Posting to Autocat
On 4/26/2014 6:37 PM, MULLEN Allen wrote:
I can’t speak for all libraries, but my sense is that librarians are doing a pretty credible job of helping people find information they can trust. … The RDA goal of making library metadata more easily integrated with the larger digital environment is not unproven speculation. It is necessary. It is an adaptation to the environment. Instead of offering repetition of the same theoretical criticisms, how about offering your vision of how library metadata could feasibly and successfully be integrated with quality resources in the larger digital environment. Not that either one of us expects that the library world would adopt your plan, but it would be more fruitful food for thought than more critiques.
I am glad that you think that librarians are doing a pretty good job. I also think they are really trying their best, but there are the problems with facts. The number of catalogers is not going up, in fact, they seem to be going down from what I have heard; the number of reference questions has been plummeting for years. I am sure that when people do approach librarians for help it is a good experience, but that is happening more and more rarely. I don’t question that librarians are trying their best, but the trends are not encouraging.
I do take issue with one point: RDA is not unproven speculation and is necessary. The fact is it was implemented without any studies into its consequences, technical, budgetary, or even how important it is to the users. The national libraries even said so quite clearly in their report when they claimed they could not make a business case for it.
There seems to be a lack of clarity on this. What is a business case? It is not obscure but is very practical. In essence, it is just an argument laying out why an organization or an individual person (not only a business) needs to adopt a certain proposal. For example, someone can say to a auto manufacturer that their automobiles should get at least 100 miles per gallon, and that proposal can be considered, but if the managers would adopt it without looking further into it: finding out how much it would cost, the practical feasability, other options, and so on, if the decision makers just decided to “go ahead with it,” it could very probably be a disaster for the company, along with all of its workers and its stockholders. So, people are required to make a business case, which means:
“A business case assists in determining the strengths and weaknesses of a proposal in a systematic and objective manner. You need to be rigorous, objective and honest in applying it to your proposal, to do otherwise risks making a poor investment.”
Pretty simple and obvious.
The national libraries did not do this, and they explicitly stated it.
See p. 12 of http://www.loc.gov/bibliographic-future/rda/source/rdatesting-finalreport-20june2011.pdf
“The Coordinating Committee wrestled with articulating a business case for implementing RDA. For the reasons that are presented in this Executive Summary and other sections of the report, it is, nevertheless, the decision of the Coordinating Committee to recommend implementing RDA”
They go on to explain in point form why it should be implemented, but there are no options offered, no discussion of tradeoffs. The only costs discussed were in changing documentation, but nothing as to further costs (conversions), changes to systems, or “opportunity costs” (i.e. other ways those same resources could have been used).
Stating that they “wrestled” with articulating a business case is quite a statement and in a business/organization context would be considered suspicious from the beginning. Of course, you shouldn’t be wrestling with the business case at the end, but it should be made from the very beginning, so it can be revised and perhaps abandoned as easily as possible if it proves necessary, otherwise projects take on a life of their own. All of this is simply elementary and I have gone over this many times before.
So please, implementing RDA was based on unproven speculation. There were many options and they were not considered. Nevertheless, it may turn out to be good, or bad. We do not know. To try to get some kind of idea is the very purpose of a business case, and therefore, we are left only with opinion and feelings. I repeat these criticisms because people keep bringing up the same arguments.
Finally, saying that I am only negative ignores almost all of my podcasts and my papers, where I have made suggestions for changing/using individual records, changing interfaces for multiple search results, using principles taken from information architecture and on and on. I have probably been as active as anyone in making suggestions that would have a real effect on what the public experiences. Of course I know that they will not be implemented, because the resources are being spent elsewhere.
Still, I admit that I don’t know if my ideas really would have any effect, but those in favor of RDA/FRBR don’t have any better idea than I do because the research hasn’t been done. And why? There wasn’t a business case! At least my suggestions are based on changing systems and not on making 99% of the records in our catalogs obsolete. We are all stuck with the consequences, and can only hope.