Re: [ACAT] Record revision

Posting to Autocat

On 22/10/2012 15:45, Brian Briscoe wrote:

I think James is taking the comparison too far. We are librarians. Although information is incredibly important, our product does not cause physical harm with fatal potential for our users. No one will become ill if a catalog record fails to direct them to an important book. If the catalog fails, there is always the fallback of a reference librarian (unless online). 
Perhaps a better comparison would be a comparison between the distribution of products to stores. The products taht come from manufacturers are delivered to stores in the same packaging. It is up to the store to decide how they want to display and organize those products to maximize their purchase (in our case, use). It varies from store to store just as it varies from library to library.
Now, where I think there is a good argument here is that the records that are created for all of us to use (our manufactured product) suffers from a lack of consistency that is present in other manufactured products. We should demand a consistent standard that is required for submission to a unified database. Rather than making that inconsistency in records better, I see RDA condoning such incconsistency and making the situation worse.


I think we are basically in agreement and thanks for clarifying that. If records are only to remain within a local catalog that is one thing–just like if you want to grow your own corn, you can do it as you want, but if you want to sell it on the market, you have to follow standards.

Still, I will say that lack of cataloging standards could cause serious harm to some people: catalogers. If catalogers cannot show that their product is really and genuinely useful in the present environment, and that they are redoing other people’s work because what is there is just substandard, many administrators may question whether catalogers are really all that useful or not. There was already that very important report from a few years ago “Study of the North American MARC Records Marketplace” from LC, as they say on p. 5
“5. There is adequate cataloging capacity in North America to meet the collective need: This finding surprised us, especially given the aging of the profession and imminent retirements. However, a conservative interpretation of survey data shown on pages 9‐10 strongly suggests that there are more than enough catalogers to handle everything. In the academic market alone, for instance, the survey indicates that more than 8,000 original catalogers are employed. If each original cataloger produced on average one record per work day (or 200 per year), that would indicate capacity for 1.6 million original records annually. Unfortunately, that capacity is not well distributed, disciplined, or coordinated, despite decades of experience with cooperative cataloging.”

I don’t know if I agree with their precise numbers but I do agree with their conclusions about capacity, that it is not well distributed, disciplined(an important insight!) and so on, and a lot of the reason is based–I believe–on the fact that that there are no real standards. (that is, not disciplined) Once again, this is not really finding fault, just pointing out a problem that has existed for a long time. I suspect that AACR2 has always been too complex for most people. Changes certainly need to be made.

Records created by librarians–sooner or later, and it is happening now–will appear mixed in with records created by all and sundry, along with those made by mindless robots. Those records will constitute “more” and “faster” and “cheaper”. I would hope that in its favor, professional library cataloging would be considered “better”. But how could it be better? I can only conclude because those records will be “high-quality” and therefore, will follow some sort of standard. And if those records don’t really and truly follow some sort of standard, well, ….

I do completely agree with your last statement: that RDA condones the lack of consistency, is not any simpler at all, and makes the situation worse.