, you can add–or not–some or all of the relator codes, whatever strikes your fancy.
At the same time, no matter how we feel or how the rest of our lives is going, in other matters we have no choice and e.g. we absolutely must type out all abbreviations; although cm is certainly not an abbreviation of any kind at all and is very definitely a symbol (just don’t think too much about other abbreviations such as in
or ft or yds because those so obviously are abbreviations). If you question the reasoning behind any of this, you only prove your own inadequacies by showing that you are unable to understand the deep subtleties involved, and that everyone except you just silently understands. So for everybody’s sake, it is better simply not to bring up the subject!
Nevertheless, I will confess something: In RDA, there is a relationship between incredible laxity, along with inexplicable strictness that I cannot understand. Perhaps saying this just proves that I am a fool (for those not already convinced of it), but I don’t see any overarching principles that explains where we should be disciplined and where we can relax. Where the rules can be bent and where they are strict seem completely arbitrary to me. At the same time, the matter of ensuring consistency with 99% of everything that exists, which used to be one of the primary concerns of cataloging, is now described as “dealing with
that legacy data“. That is just too impolite of a topic to bring up and is best dropped.
So Steven, I fear you may be correct and that “the fine distinctions allowed by MARC subfields will be ignored and everything will be indexed” and I will place the emphasis on “everything”: that is, poured into that gigantic bowl of hash, along with everything else that is there. Then we will make sure that the only way of providing “discovery” will be based on algorithms and “semantic technologies”. In other words, it will be completely out of our hands and in the hands of IT.
I can only reply that I hope you are wrong, because that will have tremendous consequences not only for cataloging but for libraries in general.