RDA-L Re: Title translated by the publisher

Posting to RDA-L

On 8/7/2014 11:39 PM, Mark Anders Harrison wrote:

1. It is my expectation – my presupposition – that while MARC may be limiting, these distinctions in a database designed for RDA would be cast in language that the average user would see and find helpful. While we as cataloguers might use our technical vocabulary, the user might see something like: “Translation of title” and “Title in Latin alphabet” (I’m not sure if the general public going to a public library know what “transliteration” means). I assumed this in part because of the references in RDA to particular variations like “spine” title. This could be particularly valuable in a number of books I’ve catalogued where it is actually difficult to figure out what the full, or “official” (aka title proper) is. If a bibliographic record in database designed for RDA will not provide such information to the end user, then yeah, we should really think about whether we want to keep preserving such distinctions.

Of course, the native format of how a database (or individual record) is structured has no bearing on what the user of the database sees. For instance, a specific bit of information may be labelled in the database something like “ap1” which means nothing to anyone, except to the people who work with the database itself, it speaks volumes. In this case, “ap1” may mean “first year of publication” but the database was designed by Italians (anno di pubblicazione). The corresponding information linked to “ap1” and its display in the user interface can quite literally be anything someone wants; it can be in Italian, or in any other language perhaps based on the searcher’s IP address or a cookie in the browser. It can be an image or a sound. In mobile technology, it can even be a vibration.

Therefore, there is no need to wait for new formats to change how the information is displayed to the users. That just takes a few seconds. But I think that these distinctions are almost always meaningless to the public and becoming more meaningless all the time, whereas those same bits of information may be vital for the librarians.

2. With that in mind, I figured that if I brought this to my friend’s attention, I would give him the information he needed. I wouldn’t expect him to just know, but if such distinctions were going to translate into entries in a record that he could use, then he might just care. On top of this, I am talking about a friend who is quite likely to easily grasp the distinctions we’re making. I have another friend who, while quite brilliant, wouldn’t care in the least and might have to be dragged into such a discussion. I wouldn’t do that.

That really could be interesting and important, to discover whether such distinctions make any difference to real users, of if they just ignore them, much as we ignore all kinds of things we do not understand in Google searches.

Concerning directions in cataloging rules, I think it is inevitable that sooner or later, the various pressures will force catalogers to re-open Lubetzky’s maxim, “Is this rule necessary?” for the early 21st century, but they will have to include much more than he did: e.g. “Is this subfield/indicator necessary?” “Is this bibliographical distinction necessary?” “Is this cataloging practice necessary?” etc. plus “How does the existence of new technologies affect these considerations?”

And finally, to determine the usefulness of all of this based not only on some abstract notion of a “user” that exists only in theory, but for much more specific communities. I can only hope that one of the most important communities will be that of librarians and catalogers, who–it must be admitted–use the catalog in ways that are quite different from anyone else.