Posting to Autocat
On 4/18/2014 6:25 PM, MULLEN Allen wrote:
These twin strategies – incorporating library metadata into the web and defining relationships so that users can follow their interests using structured metadata – build on the legacy and work of the cataloging community. Whether they are adequate or will be successful remains to be seen. I really don’t care whether RDA developers made their business case to you, or conducted the user studies that you require, James.
I am not the one who demands a business case. These things happen whether we want them or not. Business cases always work themselves out, either before implementation or afterwards. This is a fact of life. It is best if it is worked out before, so that obvious errors and potential disasters can be avoided, and the fewest number of people are hurt. RDA hasn’t cared about the costs of its implementation and has never done basic “customer research”. That is just a fact and that report from the national libraries actually said it. I have only pointed out that this would never be allowed in a business environment, but for some reason it is allowed with libraries. Even with a solid business case, nothing is certain, but without one, … well, we just cross our fingers and hope for the best. I am glad you have such faith, but I have seen too many ideas that people love go down the tubes.
It is also not you and I, or even librarians, who will ultimately decide success or failure: it will be those who are in control of the budgets. I have said time and time again that I believe libraries and catalogs can be very important in the new environment, but it still remains a chancy business.
On last thing – whether you see it as a platitude or not, the work I do is for the convenience user, both as a cataloger and as reference staff. If you didn’t see your work that way when you were employed as a librarian, that’s unfortunate.
I am employed as a librarian.
I understand that you intend your work to be for the convenience of the user; I think we all want that, but this is where we must look at matters from the user’s side, not ours, and we have to look at it honestly. Is it true? The public has complained for years and years and years (if we don’t know that, then we should), so should it be such a shock that when they find new tools that are easier, they leave our tools? This is what is happening. As only an elementary example, any cataloger should understand the absolute need for cross references, so that when someone searches “wwi” they will find the cross-reference to something they would never think of: “See: World War, 1914-1918”. Simple enough and I should not have to explain to any cataloger how vital cross-references are for anyone who wants to search a catalog at least half-way decently.
But cross-references have never worked in an online catalog. While it can be claimed that they “work” today, they work only with left-anchored text searches, which is an unnatural search today. Also, subject arrangement is absolutely nuts in our catalogs. I have mentioned this plenty of times, where e.g. “United States–History–Queen Anne’s War, 1702-1713” comes long after “United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865”. There are tons of problems, and I have written extensively about them. People don’t search that way any longer. It’s been this way for a long time now–at least a couple of decades, and yet, this is supposed to be for the convenience of the user? Pardon my skepticism.
As catalogers, we should know that an informed user should be besieging the reference staff with questions about what are the authorized forms? Or do we think that 99% of the public is searching left-anchored text browses in our catalogs, or checking out the LC Authorities online? And yet, reference questions continue to go down drastically. Why? I have never seen an answer, but one reason seems logical enough: the public just doesn’t understand these things anymore and go elsewhere because their searches in library catalogs must be inferior (there are no cross-references) and we have never made our tools work for them. And when our tools fail, they have many other places to go.
As I said, if we really were so interested in the convenience of the users, we would be busting our b***s finding out what they want. But we don’t.