Re: What RDA might be good for

Posting to Autocat

On 15/12/2011 17:17, Aaron Kuperman wrote:

 However I believe that RDA established a framework, primarily through the 3xx fields, of linking related records in a way that reflects 21st century publishing practices, and that if we want to keep our catalogues useful and relevant (which is a code word for keeping catalogers employed) we should be figuring out how to exploit. Currently we often see a “work” that manifests itself as printed work (like it always did, but now the printed form may be an on-demand printout that has been indiviudally bound) as well as an ebook, and perhaps a website or a part of someone else’s website as if the case for most statutes- and our current catalogue rules don’t do a great job of connecting them (and I didn’t mention things such as adaptation to videos which are irrelevant for law cataloging). If RDA does address these issues, then we’ve finally found a problem for which RDA might be the solution.

Does anyone agree with me? If so, this is what we should be talking about when we discuss training needs, or “selling” RDA to library managers.

I come from a different standpoint. It seems to me that if we want our catalogs used (and thereby catalogers employed), we shouldn’t focus on the needs of the publishers and their practices, but rather we need to focus on the needs of those who will actually use the catalog to find relevant materials: our patrons. The thread on “Discoverability” discusses that. One basic point that must be accepted before we can make any progress–at least I think–is to accept that in the eyes of our patrons, the traditional library catalog is broken. It does not serve their needs.

This is a hard point to accept for a cataloger who has spent his or her entire career honing specialized skills (including me), but as I mentioned earlier, I think it will be almost impossible to make any progress whatsoever in the future if we do not accept this pronouncement.

Once this is accepted (which I will readily admit, not every cataloger will accept), the question becomes: what is it that RDA will change in such a fundamental way? It turns out that RDA will definitely *not* change anything fundamentally–that it absolutely clear and is essentially what was written in the LC/NAL/NLM report–but if RDA is seen as a step forward toward an FRBR universe, then it may be a different matter.   

Of course, that in turn depends on whether you believe that an FRBR universe will offer anything essentially different to our patrons. This is one of those silent assumptions where I have never seen any evidence. I have also seen that relatively few people actually want to navigate through works, expressions, manifestations, and items since the information describing much of it–especially the manifestations–is essentially meaningless to our patrons. This information has meaning to librarians. A patron will often prefer the latest edition of a book, but catalogs have always supplied that information, while today it is easier than ever to sort by date of publication, or date of accession, or almost any way you want.

I still see no reason at all for adopting new rules; we need new ideas about how to repurpose the information we now have. Since quite literally everything is in such flux right now, no one seems to know which way to proceed. As a result, it seems as if we are stuck with trial and–necessarily–error which will eventually find some useful ways forward.

But the changes offered by RDA will not make any difference to our patrons–that is more than clear. I still find it rather amazing that an institution could adopt an expensive practice involving major changes to product workflow, that will neither add simplicity or increase productivity, without a very convincing business case showing what the tangible advantages are.