Re: [ACAT] Advantages of RDA – get rid of disbelievers

Posting to Autocat

On 17/04/2014 23.51, MULLEN Allen wrote:

RDA, nor any cataloging code, is about the convenience to the cataloger. Our work remains the convenience of the user.

This is one of those platitudes we are taught in library school and is repeated over and over again, much as a mantra. The fact is, people have complained loudly about library catalogs from the beginning. They complained about card catalogs from their inception; they have complained about OPACs, and remember that catalog of Panizzi, that we idolize today? People hated it so much back in the 1840s that they managed to get nothing less than a Royal Investigation into it. Just because Panizzi happened to convince the members of the committee that he shouldn’t be fired doesn’t mean that people suddenly loved his catalog.

The library catalog was created to do the work that the library needed. That is why it exists. If the catalog did not do the work the library needs, it would have been discarded long ago. The only real difference today is that if people want to find information, they have multitudes of other options which did not exist in the antideluvian era, before the internet, when they had no choices at all.

If our work really is for “the convenience of the user” doesn’t that mean that we should at least try to find out what the users want? And then design something that fulfills what we discover they want? RDA didn’t do that research before implementation and doesn’t do that now. I think it’s a safe bet that if they did that research now, they would discover that people don’t want RDA and would find the FRBR philosophical structure bizarre and unnatural–and unnecessary.

It is a fact that, in spite of the platitudes, library catalogs are for the convenience of the library. They always have been and they always will be. To think otherwise is to ignore what has been the public’s reaction for at least more than a century.

And there is nothing at all wrong with that so long as we realize it. The real task should be to make the catalog into something that can fulfill the needs of the users, but we first need to find out what those needs are instead of mindlessly repeating the FRBR user tasks (which are actually the FRBR librarian tasks), or crossing our fingers and hoping against hope that just entering the world of linked data (heavenly
chorus) will be the solution.