RE: Dept. v. Department

Posting to Autocat

On Tue, 21 Dec 2010 14:16:19 -0700, john g marr wrote:

>On Tue, 21 Dec 2010, Jane Kelsey wrote:

I as just one librarian can only encourage the Library of Congress to review this decision soon and to adopt the full spelling of Department.

> Oh, good grief! This sort of (RDA) attention to hyper-minute detail is getting completly obsessive [hmmm… ] but definitely upholding our traditional image. 🙂
> It should be possible to design [program?] library catalogs [at least] to produce the same search results whether “dept.” or “department” is the word used in specific searches (same goes for “cm” or “cm.”).

I agree that the number of patrons, except those specially trained, who would ever even think of searching for “dept.” when they want the Department of Education, is essentially zero, but the solution today is *not* the 19th century one of retyping zillions of headings. Those days should be over in today’s informational universe that has tools that are far more powerful than the library world is using. It is precisely the same problem as RDA mandating catalogers to spell out all of the other abbreviations found in the catalog.

No, pardon–that’s not correct. They don’t want to spell out *all* of the abbreviations in the catalog, only those few allowed to be input by catalogers. You know: those abbreviations that people are forever hectoring reference librarians about because they cannot be expected to understand them; those terribly difficult ones such as p. or et al. or cm. (No–that last one isn’t right either: cm is not an abbreviation but some sort of symbol or something so it doesn’t get a period. Well, that’s not right either because it does end with a period at the end of a sentence or field)

Of course, my own experience doing reference work has shown that, while I am asked many questions about the catalog and catalog records, I have never been asked what those abbreviations mean. I honestly doubt if reference librarians are deluged with such questions and would probably prefer catalogers to devote their efforts elsewhere. Plus, there is the fact that abbreviations probably are used by the public now more than ever before, with the use of Internet slang, especially for texting, e.g. lol, imho, imnsho, some quite cryptic, as well as that incredible collection of military abbreviations, going from AWACS to AWOL, to other more earthy ones, such as snafu, fubar, and so on and so on. As an aside, this discussion about abbreviations in the library catalog reminds me of SUSFU! 🙂

This is the world our patrons inhabit, so we should not expect that when they see a p. or et al. or s.n., they will suddenly fall into a state of total confusion and helplessness. So I agree with John: dept. (and I will go on to add the other abbreviations RDA wants us to spell out) is the sort of thing that can best be fixed by the programmers, and there are multiple ways to “fix” it. I’ll bet they would love to try solving it using something like (I discussed this on RDA-L, or building something on their own.

While the programmers are working on this, we should be working on setting up the system of URIs so that the labels for all of the headings work in a more fluid way, and therefore, will prove more useful to the world as a whole.