Re: An RDA Manifesto

Posting to Autocat

On Fri, Oct 21, 2011 at 6:49 AM, Daibhidh mac Ùisdean wrote:

I suspect that there are two basic groups of people who subscribe to this list, those that see themselves as cataloguers first and foremost, and those that see themselves as biblarians, to coin a term. Both have a future, but I can see them becoming increasingly distinct professions.

We pride ourselves on adding CDs, DVDs and ebooks to our library catalogues, but why not the carriers themselves, why not elements, minerals, soil samples, seeds, chemicals, living organisms, technical equipment, computing equipment, laboratory equipment, printing equipment, plant, fabric, nanomaterials, datasets, furniture, flags? The list is potentially endless. All of this will need catalogued, and as always been the way with library collections, *defended*.

I know I must come across as a complete reactionary, but print (and manuscripts, etc.) must be defended. I was only partly joking when I said that the world should be changed to be ready for libraries.

Interesting points. I am hopelessly addicted to printed books and love to lose myself in archival research, but I also find the web materials liberating, so I personally like to think that I am “pro-everything”, whether physical or virtual, so I’ll call myself an “omni-larian”!

I am concerned that the librarian field itself should survive and one of the most important aspects of survival is not to promise too much. Therefore, librarians must face it that we cannot catalog “elements, minerals, soil samples, seeds, chemicals, living organisms, technical equipment, computing equipment, laboratory equipment” … [et al.]. Even trying to keep up with what we currently do is getting more and more problematic, so if we would promise something so overwhelming, it would simply doom us to failure. Such a failure is something that may be permanently damaging to libraries at this juncture.

What is it that librarians can realistically offer the members of the public that they cannot find anywhere else? This is the big question so far as I am concerned, and there are several possible answers. For instance, while I don’t know how many of the general public have a tremendous respect for librarians (referring back to Bill Maher), I think people do tend to trust librarians to not just be focused on making a quick buck at the public’s expense. Or that a librarian will intentionally feed them only their own propaganda on a topic. I suspect the public is becoming aware of the these subtleties and are realizing that these are not something they will find in a Google or Yahoo search. The public may come to value these basic tasks of a library if the library community could supply them somehow in an easy, useful, and attractive manner.

I think this would be an excellent base to build upon, to begin to share among different library systems in the world more widely and to interoperate with other projects that perhaps may deal with “elements, minerals, soil samples, seeds, chemicals… ” but you made the subject of this message “An RDA Manifesto”. Unfortunately, RDA just changes a few inconsequential cataloging rules and deals with none of the important challenges facing libraries and their catalogs today.