Thursday, May 28, 2015

International Cataloguing Principles, 2015

IFLA is revising the International Cataloguing Principles and asked for input. Although I doubt that it will have an effect, I did write up my comments and send them in. Here's my view of the principles, including their history.

The original ICP dates from 1961 and read like a very condensed set of cataloging rules. [Note: As T Berger points out, this document was entitled "Paris Principles", not ICP.] It was limited to choice and form of entries (personal and corporate authors, titles). It also stated clearly that it applied to alphabetically sequenced catalogs:
The principles here stated apply only to the choice and form of headings and entry words -- i.e. to the principal elements determining the order of entries -- in catalogues of printed books in which entries under authors' names and, where these are inappropriate or insufficient, under the titles of works are combined in one alphabetical sequence.
The basic statement of principles was not particularly different from those stated by Charles Ammi Cutter in 1875.


ICP 1961

 Note that the ICP does not include subject access, which was included in Cutter's objectives for the catalog. Somewhere between 1875 and 1961, cataloging became descriptive cataloging only. Cutter's rules did include a fair amount detail about subject cataloging (in 13 pages, as compared to 23 pages on authors).

The next version of the principles was issued in 2009. This version is intended to be "applicable to online catalogs and beyond." This is a post-FRBR set of principles, and the objectives of the catalog are given in points with headings find, identify, select, obtain and navigate. Of course, the first four are the FRBR user tasks. The fifth one, navigate, as I recall was suggested by Elaine Svenonius and obviously was looked on favorably even though it hasn't been added to the FRBR document, as far as I know.

The statement of functions of the catalog in this 2009 draft is rather long, but the "find" function gives an idea of how the goals of the catalog have changed:

ICP 2009

It's worth pointing out a couple of key changes. The first is the statement "as the result of a search..." The 1961 principles were designed for an alphabetically arranged catalog; this set of principles recognizes that there are searches and search results in online catalogs, and it never mentions alphabetical arrangement. The second is that there is specific reference to relationships, and that these are expected to be searchable along with attributes of the resource. The third is that there is something called "secondary limiting of a search result." This latter appears to reflect the use of facets in search interfaces.

The differences between the 2015 draft of the ICP and this 2009 version are relatively minor. The big jump in thinking takes place between the 1961 version and the 2009 version. My comments (pdf) to the committee are as much about the 2009 version as the 2015 one. I make three points:
    1.  The catalog is a technology, and cataloging is therefore in a close relation to that technology
    Although the ICP talks about "find," etc., it doesn't relate those actions to the form of the "authorized access points." There is no recognition that searching today is primarily on keyword, not on left-anchored strings.

    2. Some catalog functions are provided by the catalog but not by cataloging
    The 2015 ICP includes among its principles that of accessibility of the catalog for all users. Accessibility, however, is primarily a function of the catalog technology, not the content of the catalog data. It also recommends (to my great pleasure) that the catalog data be made available for open access. This is another principle that is not content-based. Equally important is the idea, which is expressed in the 2015 principles under "navigate" as: "... beyond the catalogue, to other catalogues and in non-library contexts." This is clearly a function of the catalog, with the support of the catalog data, but what data serves this function is not mentioned.

    3. Authority control must be extended to all elements that have recognized value for retrieval
    This mainly refers to the inclusion of the elements that serve as limiting facets on retrieved sets. None of the elements listed here are included in the ICP's instructions on "authorized access points," yet these are, indeed, access points. Uncontrolled forms of dates, places, content, carrier, etc., are simply not usable as limits. Yet nowhere in the document is the form of these access points addressed.

    There is undoubtedly much more that could be said about the principles, but this is what seemed to me to be appropriate to the request for comment on this draft.


      Thomas Berger said...

      I was not involved in the process, but the 2009 printed edition of the ICP is the finalized version of a series of drafts created by the "IFLA Meeting of Experts on an Inernational Cataloguing Code" (IME ICC) which from 2003 collaborated in a series of IFLA preconferences. The first draft was presented in January 2004 and - although only later versions brought the text in full alignment with FRBR lingo - IIRC isn't too much different from the version published in 2009.

      Clearly the experts understood their task as to replace the 1961 "Statement of Principles" (perhaps more commonly known as the "Paris Principles") by something fundamentally new. So I wouldn't consider the 2009 ICP as a revision of the 1961 SoP and especially the old principles have never been referred to under the acronym ICP.

      Karen Coyle said...

      Thomas, thanks for the background info. It really does help to understand how these documents come about -- their origins often explain alot.