Re: [RDA-L] : Dead man writing: spirit, fictitious

Posting to RDA-L

My own opinion is that there are two issues:

  1. distinguishing among the different bibliographical identities of the heading “Benjamin, Walter”
  2. letting the users understand in as efficient and clear a way as possible, that there are different bibliographic identities.

To solve 1) we add some kind of distinguishing marker, in this case (Joint/Shared pseudonym). Although it does need to be marked in some way, I don’t know if we need real consistency here because of task 2).

Task 2) is the real issue and while our predecessors solved it to a certain extent in the card catalog (although not perfectly), that solution has disintegrated in the computer catalogs, and we must recognize that. The breakdown becomes clear if we imagine ourselves browsing the cards for, e.g. Rich, Barbara. While we browsed through the “Rs”, we would have seen a card with the note before we saw the card for the book:
“Rich, Barbara.
Joint pseudonym of Laura (Riding) Jackson and Robert Graves. For works of these authors written under their own names, as well as a listing of other names used by Laura (Riding) Jackson, search also under:
Graves, Robert, 1895-1985;
Jackson, Laura (Riding), 1901-1991″

People searching the catalog for “Rich, Barbara” would have had to have seen this note. There would have been no choice in the card catalog. Is this note useful for anybody? Am I kidding? Of course it’s useful for everybody! Today in the computerized catalog, where people no longer browse in this way, when somebody gets this record by keyword http://lccn.loc.gov/32015199 or this one in Worldcat http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1978391, they still absolutely need to know that this was written by two people using a joint pseudonym, just as they would have known after browsing the cards. But of course, they don’t know today.

Fortunately, this is one of those things that can be solved by linked data. By adding a link to http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n79004207.html, the user would get this absolutely vital note whenever they saw this heading–no matter how they happened to find it. You can make sure that people would see the note in all kinds of different ways: through a text box that would pop-up, or it could just display inline. Determining how it worked would be up to the catalog UI designers. There are other technologies that can allow this as well, but linked data would do the trick.

It seems that the catalog has had such a split for such a long time between the authority files and the bibliographic files, that everyone thinks that “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”. On the contrary, the files were designed to work together seamlessly in a physical environment. The task today should be to get them to work together again in a virtual, keyword-type environment, and to work better than ever before.

So, this is why I think that standardizing the qualifier “pseudonym/joint/shared pseudonym” is much, much less important than ensuring that people see the note. That should be the real task and would be the most meaningful for the users.

(By the way, I noticed that in the id.loc.gov site, the note appears only in the MARCXML version and not in the other versions: RDF, MADS, etc. http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n79004207.marcxml.xml)

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