Re: RDA and Flatlands

Posting to Autocat

On 18/01/2012 21:49, Mike Tribby wrote:

A question and a prediction pertaining to Aaron’s posting: “People who fear an abolition of systematic cataloging and use of an HTML plain text format with no coding have no reasons to fear RDA/FRBR. What we need to fear is that a full implemenation of RDA/FRBR will be so complicated that our bosses will give up on the idea of systematic cataloging.” I’m fairly certain the decision by many bosses to “give up on the idea of systematic cataloging” will take place and I think the ill effects of this will be far worse than most RDA enthusiasts imagine; and it will impact public and school libraries far more extensively than academic libraries, though the loss of a broader cataloging culture will affect cataloging across the board. OTOH it’s more or less inevitable at this point.

Mike’s comment has really concerned me. In spite of the way many of my comments may appear, my own opinion is that there are plenty of reasons for library catalogers to be optimistic even now, but our focus must be to provide the public with tools and methods that *they* need (not what librarians need), and these tools should exist nowhere else on the web. Can the library community do that, especially catalogers, or can they not do it?

I think that libraries actually do provide many services that all members of the general public, ranging from children and their parents to the best researchers, need and want very much. Libraries provide selection, which people are constantly asking for. People also don’t want to believe that everyone just wants to pick their pocket at every opportunity. Libraries provide that as well since we are trusted by the general populace. People do not want to get only one side of an argument, such as they find every single day with writings from blogs, think tanks, newspaper articles, and information from other organizations. Libraries seek to provide all sides of issues.

These are just a few of the strengths found in the library community. There are many, many others, often still waiting to be discovered. They are some of the things that people want and we should capitalize and build on them. To do so will take the cooperation not only of catalogers, but also of selectors, reference librarians and the entire library field, including well-wishers from the general community.

But unfortunately, our strengths are not to be found in the so-called FRBR user tasks. Perhaps going into the universe of linked data will help, or perhaps not, but we should not put our faith in such vague hopes.

We need to reconceptualize what it is that libraries genuinely provide that is found nowhere else on the web. Of course libraries provide–or could provide–many of these unique services, but we should not allow our resources to become side-tracked into marginal areas such as RDA promises to do. 

I do not think it is too late at all. Somebody, sooner or later, will provide these services that are wanted so badly by the public–of this I have no doubt at all. I just hope librarians are a major part of these developments.