RE: [RDA-L] Cataloging Podcast

Posting to RDA-L

Bernhard Eversberg wrote:

Isn’t this just as well, if in fact it doesn’t live up to being groundbreaking kind of innovation that would be called for in this day and age? Instead, it draws out the lines sketched by Cutter already, but then little more. There’s not a word about catalog enrichment, blank chapters about the integration of subject access, no guideline for
indexing or the presentation of result lists, nothing about interoperability with other standards, even ISBD, – all of that is left to local decisions and vendors. And then it is a large grab bag of options that make it unusable unless accompanied by a long list of
decisions and commentary.
It remains to be seen how much of the relatively new aspects will be accepted by LC after The Test. For then, that will be what becomes reality, and not much beyond it. What can be hoped for, I think, is a slightly better AACR, not more.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Of course, I think you’re right, but I guess I would like to look in more positive directions. I think we need to take a step back even further than you have and ask what we want and what our patrons want from the records we are to make. The digital world is quite different from the printed world, and I think we all still coming to terms with that, including myself. (I am assuming here that there is no need to change substantially any ISBD/AACR2 rules *for physical items*. Perhaps a few little tweaks here and there, but nothing substantial) There is a significant problem carrying over our normal procedures from physical items, those that will be around more-or-less forever, to digital items, that we know will either disappear completely in a greater or lesser amount of time, or lacking that, will become completely different. This means that the description I make for a printed item will remain valid 200 years in the future, even though the rules may have changed, the description will still describe the item, but for digital/virtual items, it is different.

For example, we must assume that *all* pdf files today will not be readable in 25 or 50 years or so. But, I believe we can assume that the *human-readable information* will be the same, i.e. although the pdf file may become a qdf or sdf or tdf or whatever they will have in 50 years and all pdfs will be converted into the new format(s). Therefore, we can assume that all of the pdfs in Google Books will be converted someday to the as yet unknown “pdq” format, which will be different in every way from the pdf format, *except* that the final result that people see will look exactly the same as it does today, and this new file will have exactly the same human-readable information.

In this way, I believe that it is vital for a conversation to take place in the future about “content vs. carrier.” We must assume that any records we make for digital resources describing the carrier will eventually need major revision in the description area. Since our current standards for description are based so closely on describing the carrier, which works fairly well in the print world, it breaks down in the digital world, failing the test of practicality for catalogers and librarians because we are creating zillions of records that we know will need substantial revisions, while at the same time (at least, I think) failing the test of usefulness for our patrons (who many times don’t need this kind of information, and it will be obsolete sooner or later anyway).

Since “content” is becoming independent of “carrier” in many ways, bibliographic description is a major issue that will have to be addressed someday. Somehow, describing “content” will become of prime importance. I think there are several ways to address the issue, but in any case, dealing with descriptive cataloging of digital resources, which I think will still be needed, will nevertheless be quite different. It is one area that maybe, perhaps, the FRBR concept of “expression” may come in useful, but it will have to be reconsidered from its vary basis and become different from what, at least I, have understood it to mean.

Again, I want to emphasize that I am not talking about physical items. We have had adequate methods to control those materials for a long time.

This is one reason why I have been so disappointed with RDA: these are some of the issues we need to deal with, and you point out many others. While we need changes in cataloging quasi-ephemeral digital/virtual materials, that doesn’t mean that I should have to relearn the cataloging rules for cataloging a book or serial!