RE: Writing out what we now abbreviate

Posting to Autocat

On Tue, 4 May 2010 00:50:24 -0400, Hal Cain wrote:

>As for customers who work in other languages than English, well, they already require notes in a different language. Once the English forms of the formal phrases I refer to above are in use, can’t a simple search-and-replace operation in MarcEdit deal with them?
>The age when Latin was the foundation of Western teaching and learning is past, and it ain’t coming back.

We should get away from thinking that the solutions to these kinds of “problems” are by figuring out what text to type. This is printed card thinking and we are not working with cards anymore. If there is a problem of comprehension of something such as “ca.” there are a hundred solutions today if we utilize the power of the tools at our disposal.

For example, for these especially troublesome abbreviations, we have probably all seen the boxes pop-up when you run your mouse over a word (an onmouseover event). These can be links into explanatory pages, or simply a popup that explains “ca.” as “approximately” or “v.” as “volume”, or whatever we want. Another idea would be to replace these abbreviations with codes so that when 260 $a has a special code for “s.l.”, it can display however somebody wants in each catalog, and therefore can be used in many more venues.

But perhaps it’s not a problem for our public at all. From my experience, people don’t read cataloging records as thoroughly we would like to believe, so our public don’t see any problems. Our records are pointers to items people want and not little bibliographic essays that people read. If you ask people, and point to parts of the record and have them focus on those parts, then there are lots of things they do not understand but most of the time, they simply ignore these abbreviations and other obscure parts and continue on without any problems whatever. For those very rare occasions when it is important that they need to know for some reason, e.g. what “s.l.” means, then they should be able to find out.

There are many, much more serious problems we are facing with the public using our catalogs in this new information environment, but I can’t imagine that if we change all the abbreviations in the catalog, it won’t make people want to use our catalogs more. Half of the results I see in Google are incomprehensible and/or misleading in some way until I click on the item and
get some clarification. We need to focus our energies on the serious problems facing us and less on aesthetics.