Posting to Autocat concerning the use of the “government publications” code in the MARC format
On 26/02/2014 1.48, john g marr wrote:
First, let’s start from the bottom instead of with generalities. Which [“very few”] publications by state university presses ARE “government publications” and why, and which state university presses are NOT affiliated with state universities?
With that, we can then establish some guidelines based on fact instead of mumbling about vagaries.
PS: I see that line “Treat an item published by an academic institution as a government publication if the government created or controls the institution” as being intended to distinguish such items from items published by private academic institutions (e.g. Bob Jones University), which brings up the question of whether such private institutions actually have MORE control (and censorship) over what their presses publish and whether that problem should be addressed.
I think it’s a little late in the day to start trying to figure out how to treat the government publications code. I wanted to check in “The MARC II Format. A Communications Format for Bibliographic Data” from 1968 to discover if it existed in the original format but unfortunately, neither Google Books nor Hathitrust allows me to see the text of the clearly public domain document. (As an aside, I have noticed that Google appears to be withdrawing several materials that used to be open. I have used proxies to check if this is only because I am in Italy, but it appears not to be the case) In any case, I am sure there has been that code for several decades.
As I mentioned in my previous message, I suspect that the code was introduced so that people could limit by “government documents”. That would be good and useful. But catalogers immediately had the very legitimate question of: “What is a government document?”, a vague and nebulous idea. As happens so many times, to answer this legitimate question, nobody ever went back to the public to ask them what they wanted, and instead, catalogers decided to do it “theoretically”: a government document is something that comes from a government body. So, what is a government body? Again, the catalogers fell back on theory and decided:
“Academic publications– In the U.S., items published by academic institutions are considered government publications if the institutions are created or controlled by a government.
University presses– In the U.S., items published by university presses are considered government publications if the presses are created or controlled by a government (e.g., state university presses in the United States).”
Obviously, this becomes useless and is certainly not the general idea of someone who wants to work with government documents. It is also quite a political statement to declare that anything that comes off of a university press–if it is a state university press, or from other academic institutions–creates government documents. Again, I don’t think any cataloger ever researches their publishers to find out their relationship to the government. I never have and I won’t do it.
This is one of those little points in the format that started with good intentions but became useless since there has been such wide variation in its implementation. We should either fix it, which would demand a huge amount of resources for no purpose, or consider eliminating it.
Unless there is no concern for consistency any longer. Then, we can just keep putting in a useless code.