On 6/14/2015 5:18 PM, Karen Coyle wrote:
> BF claims to be “cataloging rules neutral.” The variant title class > doesn’t seem to support that neutrality. I also wouldn’t be surprised if > there were other such cases in BF. Perhaps this harks back to a > conflation of goals: a general bibliographic framework vs. the > replacement for the heavily Anglo-American biased MARC format.

I don’t know if it’s even possible to be “neutral” here. The idea of “Variant titles” presupposes that there are specific title(s) that take precedence. In AACR2/RDA, there is the very cataloging idea of “chief source of information” (CSI) and there are rules describing how to find it on each type of format (books, journals, videos, maps, etc.). Our cataloging rules state that the main title comes from the CSI while other titles are different types of variants. Not every bibliographic agency has this concept of “chief source of information” however and I personally have not come across this concept outside the library community.

Plus, there are simply different concepts. As an example, here are the codes for “Title types” for ONIX, which is designed for book publishers–certainly one group we should be considering. I can’t point to a webpage for this. You must download it locally as a zip file from I hope it can be read in this message. Apologies if not.

> 00 Undefined
> 01 Distinctive title (book); Cover title (serial); Title on item (serial content item or reviewed resource) The full text of the distinctive title of the item, without abbreviation or abridgement. For books, where the title alone is not distinctive, elements may be taken from a set or series title and part number etc to create a distinctive title. Where the item is an omnibus edition containing two or more works by the same author, and there is no separate combined title, a distinctive title may be constructed by concatenating the individual titles, with suitable punctuation, as in “Pride and prejudice / Sense and sensibility / Northanger Abbey”. > 02 ISSN key title of serial Serials only.
> 03 Title in original language Where the subject of the ONIX record is a translated item.
> 04 Title acronym or initialism For serials: an acronym or initialism of Title Type 01, eg “JAMA”, “JACM”. > 05 Abbreviated title An abbreviated form of Title Type 01.
> 06 Title in other language A translation of Title Type 01 into another language.
> 07 Thematic title of journal issue Serials only: when a journal issue is explicitly devoted to a specified topic.
> 08 Former title Books or serials: when an item was previously published under another title.
> 10 Distributor’s title For books: the title carried in a book distributor’s title file: frequently incomplete, and may include elements not properly part of the title.
> 11 Alternative title on cover An alternative title that appears on the cover of a book.
> 12 Alternative title on back An alternative title that appears on the back of a book.
> 13 Expanded title An expanded form of the title, eg the title of a school text book with grade and type and other details added to make the title meaningful, where otherwise it would comprise only the curriculum subject. This title type is required for submissions to the Spanish ISBN Agency.
> 14 Alternative title An alternative title that the book is widely known by, whether it appears on the book or not.

So, we see lots of differences, not least of all with terminology. For instance, library use of “Distinctive title” means some quite specific, and different, from what we see here. We do not see a uniform/preferred title. The closest could be “Title in original language” and/or “Former title”.

“Alternative title” in ONIX also means something totally different from what a library cataloger understands. Here, it seems to mean what “Variant title” means to a cataloger, but ONIX expands it to front and back cover.

I think it is very difficult to make anything neutral.

James Weinheimer
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One Comment

  1. Ron Murray said:

    Well: The “bottom-up,” W3C-centric bibliographic description subcommunity is bumping with verve into notions that once upended the physical sciences and made their way into the social sciences. In physics, observational schemes and interpretative frameworks were criticized as being “theory-laden” – framed in ways that, minimally, privileged one theoretical, social, personal POV over another.

    Productive responses to this criticism in both physics and the social sciences did not double down on Newtonian-style omniscience (or LaPlace’s determinism* ), but instead adopted Neils Bohr’s strategy that the point of view that animates one’s “question-asking system”must be clearly defined and considered in one’s own interpretations. This strategy is clearly implied in RDF implementations when differing communities define vocabularies they think are relevant to them.

    Whether parties who create, use, and encounter vocabularies of this type raise their “theory-laden” flags is the question of the moment.

    And yes, there are ways to approach the implied “incommensurability issue” that don’t result in “describing communities” bumping around without the ability to understand/appreciate what other communities have to offer. (e.g, CERN)
    * “We may regard the present state of the universe…”

    July 15, 2015

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