RDA-L Michael Gorman’s new essay on RDA

Posting to RDA-L

On 10/23/2015 7:35 PM, Kevin M Randall wrote:
That is certainly not true at all, in the sense that we’re talking about.

With MARC records following ISBD conventions, the meanings of the data in particular tags and subfields are sometimes dependent entirely upon their placement within the field, preceding ISBD punctuation, and/or other contextual factors that would be impossible to determine by algorithm. The tagging of the data and the intended public display are hopelessly jumbled together in MARC records.

Just a few examples of ambiguous MARC data that may–or sometimes *will*–require human intelligence to decipher:

245 $b contains both parallel title and other title information 245 $c contains statement of responsibility, plus in some cases additional titles proper, parallel titles, other title information, and their respective statements of responsibility 246 contains variant title, parallel title, other title information 700 contains creator and/or contributor and/or other related person/family/body and/or included work/expression/manifestation and/or related work/expression/manifestation, etc.

These are some of the points that are often brought up but make absolutely no sense to me. Why would anybody have to extract that information when it is the job of the cataloger to do it manually? Any additional titles that may be in the $b or $c will be placed into additional 246 or 740 (or even 730) fields manually by the cataloger. The authors will also be added manually by the cataloger into 1xx or 7xx fields, of course. If a cataloger does not add those fields into the record then that cataloger must be considered incompetent. That is an indispensable part of the job of the cataloger.

So, saying that everything is mixed up in the fields is a non-issue that any cataloger should instantly understand because that ignores what catalogers have always done, in the days before computers it was done by adding additional cards and later, by adding additional fields for names and titles.

I discussed this at some length in the article “Interpreting MARC: Where’s the Bibliographic Data?” by Jason Tomale Code{4}lib Journal, Issue 11, 2010-09-21 (http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/3832. See his article plus my comment there. I would like to add Hal Cain’s comment to me, plus mine at
https://blog.jweinheimer.net/2010/09/re-interpreting-marc.html) I believe an IT person may not be expected to understand what a cataloger does, so they may think there is a need to parse out information. But the cataloger has already done it, as I wrote there.

In any case, what difference at all do such intricacies make to the user, who doesn’t need to understand any of this but perhaps wants to find materials by variant titles, and different authors, all of which can be found through the 246/730/740 or 1xx/7xx, i.e. by a simple title or author search? Of course, such a search will work only if the cataloger exists and is competent.

Now, if we want to consider that there is no cataloger to add the additional titles and authors and the computer must do it all, that is a completely different matter, but I do not like that scenario one bit. When a competent cataloger exists, there is no problem with any of that.

What any of this has to do with the rule changes mandated by RDA: the rule of one instead of rule of three, no more abbreviations, 245$b optional, adding relators, extra 33x fields etc., is beyond me.

Things like “rule of one”, deprecation of abbreviations, and optionality of parallel title and other title information would very likely have come along even if we had kept revising AACR2, or gone to AACR3 as originally intended. For relationship designators, see my previous paragraph. The 33X fields are a way of standardizing things that were very, very mushy in the GMDs and inconsistent usage of MARC 006-008 elements.

Again, I beg to differ, this time, more seriously. I am not a betting man, but I just might bet everything I own that the rule of one would be shot down immediately if put before the public, e.g. how many people would say that they need to find Masters but not Johnson? I do not know of any rules (past or present) that would allow that except RDA, nor have I met any user who would agree that Johnson is a throw-away author. Please specify. To follow such an outrageous rule would only demonstrate to everyone how modern cataloging does not fulfill the needs of the public. For the good of the profession, that rule should be abandoned as soon as possible. I only hope that nobody is following it.

Option of subtitles. Subtitles often contain the most substantive part of the record, e.g. off the top of my head, I think of one of my favorite authors, Barbara Tuchman “Proud tower : a portrait of the world before the war, 1890-1914 / Barbara W. Tuchman”. Once again, please specify how the public would not want subtitles added to the record. I haven’t met anyone who would agree–even a subtitle such as “a novel” provides very important information for the user.

I do not think either of those RDA changes to long-established rules involved what the public needs or wants. They were suddenly thrust upon everyone without any debate as a fait accompli.

If anything, the public would probably be most amenable to getting rid of 245$c, which (theoretically) repeats information available in other parts of the record. But RDA actually increases this section by adding all of the information about the institutions an author is associated with plus the degrees he or she has. (Or as I call it, the alphabet soup) If memory does not fail me, Lubetzky himself did not like the statement of responsibility for precisely the reason that it repeats information (the authors’ names) found in the rest of the record, but the SR was added for ISBD purposes. I agree with traditional ISBD practice.

Concerning 006-008 vs. 33x fields, I agree that the 3xx fields could conceivably be more useful, but please specify how the public will understand the information recorded there. Many catalogs do not even display it, and in any case, searching for 33x fields will make pre-RDA records without those fields unfindable (the overwhelming majority of records), which overrides the utility of the 33x fields.

In this regard, the natural question also arises: If the traditional cataloging abbreviations were too much for the public to bear (p., ill., and the dreaded et al.) the 33x information has shown itself to be too much for many librarians and catalogers themselves.

How is any of this for the good of the users? Who does this help? And as I mentioned before, all of this is unnecessary for search, display, or if the goal is to “achieve” linked data.