Re: Cooperative Cataloging Rules Announcement

On Mon, 19 Oct 2009 09:53:04 -0400, … wrote:

>I have a question and a comment.
>You suggest that FRBR is obsolete, but that AACR2 is revisable. So, my
>question is: Why do you think a 31-year old standard, AACR2 (1978) can
>be updated, but not an 11-year old standard, FRBR (1998)?

Hi Christine,
Thanks for some good questions. I’ll try to answer them:

FRBR is a theoretical framework, not a standard. It purports to define what makes a bibliographic record functional, or not. FRBR states that for a record to function, it must allow people to “find, identify, select, and obtain” “works, expressions, manifestations and items.” It was never tested among the non-library community (that I know of) and what it says is certainly highly dubious in today’s world, which has new tools that were completely unknown in the 1990s, e.g. pre-Google, pre-Web2.0. In my own opinion, what FRBR actually does is to describe the library-centric view of the information universe as it stood in the 1990s. (But I reiterate that I am not finding fault with anyone. Nobody could have predicted the explosion
that has occurred) Also, and this is very important: the public likes the new tools and prefers them to ours in many, many ways. Ever newer tools appear every day and we are living through a time of tremendous creativity, innovation and ferment in the information world. With the Google Books project and the popularity of open access plus new projects, we undoubtedly
are in for even more change, e.g. see the latest in
We may be looking at a time, perhaps very soon, a time period measured in months instead of decades, when someone can get a bachelor’s degree without ever setting foot into a library. How much longer will it be before they can get a master’s, or PhD? I don’t think too many people will maintain that it can never happen and perhaps it will come much sooner than we can imagine
right now.

AACR2 is a well-established standard that has been continually updated both with published revisions and the LCRIs, so it does not really date from 1978. Actually, it’s FRBR that has not been updated. Although there is a theoretical framework operating in the background, AACR2 itself is not theoretical but a highly practical document, and does not talk about record structure or anything like that; it tells you what information is important and how to input it.

>Back in May, Tom Delsey, the editor of RDA, gave a presentation on
>AACR2/RDA at a CLA pre-conference. He stated that a lot of the content
>(of AACR2) hasn’t changed. Rather the main change of RDA was structural
>(based on FRBR). Maybe retraining will be less cumbersome than we think
>if we emphasize the continuity of the two codes.

This is my understanding as well. Therefore, if things are changing so little, and retraining will be minimal (essentially learning how to navigate the reorganized rules and learning new rule numbers, which means that all local documentation will have to change as well), it is natural to ask: why do it at all? While our day-to-day work will definitely be disrupted and made more expensive with online subscriptions, what difference will it make to our users? Exactly what will someone be able to do with a record created in RDA that they cannot do today? Will RDA make it easier to get bibliographic records from other entities? Does RDA create anything that people want and is worth the cost?

Library catalogs (and consequently, I submit, libraries themselves) are facing very, very hard times indeed. Especially when there are free alternatives out there that people like and prefer at the same time as we are facing ever-dwindling resources.

My library, and many others out there, simply cannot pay for retraining and the subscriptions to the online RDA. It’s that simple. Therefore, there is no choice for these libraries: they absolutely cannot implement RDA. In addition, I personally have very strong theoretical objections as to its
ultimate value to our library users or to librarians in general. That’s why I looked around for a genuine choice and found the Cooperative Cataloging Rules, which provides the choice for libraries who cannot, or prefer not to implement RDA.

While we must change, it must be in new directions that promise cooperation and high-standards, and we make must be relevant to our patrons. I think there are many things we can do in this new world, and most ways are very inexpensive, but major decisions have to be made, e.g. do I put my data on the web for free in useful formats for free download and further use by the world? I confess that I find this potentially disturbing, as Tim Berners-Lee describes his view of things, where people will take your data and rework it in all kinds of ways they like. Still, while I may find it disturbing, that is just the price of admission to the world of-information-as-it-is-becoming (apologies to Kant!).

Does this answer your questions?

Jim Weinheimer