Re: [RDA-L] Cataloging Matters No. 16

On 21/09/2012 18:28, Karen Coyle wrote:

On 9/21/12 1:13 AM, James Weinheimer wrote:

This is very interesting, but how will it work in the real world? Let’s assume that this has all been done with an “acceptable” percentage of the records: 60%? 70%? 80%? You are working as a reference librarian and a senior faculty member on the library committee of your institution comes up to you and explains that he or she is writing an article and needs a list of the movies directed by Clint Eastwood. (Yes, the faculty member would have this information in other ways, but I am positing a reference question, and variations of this kind of question come up all the time). We also assume the reference librarian fully understands the issues in the catalog and knows that it will be 20%, 30% or 40% wrong.

Why on earth, when the question is “a list of the movies directed by Clint Eastwood” would any reference librarian point to the catalog?! The catalog is an inventory of the items owned by the library, not an encyclopedia. Any decent reference librarian knows that, and I suspect that most users, while they may not know that consciously, act as if that were the case. You go to IMDB, you go to Wikipedia, you find the official Clint Eastwood site online. This reference question has nothing to do with library ownership.

Which is why the library catalog is NOT the first place that users go for information — it’s where they go to find out if the library has a particular item and if it is available. So the real scenario should be:

Faculty member wants list of CE movies. Goes to IMDB/Wikipedia/web site. Finds list there. In perfect world, similar to how OpenURL works today, browser would show faculty member which items in that list are available at the library. Thus faculty member gets 1) needed information 2) link to library holdings, all in one place.

Actually I was thinking in terms of the union catalog of Worldcat, but that’s all right. I’ll agree with you that the local catalog is a lousy place to answer such a question, just like Worldcat. So, why should librarians spend their time adding the “film director” code, plus all the other film roles, to create a product that *we all know *will miss a huge amount of materials and is definitely inferior–and always will remain inferior–to what is available to people right now? If we are supposed to build this wonderful new tool, it would make sense to make sure it really is a wonderful new tool and not some broken down jalopy. What is a searcher of the catalog to think and to believe, if they see a search box with an option to search for “film directors”? If I were that searcher, I would think that I would be searching for the film directors in the database. What else could I assume?

So, how is somebody supposed to know that the search they are doing–by definition–is definitely a lousy one within the local catalog or the Worldcat catalog? Or an option for “actors” or “editors” for that matter? Let’s think about how the *public* will consider these searches. Sure, what we build may look like a Ferrari, but open the hood and you find an engine of a lawn mower underneath. People will find out sooner or later.

Perhaps what would be best would be to make a search option for “film directors” that would actually search not the library catalog but the IMDB, then some kind of browser plugin based on an API that would let you know what is available in your local collection or perhaps what’s available for free online (quite a bit actually). I agree that linked data can be used for this, but it’s certainly not necessary. You don’t need RDF either, and neither do you need RDA nor FRBR. There would be lots of ways of doing it and it would be easier with agreement from IMDB. In the IMDB, people can also search by female Capricorns between 5’5″ and 5’8″.  In any of these scenarios, I still see no need or utility for the cataloger to code “film directors” in the catalog, thereby making our present catalogs obsolete.

As I mentioned in my podcast, if these codes are just for display, that is probably not much of a problem because I don’t believe too many people spend much time on individual records. People are much more interested in the actual resource and once they find what they want, they stop caring about our records. The idea that the public spends massive amounts of time actually reading (instead of quickly scanning) our records is rather strange to me. In my experience, the public just ignores and immediately forgets anything they don’t understand, just as they do with Google. What is more important is getting reliable results.

If it is about display, let’s just admit it. Yet, from everything I have seen, it appears that RDA intends something else, and that would logically lead to searching. So, I still do not understand what is the point of the relator codes and the other relationships proposed by FRBR if they are not for searching. But it seems, as I said in the podcast, that the RDA community has decided that the public will just have to deal with it and feel lucky for what we are giving them.

Yeah, sure.

I really like Keith’s idea of “less is more”. Thinking about it.