Re: [RDA-L] Re: Our goal

Posting to RDA-L

On 1/30/2014 11:21 AM, Thomas Berger wrote:

“Collocation” hat two slightly different meanings or purposes, as we all know:
1. Bringing together identical items (with respect to one property) at the same place
2. Arranging items (with respect to one property) in a meaningful manner

In answer, I don’t know how many people really understand this. I am glad you do, but the difference is vital to understand.

Purpose 1 is just as important as it has ever been, so that people really can find all materials on a concept, e.g. “WWI” or “Tolstoy, Leo” no matter what text may have been used. Of course, this is limited to the rule of three (now, the rule of one), or for subjects, 20% or more, and so on. So long as catalogers do their jobs properly, the catalog allows this just as well as it ever has. In this sense, catalogs and their purpose are unchanged. This is my opinion, and see what I write under purpose 2. Yet, we should recognize as a fact that if users wanted to access materials brought together by purpose 1, it demanded some real skills and required a well-trained reference librarian close at hand to solve problems.

Purpose 2, on the other hand, has completely broken down in the “new” information environment (although it is tough to call it “new” when it is decades old at this point). In fact, purpose 2 has broken down so completely and for such a long time that members of the public, and even many librarians, have forgotten purpose 1. When purpose 2 broke down, it didn’t mean that people stopped finding information, but other tools became available that demanded much less of them than the tools traditionally provided by the library, and although the new tools did not provide purpose 1, it provided something people really liked: immediate access and ease of use.

Today when you bring up purpose 1, many say it never worked anyway, or it is obsolete, a pipe dream, or a folly to pursue. I have heard all of it. Today, many people, IT experts, and even many librarians do not see purpose 1 as a useful, achievable goal. That has huge consequences. My reply is that if we could get purpose 2 to work better today, people may begin to appreciate purpose 1 and start to want it.

Getting purpose 2 to work better is a tremendous undertaking however, but it has almost nothing to do with changing cataloging rules or even formats.