RDA-L RE: RE: publisher info

On 25/03/2015 21.39, Amanda Cossham wrote:
> Most patrons are unsophisticated, and do not think to that level of > refinement. They believe they are good at searching because they use > search engines all the time, and that it’s the fault of the library > catalogue when they don’t retrieve what they expect to get when they > search. In many ways, they are correct. We should not be expecting > patrons to understand the data the way cataloguing librarians do. > Library catalogues are still hard to use.

It should also be kept in mind that there are two purposes to the library catalog: one is as an aid for people to find information in the collection, but the other–just as important–is to serve as a complete *inventory* of the collection. The inventory information may not be needed for the other purpose.

Much of the descriptive information in a bibliographic record is needed by the collection managers. They need to know if e.g. something they are considering buying is a reprint and maybe they should check the condition of the local copy. But the library user rarely needs such information. In the case of printers vs. publishers, my experience is that because of reliance on keyword, people are losing the concepts even of author, title, and subject. The concept of a “publisher” and more specifically, the relationship of the “printer” is quite beyond most members of the public. I can’t imagine a user saying, “I would prefer a copy published by Random House to one by Viking” (although I am sure that one person somewhere has asked for something like that!).

Such information is vital for the collection manager. I once wrote a chapter of a book and in it, discussed the importance of the exact number of pages–to the librarian, that is. A library user rarely cares if an item has 228 pages or 232 pages, but for the person who is considering adding an item to the collection, they cannot waste their budgets adding duplicates, and for them, such information can be vital.

Libraries need special information to get their jobs done. We absolutely have to have it but that doesn’t mean that everybody wants it. While some of that information (publisher vs. printer, exact publication dates and so on) may *occasionally* be of real interest to the user, it is very rare. Someone may be a Steinbeck scholar and be interested in specific printings, and the catalog can sometimes provide at least some of that information. Most of the time however, the catalog does not–in any case, it would be a mistake for the serious scholar to trust it–and they still need to use other tools and/or methods.

These were some of the issues that I was hoping would be reconsidered by the cataloging community, especially in relation to “new developments” (now decades old!) such as electronic documents and their associated printouts. We know what libraries need to get their work done, but what do *other people* need to get *their* work done? Does our information help them or just get in their way and confuse everything? This is what I was trying to get at in my cartoon in my podcast “A Conversation Between a Patron and the Library Catalog” https://archive.org/details/Conversation_201401

James Weinheimer weinheimer.jim.l@gmail.com
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