Posting to Autocat
Shawne D. Miksa wrote:
>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.>
Jim–I just have to accept that I don’t understand your arguments. I see contradictions. You want proof that RDA works, but you condemn it without proof either way. The argument would be more convincing if you were basing it on a comprehensive study. If you haven’t made a comprehensive study then I look forward to when you do and when it is published so that we can all make an informed decision.
Thank you so much for answering. If everything were equal and this were merely an intellectual exercise, I might agree with you, but it isn’t. Switching to RDA will be a huge task, with tremendous human consequences and consequences for libraries, involving major disruptions of work, large outlays for staff retraining, equipment retooling, buying new documentation, and so on and so on, and we shouldn’t forget that this comes during the most difficult economic moment in (at least most of) our professional careers, with libraries cutting hours, laying off staff, shutting branches and well, I don’t want to think about that. In any case, I am sure that the costs of enacting RDA will force at least some libraries to cut staff in some institutions, and will eat seriously into the acquisitions budget of many others, with the result that our collections will be less useful to the patrons.
So the consequences of errors are very serious indeed, but we can say that we’re the generals, and if you are going to win a battle or a war, casualties are inevitable among the troops. But I think it’s important that we should make sure that the gains are worth the price of the casualties, otherwise the troops turn into cannon fodder.
There are other very serious challenges facing libraries and their catalogs. One challenge we never really had to consider in the past was that of competition for users. In the past if somebody wanted information, they could try to look it up in somebody’s Funk & Wagnall’s, see if it was in an almanac, or lacking those, they had no choice except to come to the library, where they were stuck. Now, there are genuine alternatives that people like and prefer to the things we make. So, in many ways, we are facing the proverbial “Perfect Storm” of disaster financing, plus serious competition from some of the most successful, dynamic, and profitable organizations in the world.
This only scratches the surface of the challenges libraries face. Because of all this, libraries and cataloging in particular simply must change or be swept away, of this I have no doubt. I believe that being swept away is a real possibility today for many, so this is not just an intellectual exercise. The decision to implement RDA will affect people’s lives. I’m sure many out there have read what happened in New Jersey with the libraries, where they felt lucky to lose *only 43%* of their funding. http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/home/885795-264/new_jersey_library_funding_.html.csp Would it be wise for them to institute RDA now? I’m sure there are lots of similar stories that readers of this list could share.
Therefore, it isn’t a matter of whether we should change: the question is the direction. When it comes to catalog records, I think libraries have one thing and one thing only that we can possibly give: quality. Lousy records can be made automatically where one computer in a few hours can probably put out more records than an entire department in five years or so. But quality requires something: time. And when you have outrageous numbers of materials that need to be cataloged, e.g. websites that people want *now, today, this minute* something is needed. We need a redefinition of “quality” for one thing, but even more important, I believe that above all what we need for cataloging to weather this storm successfully is: help. And a lot of it. From what I have heard and experienced, cataloging departments of all sorts are being raided of staff and budgets, much as the Forum here in Rome was robbed of its marble and statues by the nobility, who could “put it to better use” in their private villas. Catalogers need help.
The direction of change offered by RDA and FRBR do not address any of the serious issues facing us today. For example, if somehow, RDA offered possibilities for significantly greater access than ever before, that might make people like our product more and I might be more amenable–but it doesn’t. If RDA offered possibilities for much greater cooperation among other metadata communities we could up our production substantially, so I might go along, but I can’t imagine any publisher going along with RDA. If RDA offered a more useful final product to our patrons, that may be all right, but the final product of RDA with the FRBR/1840s-Panizzi-CatalogueOfTheBritishMuseum displays will not serve the needs of my users, and while you can probably find somebody out there who likes them, as a professional, I find them terrifying.
If RDA led to greater productivity because records were easier to make, that might be possible, or (as I mentioned) if training could be made easier, we may be able to get more help, but none of that is going to happen, and nobody has ever suggested it, as you point out. Therefore, it seems as if catalogers won’t get any help very soon. Sad.
For all of these reasons, it seems to me that adopting RDA would be the same as making a “Leap of Faith”, much like Augustine’s saying “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” I must confess that I have lost the religion and have no faith or trust. RDA is not the wave of the future. No way. It’s a stone axe in the days of lasers.
To me, the situation is crystal clear: the problems facing us are *not* with the cataloging rules, which is what RDA/FRBR deal with, but are in many, many other areas.