Posting to Autocat
On Mon, 19 Jul 2010 14:05:54 -0700, Steven C Shadle wrote:
>As for Jim’s other points, I more or less agree with them (although I think I’m a little more hopeful that RDA can bring a little more order to the library discovery experience). –Steve
While I think that hope can be a good thing, so long as it is not taken to an extreme, hope can also take the form of wishing for a “deus ex machina”: that somehow against all reason, something will just happen and all will be for the best. Unfortunately (and with all due respect, because I have great respect) I think this is what hopes for RDA happen to be.
No one has shown how RDA will help us produce quality records more quickly or more easily; no one has shown why other metadata communities will want to create RDA-enabled metadata although they don’t want to provide us with an AACR2 equivalent now; no one has shown why our users will suddenly find what they want in library catalogs and come rushing back to us. We are just told, and we are supposed to just believe, that FRBR and RDA are the wave of the future.
I can’t see how the training of new catalogers will get any easier; there are no new access points foreseen with FRBR/RDA. For example, I remember a rather recent exchange on the RDA list (I believe) concerning how to catalog treaties, and the mind-bending contortions to shoe-horn it into RDA, while the result was that the access points were *exactly the same* as they are now!
Why do it? Because it’s the wave of the future.
FRBR and RDA offer exactly the same user experience as people get in the library catalog now, *except* they will get the FRBR displays that merge the works/expressions/manifestations/items together, but I think I have shown that this is what the old printed catalogs of the 19th century (and earlier) did. While I am sure there are better examples, here is one in the (excellent!) catalog “Index to the catalogue of books in the Upper hall of the Public Library of the city of Boston” made by Jillson and Vinton. Take a look under the listing they made for Samuel Johnson’s books: http://tinyurl.com/2wrbta3.
Compare this to these FRBR examples: http://www.loc.gov/marc/marc-functional-analysis/multiple-versions.html#displays and you will see how eerily similar they are.
While I confess that FRBR appeals to the historian side of my nature, my everyday, practical librarian side realizes this *will not help* any of my users, who have terrible problems with the library catalog. Just a few minutes’ work with these people show that their problems are completely different from what RDA and FRBR address. And let’s face it: would these displays really help anyone on this list in their own information needs? (Not their *cataloging* needs, but their *personal information* needs)
Do you really “find/identify/select/obtain”: “works/expressions/manifestations/items” by their “authors/titles/subjects”? Or do you do something else? Personally speaking, very occasionally I actually do follow the FRBR user tasks, but I suspect that is because I am a librarian and a cataloger. Mostly I do something else. My users do something else. (This is a totally different topic)
The 19th century is truly over, and we must move on. When people have the option and the apparent “ease” (I put this in quotes on purpose) of searching full-text and relevance ranking, FRBR displays just do not cut it. And this means RDA. I firmly believe that the records we make are vital in today’s world, but many assumptions must be rethought completely.
It brings me no joy to point out these issues, but I really believe they are true and they must be addressed before the libraries make the decision to commit major resources to creating what seems to be the equivalent of a typewriter in the age of word processors and laser printers.