Monday, November 19, 2012

IS RDA the only way?

The ultimate goal of the Cooperative Cataloging Rules Wiki is a bit on the radical side. It does not declare that no changes are needed, but rather that the changes needed are much deeper and far more profound than the superficial changes suggested by RDA. In addition, these changes can come from the cataloging community as a whole, instead of being decided by a few libraries in the most important libraries and trickling down to everyone else. The entire Web2.0 movement allows these sorts of grass-level initiatives now and all kinds of new tools can be built.

James Weinheimer, in his blog First Thus, takes the stance that 1) it is going to be very expensive for every library to implement RDA 2) RDA is based on FRBR, which is of unproven usefulness for library patrons, if not for catalogers and 3) RDA doesn't actually do very much other than muck around with 300 fields and spell out a few words which were formerly abbreviated.

I think he's right and he's wrong. The point of RDA, as I understand it, is to free up the data catalogers have been collecting forever so that it can be grabbed by other users and, likewise, to make it easier for catalogers to grab data collected by others to plop into our catalogs.

I do think that his idea that RDA does not go far enough is interesting. I also think his point that catalogers can do it for themselves actually is the point of RDA.
In any case, interesting to think about.


James Weinheimer said...

Thanks for mentioning my paper. I would like to clarify a couple of points. First, I completely agree that freeing up our data would be great. The problem is, neither RDA nor FRBR is necessary if that is what we want to do.

All we would have to do is put our data out in a format that others will use. This will certainly not be MARC21 format, but there are lots of options out there that libraries can play with.

Second, the Cooperative Cataloging Rules are not so radical--at least at the moment. All it does is continue what everyone has been doing. As I said in my paper: "If the Cooperative Cataloging Rules Wiki constitutes a revolution, it is probably one of the more conservative revolutions that has been attempted. It respects the work that has been done on RDA. RDA has been undertaken by skilled and experienced catalogers who are highly motivated. Unfortunately, I feel their efforts have been misdirected."

But catalogers shouldn't kid themselves that RDA and/or FRBR, anything are really going to change anything--except in the sense that it will be more expensive for libraries to pay for the rules and catalogers will be dealing with some weird concepts that, in the end, will not make any difference to the public.

I've had long discussions about this and my posts can be found on my blog!

Christina Tarr said...

Thanks for your comment, James!

I'm not an expert by any means, nor have I even begun cataloging in RDA. I suspect, though, that some of the goofiness is going to allow for records to be added by machine. I think when we are cataloging, we'll probably follow LC as we always have. The catalog will be more diverse, and I think RDA allows for that, and I think it's going to be okay. I agree that FRBR seems a little crazy, but I don't think it's actually going to matter that much.

But, I am only surmising --

Thanks again for commenting!