RE: “our” vs “or” (was:Re: Subjective Judgements in RDA 300s????)

Posting to Autocat

On Thu, 3 Mar 2011 01:11:31 -0500, Hal Cain wrote:

>On Wed, 2 Mar 2011 10:33:54 -0500, Aaron Kuperman wrote:

>>Is there a way we could have the OPACs and cataloging systems automatically switch between British and American spellings in fields that don’t involve transcription, such as the 300, the 5xx fields (other than quoted notes), etc. It seems to me a program would be told which spelling a library prefers, and could adapt the field without making any extra work for us. It probably could even do that for changing cataloging from non-English sources as well.–Aaron

Barbara Tillett’s notion of authority control as “access control”, offering the user the capability to switch between desired languages for searching (and seeing results) on names (like Confucius, or Vergil, to mention some classics) that vary according to the language environment, could be extended to cover alternative languages for bibliographic description.

In such a case, that would require that “language of cataloguing” be coded differently for British or American English.

There are other possibilities though. The incredible example of Google Translate shows an alternative. I have implemented the API for my catalog, as you can see in a record, e.g. in the right column, you will see a drop-down box of Google Translate. (This is a mashup and the box may take a moment to load) Just select any language and watch the magic! I am still amazed when I see it.

Students at my institution think this is really cool, plus they have found it useful to translate into and out of Italian. To see the original, just run your mouse over the parts you want. Of course, not all the translations are perfect–people have no trouble at all understanding this today–but it can be implemented very easily and for *no cost* at all.

The differences between British and American spellings (“u” or “re”) pale in comparison with what this tool from Google accomplishes. People who know English have no problem understanding that “labour” and “labor” or “centre” and “center” mean the same things, but people have genuine problems understanding languages they either do not know or have a shaky grasp of. Google Translate can provide highly substantial help.

All of this shows that providing translations that can *help* our patrons (and it is important to separate “providing help” from “being perfect”) is quite achievable. Just examining a few of the abbreviations in the 300 field shows that Google Translate does a highly creditable job.

If catalogs had something similar that worked only in certain areas/fields of the record, we could create something of much greater utility for everyone concerned. But who knows? It could be that simply implementing the Google Translate API solves *all the problems,* while it is so much more flexible, saves scads of money, plus it allows the catalogers to focus their time on more productive tasks. For example, why would implementing Google Translate *not* solve the “problems” we are discussing here?

Again, modern technology allows an entire raft of solutions that were considered science fiction just a decade or so ago. We must utilize that power to improve what we do and how we do it.