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Cataloging for the Users

Oct - 18 - 2007
Nicole C. Engard

I’m not quite as offended as Chris Schwartz is about the statements made by Chris Oliver in her Changing to RDA article – maybe because I haven’t read it – or the RDA draft, but I wanted to chime in anyway ;)

Chris Oliver says:

The standard is designed to be easy to use and to generate records that contain data that is relevant and important to users.

And Chris Schwartz answers:

Aside from the fact that the last 3 RDA drafts are anything but “easy to use”, we are told that we will be creating “records that contain data that is relevant and important to users.” Sorry, but I think we’re already doing that.

Are we really? I know we’re trying to, but with so many silly rules holding us back how can we? In the last 5 months I’ve been shocked to find the variety in subject headings available (did you know that there is one for religious aspects of nursing? I was amazed to find that one – but it took me a good 15 minutes to do so), but I keep coming back to things I’ve heard in LibraryThing presentations regarding the headings for Bridget Jones’ Diary (Jones, Bridget (Fictitious character)–Fiction. Single women–Fiction. England–Fiction.) and Neuromancer (Computer hackers–Fiction. Business intelligence–Fiction. Information superhighway–Fiction. Nervous system–Wounds and injuries–Fiction. Conspiracies–Fiction. Japan–Fiction.).

If users want to find books like these they’re not going to be looking for Nervous system–Wounds and injuries–Fiction or Single women–Fiction! They’re going to look for Cyberpunk and Chic lit.

Now, I doubt that RDA is going to solve this problem – but my argument is that we’re so bogged down with rules set years ago that we’re not always providing our users with the best access to the items they’re looking for – no matter how hard we try!

So – who’s side was I taking here? No one’s – I just get frustrated once in a while because I do want to provide users with the best access to information, but I’m boxed in by a binder that’s heavier than my dog and a listing of god knows how many subject headings!

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7 Responses so far.

  1. Steve says:

    Be careful you don’t conflate RDA (which will essentially be an updating of AACR2–descriptive bibliography with authorized name/title construction thrown into the mix) with subject analysis (LCSH, etc.)

  2. Nicole says:

    I do know that there are differences – but even AACR2 is bloated with rules that do nothing to help the user find information.

    My point above was whether we were cataloging for the users or not – like I said I haven’t read the article or the RDA draft – so my rant was totally about cataloging for our users – meaning all aspects of cataloging – rules and subject analysis.

  3. Julie says:

    Subjects get added every day.
    Chick lit (2006) and Cyberpunk culture (2001) are valid Library of Congress subjects.
    Because catalogers are working for the users.

  4. Nicole says:

    Ah – but are you going back and editing every book with crazy subject headings? No! Because that would be insanely time consuming. Which means those titles are still un-searchable with those terms.

    That said – I’m a cataloger – I’m not against catalogers and I do catalog for the user – but I’m so limited that sometimes I get very very frustrated!!

  5. Tim Spalding says:

    There’s no question catalogers work for users. But, as Niole said, nobody goes back to add the subjects. The great flowering of chick lit in the late 90s will never get the tag; it was a commonly-used term for at least seven years before the LC added it. The same pattern can be seen in subjets like Sociobiology, Memetics and many others.

    As for Cyberpunk, the only subject is Cyberpunk Culture, applied to exactly one work in the history of the LC. I’m not sure whether that’s better or worse than never using it at all.

  6. If catalogers want to start adding tags now, there is a MARC field, the 653 field, that would work well. The 653 field is for uncontrolled index terms and is already used by LC for subject concepts that don’t have an authorized LC subject heading yet.

    I’m a big advocate for using both LCSH and tags. I think there’s a place for both.

  7. Kerry Dalgleish says:

    I’m undertaking the full cataloguing of our library fiction collection and my research shows me the LC/gsadf options. I am grateful for these rules and precedents. RDA impact on this? Don’t know. However I am excited by the possibility of including the readers’ forums and their favourites from such sources as LibraryThing. We’re helping each other provide better access. Thank goodness the days of librarian=gatekeeper are gone.


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