Re: [ACAT] RDA and the plague

Posting to Autocat

On 11/04/2013 18:13, MULLEN Allen wrote:

James Weinheimer writes:

I think what really makes us look silly is illustrated by what I have experienced over the last few weeks. When I have been out with friends (mainly scholars lately) and people ask what is happening in the library world, I mention RDA and the incredible number of updates to the authority records. After I explain what that means, when they ask how these headings are being updated, I say, that ca. is being changed to approximately, fl. to active, and so forth. The unvarying response has been uproarious laughter, which does add to the general frivolity, but also suggests how the public will think of these “wonderful” advances in cataloging! It just reinforces the stereotype of the librarian/cataloger who is focused on trivial details such as punctuation, that will not help the public in any real way. 
I reply: Perhaps, James. However, it is also possible if the same group of scholars was discussing RDA with Thomas Brenndorfer, or Richard Moore, or Barbara Tillett, or any number of other knowledgeable librarians who have a different perspective, the reaction that you witnessed would be somewhat different.

I realized that someone would mention this. While what you point out is certainly possible, I suspect it would be very difficult to demonstrate to very skeptical faculty members that these are the sorts of changes that will be so valuable to them. To be honest, I just tell them the changes that are happening to personal names, and before I have a chance to make any embellishments one way or the other they begin to laugh. It’s only afterwards that I get around to mentioning my own opinions. Then the laughter dies down, and the topic changes. Only once have I tried to discuss the elimination of the rule of three in favor of the rule of one, or making lots of information optional. They did not understand, but I still can’t imagine that they would be happy about it if they knew. Those matters are more complicated and I think it would be extremely difficult, if not hopeless, to convince faculty members that those changes are positive.

All this from the fact that RDA never had to make a business case. The only things I have seen are promises of happiness in the future, and “There is no alternative!”

Of course, it will have to make the business case eventually. And we’ll discover if it will fly with the public. Maybe yes and maybe no. At this point, there is really no idea. We can only hope that if the public does not like it, they will make their complaints known and not just silently move on to other tools.