Re: [ACAT] RDA and the plague

Posting to Autocat

On 12/04/2013 12:09, Moore, Richard wrote:


If I am wrong, please correct me. I don’t have access to the RDA Toolkit.

James, just to get this straight, you are blogging an extensive critique of something that you have not read? Yes, you need to pay to access the RDA Toolkit. I don’t recall AACR2 being given away for free, either.

I have returned from a very needed, restful and beautiful holiday in Paris so I have just seen this. I believe I need to respond.

First, I don’t believe that I have ever given an “extensive” critique of RDA. Rather, I have pointed out a few of the most important areas of RDA and FRBR that I believe have or will have the most impact on the searchers and on the practice of cataloging. Perhaps it would be useful to summarize the criticisms I have made and provide links into the areas where I have discussed each in more detail.

Before I do that however, I want to respond to the second point that I do not pay to access the RDA toolkit. First, when it was available for free as a draft I read it (I really did!). While it is true that AACR2 was not given away for free, at least with AACR2 it was a one time payment for the book as opposed to a fat, yearly subscription of $195 for RDA. You could always buy a used copy of AACR2 (here are a few quick examples, one of which is for $99 for the latest edition, but probably you could find it for less Of course, with AACR2 you could also inherit a copy from someone, and I did discover an amazing entity called a “library” where you could actually borrow a copy of AACR2 for free! but apparently, none of that applies to RDA. Only after a lot of screaming did RDA decide to put out a print version, and I admit that using a printed version certainly seems incredibly backward today.

Aside from these rather squalid financial concerns, the world of today is different from the way it was in the past and when modern organizations want others to follow their standards: microdata, OAI-PMH, XML, ONYX or almost any other standard (I emphasize almost because there are always exceptions) then the organization will provide their standard free to others who may want to follow their standard. Otherwise, the organization must accept that their standard will be followed only by a much smaller subset of the potential audience who may want to follow the standard but will choose not to, because those others will see no convincing evidence why they should fork over $195+ a year. Providing convincing evidence would mean making a business case for RDA. The question would be: do I want to make it as easy as possible for others to follow my standard, or do I want to make money on it? Such considerations are so obvious that they should go unspoken but it seems as if they must be made explicit.

I have not critiqued this aspect of RDA very often but others have discussed it at length.

The points I have actually dealt with are practical consequences of RDA and FRBR on the searchers and on the practice of cataloging, and I have limited myself to the most relevant areas. There is the abolition of the rule of three [], spelling out cataloging abbreviations [], relator codes and the absolute need for retrospective conversion if we do not want the catalog to provide false results [] which will result in the public’s (correct!) conclusion that our catalogs do not work and they will abandon our catalogs for tools that actually do work. Attached to this is the strange fact that cataloging in RDA is not easier or more efficient and it will not lead to more copy, although I will concede that after a time, catalogers may be able to create an RDA record as quickly as they do now. It is difficult to consider this an improvement in any way.

In passing, I have mentioned the elimination of 245$b, and the incomprehensibility of the 33x codes.

I have discussed cataloging records as linked data at some length []. FRBR I have criticised in theoretical terms, mainly because it is a theoretical framework with little practical application. [My “Personal Journey”]

It seems we can assume others have come to similar conclusions about FRBR because BIBFRAME brings together “work/expression” then “manifestations” and “items” which appear to mirror AACR2’s “description” (i.e. manifestation) and “headings” (i.e. works/expressions).

On the positive side, I have made many suggestions for making the catalog and its results more understandable to users by eliminating the dictionary aspect of the catalog (something that I am sure Cutter and Panizzi would both approve), [I am tired of giving links. If anyone is interested, please contact me] by making innovations in the display of individual records and search results, plus bringing in some of the discoveries from the field of Information Architecture.

Finally, I would like to repeat once again that the practice of cataloging must change if it is to stay relevant to contemporary reality. I have no problem whatsoever changing any rule(s) in AACR2 so long as they result in real, tangible and demonstrable improvements for both searchers and catalogers. It is important always to keep both of these groups in mind. Improvements must be demonstrated in very practical terms, and not remain in the realm of speculation since otherwise, improvements suggested for one side may result in disastrous consequences for the other and lead to a complete breakdown of the catalog, as I illustrated with the introduction of relator codes which at first blush seems positive, but holds tremendous consequences for searchers and cataloging. There are other areas as well.

Modern technology should also be included in any of these discussions, such as I have shown with the future of search, the utility/non-utility of cataloging information in the linked data universe, and the introduction of faceted catalogs, which allow many possibilities, including making the FRBR user tasks possible immediately using the records as they currently stand.

None of this should be considered giving an “extensive” critique of RDA and I have never claimed to do so.