Monday, April 30, 2007

The Problem with Blogs by Catalogers/Techies

I really like reading blogs by other catalogers and by technology people. They can be informative, and insightful, and give me links to more good things and more NEW things.
However, they also tend to use tech terms and cataloging terms to the extreme. This is related to the problem I have with FRBR (the "new" cataloging standard). If I am not an experienced cataloger, or a tech guru, some, nay, MANY of these blogs are completely unintelligible to me. Thus, they are useless! I think that one reason Lawrence Lessig has enjoyed such ridiculous success with his articles, and blogs, and books, is that he is accessible to almost everyone. He doesn't dive into minutiae; he keeps it general and smart and, most importantly, relevant to a broad audience. Jim over in your cataloging department who has "the coolest blog about cataloging!", cites people you've never heard of, terms you've never used, and programs you would never want.
Now, I'm a fairly experienced cataloger and organizer. I know what they're getting at, most of the time. But sometimes I feel like a kindergartener, and I don't think that is my fault.
I'm going to use the example of FRBR again. I use AACRII, and am comfortable with the terminology of AACRII. I'm even somewhat experienced in FRBR terminology, since my cataloging professor has been part of the movement to change our terminology to encompass all kinds of materials (books, web sites, journals, antelopes, etc).
But when I go to almost any website that talks about FRBR, I'm lost almost immediately. Who is that person they're touting? What article? What the hell do you mean by manifestation? How do I apply that very abstract term to my own concrete stack of books and cds and multi-volume treatises that are sitting on my desk? Does anyone know? Does anyone really care?
I know how whiny this all sounds...gee, what a freaking complainer, why not just find the defintions of terms for FRBR and get it figured out?

Well, I would, if I could find anything that acts as a cross-walk between FRBR and AACRII. As it stands, I merely tread water and do things all the old-fashioned way. Which for a 27-year-old database administrator/cataloger, is saying something.

1 comment:

Karen Harker, MLS, MPH said...

There are plenty of resources out there for understanding FRBR (and other "techie" topics). Say, for example, Understanding FRBR: What it is and how it will affect our retrieval tools, by Arlene G. Taylor (ISBN: 978-1-59158-509-1). There are also numerous presentations, including Tom Delsey's "Stepping back, looking forward: FRBR and the evolution of hte catalogue", which was presented at the 2004 ALCTS Preconference.

Try the FRBR Bibliography from IFLA for more. While much of the items in the list are rather in-depth and detailed, there are some very useful gems.

"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.