Re: [RDA-L] RDA/FRBR and the Business Case; Was:RDA as the collaboratively created way forward[?]

Posting to RDA-L

On 15/03/2012 21:33, Casey A Mullin wrote:

What I’m reading in Mr. Weinheimer’s criticisms is not a rejection of FISO itself. (I personally find FISO so intuitive as to be axiomatic.) What he often addresses are not these tasks themselves, but the **methods** used to fulfill said tasks. To be sure, the left-anchored browse environment of the card catalog, where title, author and subject were the only methods of entry, is a far cry from the methods users have at their disposal today. Today’s discovery environments offer a dizzying array of methods for users to encounter and interact with content. That much is certain. But these are simply innovative methods by which to fulfill more basic tasks, which FISO encapsulates pretty well. Such methods, however innovative, do not supplant those tasks or render them irrelevant; they in fact facilitate them.

I am not rejecting FISO. What I am saying is that FISO is becoming like stone tools when there are all kinds of power tools available. The world is moving on and leaving FISO behind. For instance, “find” is turning into “search” which means creating an “intelligent agent” for our information needs. That is what Tim Berners-Lee wants and is one of the primary goals of the Semantic Web, and supposedly, one of the main reasons for RDA and FRBR in the first place.

I have tried to elaborate on this in some of my podcasts. “Search” using all kinds of incredibly detailed information about you, and your friends, and their friends, and your browsing habits, and it analyses unbelievably deeply into everything you look at–the documents you read and write, your email, the webpages you look at, things that you, yourself don’t even know–will all be used to provide you automatically with the information these algorithms determine that you “need”. These are some of the facts of information today. They are happening right now and have been happening for quite awhile, and a huge amount of wealth is at stake. At the same time, I believe that the vast majority of people will like these new tools, just as much as they like Google today, and these companies will make absolutely sure they are attractive and extremely simple to use. They will continually improve.

While I am personally very suspicious of all of this, many more prefer it and say we must embrace it. But as I mention in my podcasts and papers: it doesn’t matter at all what I think. This is the world we are entering and I can’t stop it. No one can, especially not librarians! Therefore, the choice is simple: we must find ways to adapt or not survive.

Once “find” has metamorphosed into something that is almost incomprehensible, the ISO part obviously becomes confused. Even today, when searching in Google, the only point where you can identify and select is after you have obtained it, which turns everything topsy-turvy. Again, this is a simple statement of fact and a few seconds of working with Google will show how true it is. This has been the case for well over a decade and is not going away. We begin to understand how the traditional FISO may actually be predicated on physical materials that are not immediately available, and have very little to do with full-text materials that are available at the click of a button.

In my little cartoon of the conversation between the patron and the library catalog, I also tried to show that even in the past, ISO was overblown and people did that part at the shelves because the information in the catalog record distinguishing “manifestations” was essentially meaningless to them.

Therefore, FISO has been an ideal that has existed primarily in the minds of catalogers and has never corresponded all that closely with reality. Certainly, with full-text online materials, it must be rethought. Too bad perhaps, but absolutely necessary.

Now is not the time to question the basic premise through which our profession persists. Now is the time to double down on the distinct value we provide to the information universe: structure, validity, and intellectual rigor. This is what we do well. This is what lamentably few others in the information universe are providing. This is what is needed, more now than ever, for the continued advance of our civilization.

I think that now is precisely the time to question the basic premises. If not now, when? While I have no doubt that our records do provide added-value that is found nowhere else, we must reconsider what that added-value really and truly is. Do we really think we can compete with “search”? If so, how? What do our records provide that “search” does not and will not? Where does our value-added really lie? I have tried to address some of this in my papers and podcasts, but they are only suggestions and may be totally wrong.

It seems to me that if we want to find out where our value-added is, then we must first face facts: admit that we don’t know what the user tasks or the user needs are, and then try to discover what our patrons genuinely want.