Posting to RDA-L

Myers, John F. wrote:

One could argue interminably the pros and cons of abbreviating or not. I can see merits to both sides, as well as to native language representation of missing date issue. (That is, the replacement of [s.l.] with [place of publication not identified], where [s.l.] replaces the earlier [n.p.] for “no place”.) I am however adequately convinced by the machine processing crowd to hold my reservations in abeyance.

The Bible heading changes would happen regardless of RDA — they were the last proposal to change AACR2 and were rolled into RDA rather than causing a new update to AACR2 in the middle of the RDA development process.

If by “lack of $b in titles” you mean that the “Other title information” element is not part of the core elements of RDA, I would point out, insofar as AACR2 had core elements which I will equate with the “first level of description” articulated at 1.0D1, it is neither a core element of AACR2. The equivalence of the RDA core element set as a “Full level” record is an undesirable possibility, but is a consequence of policy implementation not of RDA itself.

What I am asking is do we honestly and truly think that these tiny, insignificant changes are going to make any difference at all to our patrons? These changes certainly won’t help anybody find anything–they are just changes in display: the elimination of O.T. and N.T., spelling out abbreviations, the subfield b. The only possibility of added access is getting rid of the rule of three, but that could just as easily reduce access since the only mandated access point is the first author. (Oh yes! Plus translators and illustrators of children’s books!) Will the public suddenly like our records and find them useful after these changes? Why?

We need to look at matters from *their* viewpoint, not ours. Look what they can do using other tools. Some are saying that search is going away altogether. While I don’t necessarily agree (and I hope not, as people can hear my views on search from my last podcast), these people, e.g. from Bing, have a *far bigger* voice in the information universe than any library cataloger, or group of library catalogers. We must do something, and something big.

Kevin Randall wrote:

The questions above indicate that the questioner is missing the point of RDA entirely. Abbreviations could be limited or eliminated entirely by a very simple amendment to AACR2.

I don’t think I am missing the point of RDA, and the abbreviations are a great example. Do we really believe that a simple rule change will “solve” whatever “problems” the public supposedly has with abbreviations in the catalog? Sorry, but I find that very naive. To be fair, I was guilty of exactly the same attitude back when the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe fell apart. I and my team at Princeton struggled mightily to fix all of the–who knows how many subject and corporate name headings in the catalog, but we did it. It was one of the tasks I took special pride in and the heading browses looked great!

But then came the retrospective conversion project of the cards, and the “beautiful” displays of the headings were utterly spoiled by being inundated with zillions of obsolete headings! I was so mad until… I realized that what I was looking at was only the reality that confronted our patrons every day. When the patrons used both the cards and the OPAC (which they did constantly of course), everything had always been split, but for me as a cataloger, I was concentrating only on the OPAC and the cards were somehow “outside”. I had been ignoring the complete reality of the situation. Suddenly, I was confronted with what the users saw every day. I didn’t like it, but it was a humbling moment.

Abbreviations are precisely the same thing: while new records will have their abbreviations spelled out, the old records will not. Our patrons will still have to work with those abbreviations, that is, unless some retrospective project is created, but what a waste of resources that would be! In any case, thinking that making a new rule is going to “solve” a problem, when millions of records that will not be fixed will still be in people’s faces every day, in every search result, shows one of the reason why technical services librarians are often held in such low regard by other library divisions. So many times, technical services people see only what they want to see, just like I did with the Soviet Union/Eastern European headings.

We shouldn’t delude ourselves that these insignificant changes (for our users, but not insignificant for us) will make any difference in the scheme of things. As Mac said, it is not the problem of the rules, but the problems we are facing are in other areas.