ACAT AAACR to RDA Conversion

On 20/04/2015 23.30, Gene Fieg wrote:
> I think this gets back the whole issue of abbreviations. Which is more > understandable to a patron, anglophone or not: 3rd edition, 3rd ed., or > third edition? Our goal should be to communicate the WEMI as clearly as > possible to the patron.

I just figure that if someone is hopelessly confused by 3rd edition, 3rd ed., or third edition, they’ll never be able to figure out 95% of the rest of a bibliographic record. The edition is relatively simple compared to what a series is, how subjects work, finding out what is the “correct” form of a corporate body, and so on. I think the *form* of the edition is unimportant to the users, who– it is true–very definitely want edition information, but they see all kinds of forms an edition statement can take in the real world. They can figure this out.

The real difficulty is for machines: a human can easily see that these variant “textual strings” all represent the same concept (3rd edition), but these are the sorts of practices that drive computers *crazy*! If one of the purposes is to get computers to merge/sort records in various ways, and one way will be by using edition information (I, for one, hope they will use edition information!), then what is most important parts is to have consistent data. For an extreme example, programmers would love an “edition” field, and catalogers would just add, e.g.: 3
or whatever the number happens to be. In fact, this seems to be how Amazon does it. Take a look at, and we see: “Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (May 1, 2015)” but if you “Look inside” the book itself it is all written out “Second edition”.

Doing it the Amazon way would make it childishly simple for the programmers to work with, but of course, catalogers know that edition statements can be a *lot* more complicated than that. Catalogers need at least some kind of freedom to input that complexity.

But still, consistency is absolutely vital if computers are going to work their magic by merging records and so on. This is one of the basic complaints I have had with RDA: for a long time now, the catalog record has provided certain areas of consistency, and in the case of editions, this type of consistency goes back much longer than most other parts of the record. (As an example, here is the “Catalogue of Books in the Mercantile Library, of the City of New York” (1866) found in Google Books, with the search for “ed.” Scroll through the results, and in with people being the editors, you’ll see lots of edition statements that use the abbreviation)

RDA breaks that consistency with edition statements and as a result, actually *creates* problems where they did not exist before. Merging on edition statements, which can vary *far more widely* with RDA, is only one example of what happens when you break that consistency. In fact, I don’t know how merging could be done now. Today, the computer will have to be programmed to “know” that “3rd edition, 3rd ed., 3d ed. third edition” and probably several more text strings, are actually the same. And catalogers know there are lots more variations than that. Earlier, there were at least numbers to merge on, and consistently input abbreviations. Now, it’s gone, and the complexity goes way up.

This goes for most other parts of the bibliographic record too.

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