Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Re: [NGC4LIB] Cooperative Cataloging Rules Announcement

On Mon, 19 Oct 2009 09:53:04 -0400, .. wrote:

>I have a question and a comment.
>You suggest that FRBR is obsolete, but that AACR2 is revisable. So, my
>question is: Why do you think a 31-year old standard, AACR2 (1978) can
>be updated, but not an 11-year old standard, FRBR (1998)?

Thanks for some good questions. I'll try to answer them:

FRBR is a theoretical framework, not a standard. It purports to define what
makes a bibliographic record functional, or not. FRBR states that for a
record to function, it must allow people to "find, identify, select, and
obtain" "works, expressions, manifestations and items." It was never tested
among the non-library community (that I know of) and what it says is
certainly highly dubious in today's world, which has new tools that were
completely unknown in the 1990s, e.g. pre-Google, pre-Web2.0. In my own
opinion, what FRBR actually does is to describe the library-centric view of
the information universe as it stood in the 1990s. (But I reiterate that I
am not finding fault with anyone. Nobody could have predicted the explosion
that has occurred) Also, and this is very important: the public likes the
new tools and prefers them to ours in many, many ways. Ever newer tools
appear every day and we are living through a time of tremendous creativity,
innovation and ferment in the information world. With the Google Books
project and the popularity of open access plus new projects, we undoubtedly
are in for even more change, e.g. see the latest in
We may be looking at a time, perhaps very soon, a time period measured in
months instead of decades, when someone can get a bachelor's degree without
ever setting foot into a library. How much longer will it be before they can
get a master's, or PhD? I don't think too many people will maintain that it
can never happen and perhaps it will come much sooner than we can imagine
right now.

AACR2 is a well-established standard that has been continually updated both
with published revisions and the LCRIs, so it does not really date from
1978. Actually, it's FRBR that has not been updated. Although there is a
theoretical framework operating in the background, AACR2 itself is not
theoretical but a highly practical document, and does not talk about record
structure or anything like that; it tells you what information is important
and how to input it.

>Back in May, Tom Delsey, the editor of RDA, gave a presentation on
>AACR2/RDA at a CLA pre-conference. He stated that a lot of the content
>(of AACR2) hasn't changed. Rather the main change of RDA was structural
>(based on FRBR). Maybe retraining will be less cumbersome than we think
>if we emphasize the continuity of the two codes.

This is my understanding as well. Therefore, if things are changing so
little, and retraining will be minimal (essentially learning how to navigate
the reorganized rules and learning new rule numbers, which means that all
local documentation will have to change as well), it is natural to ask: why
do it at all? While our day-to-day work will definitely be disrupted and
made more expensive with online subscriptions, what difference will it make
to our users? Exactly what will someone be able to do with a record created
in RDA that they cannot do today? Will RDA make it easier to get
bibliographic records from other entities? Does RDA create anything that
people want and is worth the cost?

Library catalogs (and consequently, I submit, libraries themselves) are
facing very, very hard times indeed. Especially when there are free
alternatives out there that people like and prefer at the same time as we
are facing e ver-dwindling resources.

My library, and many others out there, simply cannot pay for retraining and
the subscriptions to the online RDA. It's that simple. Therefore, there is
no choice for these libraries: they absolutely cannot implement RDA. In
I personally have very strong theoretical objections as to its
ultimate value to our library users or to librarians in general. That's why
I looked around for a genuine choice and found the Cooperative Cataloging
Rules, which provides the choice for libraries who cannot, or prefer not to
implement RDA.

While we must change, it must be in new directions that promise cooperation
and high-standards, and we make must be relevant to our patrons. I think
there are many things we can do in this new world, and most ways are very
inexpensive, but major decisions have to be made, e.g. do I put my data on
the web for free in useful formats for free download and further use by the
world? I confess that I find this potentially disturbing, as Tim Berners-Lee
describes his view of things, where people will take your data and rework it
in all kinds of ways they like. Still, while I may find it disturbing, that
is just the price of admission to the world-of-information-as-it-is-becoming
(apologies to Kant!).

Does this answer your questions?

Jim Weinheimer

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