Re: [ACAT] Complications in applying subdivisions (Re: Land or country as divinely given to Israel (in this case))

Posting to Autocat

On 01/05/2013 07:40, Hal Cain wrote:

Indeed. And I have to say that my own observation is that a lot of LC cataloguers who aren’t religion specialists are no better than other cataloguers at applying them. 

Which brings to mind my own occasional complaint, that if cataloguing rules and practices are too complicated to be applied consistently, they need to be changed.

This makes a lot of sense. Another point however is that in the catalog as it was designed to work, there were all kinds of aids for the searchers: cross-references and scope notes, that were placed throughout the catalog. That entire structure has broken down in our current catalogs, except when people search through left-anchored text browsing, where it still works a little bit. Very few search that way today and even then it is still broken. This has been the case for a long, long time. We should just face up to it.

For instance, nobody–including a cataloger–can possibly know that the authorized form for IBM is “International Business Machines Corporation” unless they see the cross-reference.  This is because since the introduction of AACR2, headings have been based primarily on usage of the first item to be cataloged. So, a heading can almost never be predicted no matter how well you know the rules. But references can be predicted. Today when you search for “IBM” you are overwhelmed with the results and never find out that you should be searching “International Business Machines Corporation”.

This reminds me of an incident when I was first learning how to catalog. I was working on the Russian language materials. There was a fabulous woman who worked as a non-professional (the correct term at the time) who would “prepare” the cataloging for me, which meant that she would correct the basic description with copy, and do all of the preliminary searching in the authority file. There was a corporate body for a Kirghiz(? I think) corporate body that she had neglected to search so I thought that I would do it. I assumed it was in the authority file, so I searched and searched, spending an awful long time because I really wanted to find it.

I couldn’t, so I mentioned it to her and she immediately apologized. I said that it was OK, but she ran off, and returned in about 20 seconds with the correct heading. I thought: How in the world did she do that???!!! But when I saw how she searched, I learned a lot.

Her Kirghiz language was no better than mine, but she understood the authority structures and was able easily to find a reference for the heading that she predicted would exist. So, the record could be made quickly and correctly. Without that reference, she and I would have both been hopeless, and of course, the public would be as well, as they still are.

For all of these reasons, this is why I keep maintaining that the library catalog is broken and has been for at least two decades. So, I would suggest that perhaps it isn’t the rules and practices that are too complicated, it’s that the series of cross-references and scope notes don’t work today. Maybe the solution is not to dump the rules and practices, but to get the cross-references and scope notes to work again.