Posting to RDA-L
On 04/25/2011 06:20 PM, Jonathan Rochkind wrote:
Seriously, it is a fundamental idea in identifier management, decades old, that you should not change your identifiers, and for this reason you should not use strings you will be displaying to users as identifiers. One way this idea is expressed, for instance, is that you should not use a ‘natural key’ as a ‘primary key’ in a relational database. You can google on those terms if you want. In the sense that an rdbms pk serves as a kind of identifier, that is just one expression of the fundamental guideline not to change your identifiers, and thus not to use things you might want to change as identifiers.
I am seriously not sure why you are arguing this, James. This is a pretty fundamental concept of data design accepted by every single contemporary era data/database/metadata designer. This is probably my last post in this thread, this is getting frustrating to me. Perhaps it’s my fault in not being able to explain this concept adequately, in which case I don’t think I can personally do any better then I’ve done. Otherwise, I am not sure why you are insisting on arguing with a basic principle accepted by everyone else doing computer-era data/database/metadata design — which has been proven in practice to be a really good prinicple. It’s not a controversial principle. At all. Anywhere except among library catalogers, apparently.
The reason I am arguing this point is that it is something that can be done now, relatively inexpensively and otherwise, *nothing gets done at all*. For example, all this discussion about RDA and how it promises the New Atlantis, and so on, but for the foreseeable future, the public will notice absolutely nothing.
I confess that these kinds of discussions get frustrating for me as well. Instituting URIs would be a library tool that could be used by the entire community and who may actually find them useful–perhaps extremely useful. All the powers-that-be would have to do is ensure unambiguous access to current and earlier forms of headings. I *know* that that could be done easily enough, and I’m sure you do too. But no, everybody in the world has to be expected to add and change their headings to the identifiers of the powers-that-be, because otherwise things don’t conform to the way they are supposed to work. How much incredible labor and expense does this entail? It is simply unrealistic to expect this to happen in the current situation and possible future, so the consequence is: nothing will get done. And who gets hurt? The patrons, and by extension, us, because we are seen as dinosaurs.
Of course I understand how identifiers are supposed to work, but *I don’t care* how the system is “supposed” to work. I am by training a historian, and when I see that something “should never change” I just smile. Of course things will change and this must be built into *any system*, otherwise it is guaranteed to fail.
Right now, we need something that functions and that will make a substantive difference to our patrons. The cataloging profession sorely needs some successes, and that means coming up with creative solutions that people will see and–hopefully–appreciate. 70% or 80% today is certainly better than what we have now. It is frustrating to see some solutions, even temporary ones, and not have them.
It’s a h*** of a way to run a business!