Posting to NGC4LIB

Alexander Johannesen wrote:

On Tue, Apr 20, 2010 at 23:02, Lundgren,Jimmie Harrell
<> wrote:
> Oh, please!

Not sure what to make of that response. MARBI is suppose to pursue the wonderfulness of MARC, no? Where is the framework I’m talking about? Or even the idea of a framework rather than a few scruffy scripts? The mind boggles.

Besides, I’ve talked about the absolute EVIL of MARC before, a timely reminder for this discussion ;

Thanks for pointing to your blog posting, but I do have some problems. You write:

“<datafield tag=”245″ ind1=”1″ ind2=”0”>
<subfield code=”a”>Arithmetic /</subfield>

I’ll translate what this does for you;


The MARC tag 245 means “title statement”, and the code “a” means, uh, title. This perticular madness comes from the culture of MARC itself which I’ll rant about some other time (and have in the past), so I’ll try to stick to the pure XML part of it.”

This isn’t entirely true. 245$a means “title proper,” which is a technical term that catalogers use. You can find the guidelines for it in the ISBD at 1.1 Title Proper:
where you find several paragraphs defining it, stating what is and is not a title proper, and what is and is not included in it. Certainly non-specialists will find its meaning almost impossible to understand without a lot of additional work, and at difficult moments, catalogers themselves must return to this definition. Practically all parts of the bibliographic record are defined in these extremely precise ways. This is no different from how any other standard works in any endeavor. For example, without a lot of effort I cannot understand the standards for roofing materials or the requirements to be able to label a certain food as “Chocolate” (apparently, the standards for chocolate are more rigorous here in Italy than in other countries).

So, when a non-specialist says “title” it does not mean the same as when a specialist says “title,” who immediately differentiates it in many ways and encodes it in the 245 field, one of which is the “title proper” which goes into the 245$a. So, in contrast to the others on this list who say that ISBD is a problem, I will say that the library world in very lucky in this respect because of the tremendous work done by our predecessors to create truly international standards based on the ISBD. Are they followed perfectly by everybody? Of course not.

The non-specialist may justifiably ask why titles are treated in such a seemingly arcane manner, but then would get entangled in a myriad of intricacies, just as would happen if I would ask why a certain standard exists for roofing materials. As a short answer to the title question, in addition to ensuring the correct identification of a specific item, these guidelines exist for some older reasons as well, such as filing order in the card catalog, so that, e.g.:
“War and peace : the definitive edition”
“War and peace in the nuclear age”
are not interfiled.

I expect to get tomatoes hurled at me for pointing this out, but nevertheless, it is questionable whether people browse titles today as they did in the old days, and to be honest, every computer catalog I have used interfiles it anyway, along with all kinds of other strange interfiling practices. While this has often driven me crazy, the public has never seemed to notice it. So, perhaps this reason is no longer justified, but there are still plenty of other important reasons for retaining the title proper so it should certainly be retained.

This is why I say that specialist catalogers must be involved in these matters. We can’t expect programmers to undertake a deep study of these bibliographic intricacies, just as I mentioned in an earlier post that a specialist cataloger can only become at best a semi-competent programmer.

While I believe things need to change and simplify (which is not the direction of RDA, IMHO) it must be done with a clear understanding of what we have now, what could be gained and what would be lost. This is beyond the abilities of any one person or even one community of specialists. There is nothing wrong with this; it is just the way the world works.