Posting to RDA-L

Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:

The handwringing I’ve seen on this list about how catalogers would be turned off or confused by the Work concept is quite embarrassing to the profession. LibraryThing is a joy to use because the users have few qualms about building things they like, and what makes the most sense to them is the Work concept. There’s a treasure trove of cover art uploaded and concentrated at the work level, not the manifestation level– what an excellent example of the fruitful applications that could arise if we recognize the benefits to the what’s in RDA and start moving out of the straitjacket of MARC and card catalog-based models of catalog displays.

I confess that now I am more confused than ever! The concept of a work is now not even based on “cataloger’s judgment” but on “users’ judgment”? I think LibraryThing is an excellent tool for the public and we can learn a lot from it, but it can still be confusing. For example, in the Scarlet Letter example, in this record there are also links to movies. From the way I see it, the movies are considered as part of the same work of “The Scarlet Letter”. Plus, it appears that “The Scarlet Letter (Norton Critical Edition)” is considered a different work from “The Scarlet Letter”. But perhaps I am wrong.

In my opinion, the “handwringing” displayed in this list over the work, far from being embarrassing, displays a laudable concern over the standards of our profession. The genuine embarrassment would be if everybody just said, “Well, who cares? It doesn’t make any difference anyway, so let everybody do whatever they want.” What kind of a “profession” would that be?

The rules, i.e. the standards catalogers at least purport to follow, are either important or they are not. We can’t have it both ways. My personal opinion is that part of the problems of our profession has been that substandard records have been accepted for such a long time and copy had to be upgraded at such cost that many (most?) libraries gave up the effort long ago. I was originally hoping that RDA would rectify at least some of these problems.