Friday, January 11, 2008

ALCTS CCS Discussion of RDA Draft

Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access (also known as CC:DA)

This is an informal discussion on the draft of RDA. Focuses on sections 2 & 3; the remainder will be covered on Monday.

Overall Comments

Chapter 2. Identifying manifestations and items
Chapter 3. Describing carriers

This was a discussion of RDA by the ALCTS cataloging group Presumably the comments here become the ALA comments to the JSC.

It's hard to characterize this discussion. It varied between comments about the need to improve the definitions and the problems with the structure of the document, and with statements like: What we have here is a crisis of confidence; pedantic adherence to structural hierarchy; Why is it that the rules from AACR2 do not inspire confidence in this new setting?

Here are some of the more interesting issues that came up (filtered, obviously, through my viewpoint).

- Some of the text is just AACR2, pulled into the RDA document. This is considered by some to be a step backward -- that this "new" code doesn't take advantage of the opportunity to make changes in these areas.

- There seems to be a great deal of confusion on what the final RDA product will actually be. Some see it as the final cataloging code that they will use daily in their cataloging. Others (possibly the members of JSC) see RDA as being a basis for cataloging, but a neutral background for the creation of actual cataloging rules. This is particularly odd when we consider that the RDA text is being transferred to an online system which will be the primary product allowing people to access RDA.

- This also means that there is tension between creating a general code and getting all of the special rules in for music, law, cartographic materials, etc. This tension does not seem to be resolved, and there are people with different expectations.

- The who RDA direction seems to be in incredible flux. You may know that they recently announced a restructuring of the document to make it in more line with FRBR. They also seem to be attempting to do some redesign of concepts. For example, there is no longer any reference to authority records -- it is assumed that in the future, those will not exist as they do today, although the same information will be carried somewhere.This is a major change - at least in thinking, to happen just months before the full draft is due to be available.

- There was a fair amount of dissent over the format of the text and the fact that it will be thousands of pages in length when created. There's a deep contradiction in the process, because the RDA folks say that they are writing the online version, but they are creating this as a print document. As some members of the audience pointed out, they are really creating neither -- what they have doesn't work as a print document, and the web document will undoubtedly look quite different. So... what is it that we are looking at now?

- Although there is quite a bit of dissent in the US over RDA, there is great enthusiasm among the non-US members of the Joint Steering Committee. We don't have any explanation as to why we have these polar opposites, and it would be very interesting to hear WHY they think it's so good, sonce here it seem to be almost universally disliked.

- There was a fascinating, but not quite coherent, discussion of persons and personal names: are we identifying persons, or are we identifying names? If the same person uses more than one name, how many identities is that? It was said that we are now treating persons like corporate bodies: a difference in naming is a different entity. This has some practical elements, of course, but it also seems to be deeply philosophical and something that we have to be very clear on if we are going to exchange data with communities who emphasize persons over named identities.


Owen said...

The discussion about names reminds me of Alice's conversation with the White Knight:

The name of the song is called 'Haddocks' Eyes.'"

"Oh, that's the name of the song, is it?" Alice said, trying to feel interested.

"No, you don't understand," the Knight said, looking a little vexed. "That's what the name
is called. The name really is 'The Aged, Aged Man.'"

"Then I ought to have said 'That's what the song is called'?" Alice corrected herself.

"No you oughtn't: that's another thing. The song is called 'Ways and Means' but that's only
what it's called, you know!"

"Well, what is the song then?" said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.

"I was coming to that," the Knight said. "The song really is 'A-sitting On a Gate': and the
tune's my own invention."

Irvin said...


It also reminds me of a passage in Plato's Cratylus where Socrates says the names we call the gods are not their real names, but just the names that the gods let us humans call them! Their real names are only known to the gods themselves.

Cratylus later decided verbal communication was impossible and renounced speech altogether (he just used to raise his finger). Let's hope we're not heading down that path. :-)

And speaking of Greek gods, RDA is like Proteus: every time you look it's changed its shape again.