RDA-L Re: Title translated by the publisher

Posting to RDA-L

On 8/7/2014 3:33 PM, Mark Anders Harrison wrote:

I have a friend of 40 years who chairs the Jewish studies program at California State University Long Beach. He’s not a librarian, but I might show him the language and examples used in RDA and see what he thinks just to get a different POV. He has a mind for debating possible interpretations and was a lawyer before deciding to teach instead. It might be interesting to get a academic’s POV.

I would predict that the reply from almost any non-librarian will be: “What is a parallel title?”

These issues are highly technical and mostly do not matter to the users, who are most interested in access, e.g. can I find this item by searching for this title? People don’t understand various types of titles: parallel, alternative, series, running, spine, etc.–and I have never met a single member of the public who cares. I have found some who have cared about earlier/later names of serials, but those people also far preferred latest entry treatment to successive entry.

If we step back from these issues to re-evaluate the purposes of why these titles are input into the record in the first place, things become clearer. In this case, we are discussing a book entirely in Hebrew but it has a title in English–what can be the utility of that title in English?

I would hazard a guess that it is for marketing purposes. If someone searches in English there will be a chance (but still not much of a chance) that they will find this book in Hebrew. Perhaps someone will then buy a copy without noticing that the book is in a language incomprehensible to them. Of course, if this is the purpose, the language of the title would not have to be English, but any language at all could potentially widen the market for the book: from Chinese to Egyptian hieroglyphs to Klingon!

An alternative case could perhaps be made that someone might use English keywords on a topic that interests them, find this book because of the English title, and they could then find someone to translate it for them. Such a line of thinking seems a bit forced, although it would still be good to hear from a real user. (I don’t want to consider Google Translate for the moment!)

So, it seems to me that the primary purpose of the English title is for the publisher to sell more books and its use for “discovery purposes” will range from very limited to nil. So, the logical follow-up is: who needs this title?

The cataloger needs to know about the title for identification purposes, even if it is just a note that says “Title also in English” without transcribing the title itself.

Otherwise, it is only a matter of differences in computer coding (which indicators of the 246? even 740?) which are all searched in exactly the same times in exactly the same ways. These concerns matter very little to the users, who see all kinds of things on the Amazons, Googles, HathiTrust and article databases.

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