Re: [ACAT] Reference question only a cataloger could love

Posting to Autocat

On 9/4/2013 8:11 PM, Piepenburg, Scott wrote:

On the reference desk today, I had a student ask for “Divertimento in E flat Major by Haydn.” Couldn’t find it in the catalog or in any of our state holdings. Went to LCNAF, found the uniform title for it, copied and pasted it into the search box and viola! Found the score (which he wanted) at another school.

Remember folks, always enter the correct uniform title into the record and do your authority work.

This is a demonstration of how powerful the catalog can be. The problem is, nobody is going to look for anything in the LCNAF except a cataloger–even very few reference librarians would look there. But when I have discussed such matters with many non-cataloging librarians, they see very little use for uniform titles and have told me: that’s just some of that “cataloger stuff”.

Uniform titles are one of the parts of a catalog that make it so powerful but they don’t work well in an online environment. For example, how many people will understand that if they want to look up books about Dostoyevsky’s “Crime & Punishment” they have to look up
“Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1821-1881. Prestuplenie i nakazanie”?

Absolutely nobody. And that is why so many non-cataloging librarians look so skeptically of so much of what catalogers do. Since authorities do not function for keyword searches in our OPACs, people are (I guess) supposed to search keyword “dostoyevsky” (however they spell it) and “crime and punishment” and then find a record, where they will see the incomprehensible link “Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1821-1881. Prestuplenie i nakazanie. English” which they may actually click on and they they are supposed to figure things out. I find all that difficult to believe. In card catalogs, where you did not–and could not–search “text” as we do today, but inhabited a different environment, people actually had an easier time with this sort of searching, that is, if they managed to start in the right place.

This is one of those tasks that I don’t think we could ever train people to do in info lit workshops, no matter how much we implored them, threatened them, or beat them. 🙂 And yet, with modern tools working correctly, we can use new methods to do things better than ever before. Here is the “correct” search for Crime and Punishment in Worldcat

that people can then manipulate using the facets. That is better than the card catalog ever was. It lets people navigate the so-called “works, expressions, manifestations, items” as well as anything envisioned by FRBR. And it can be done right now. Today. For zero money. Without RDA or Bibframe. Naturally, the user interface and the search result itself can be improved a lot. But this nevertheless demonstrates clearly how useful it is when the cataloger adds the uniform title to the records they make. And everybody can see the power in just an instant. Let’s see the Googles do that!

There remains a huge problem however: how do we get people to do that kind of uniform title search? As I mentioned, you can’t teach/force them to do it.

Sadly I confess: I don’t know the answer, but precisely the same problem will need to be answered even with full implementation of FRBR and Bibframe (if that is ever done) although those folks don’t seem to want to talk very much about how the public actually interacts with our catalogs. I personally think some new tool will have to be made that will lead people to finding the uniform title, perhaps based on VIAF,

but this has troubles as well because people have to search this too exactly also. Including real life makes it fall apart. For instance, someone may spell dostoyevsky’s name differently and it fails, e.g. search for “dostoyevskij” and “crime” gets zero

Yet, this is the reality of how people search and is one reason why they find nothing.

Anyway, yes: add those uniform titles. Even though they don’t work very well in our present systems, I certainly hope they will someday.