Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"The Really Obvious Stuff"

The other day, I'm sitting in a conference call, and we're talking about the creation of metadata for our big metadata project. And someone says "well, of course we won't be putting brackets around the supplied titles."
This stopped me in my note-taking tracks. We're not--what? What ELSE aren't we doing and why am I just now getting this sinking feeling in my stomach?
So I kind of keep quiet and ask my boss later, thinking that I'm just a silly new person who didn't realize that we're not doing this stuff according to AACRII. My boss comes back with "what??"
Hm. A conundrum. How did we get almost 8 months into this project without anyone knowing that we're not creating metadata according to AACRII rules?**
Well, very easily, in fact. It says quite explicitly in our metadata rules for the project that we're creating content by the DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), and not by AACRII. Now, this makes perfect sense, because DACS is written with an eye towards machine-readable rules, and AACRII is written for cards. So things like brackets around supplied titles are fine when you're putting it on a card, but a database can't figure out that you didn't mean to include a bracket in the title, and will sort its indexes accordingly.
What this also means, though, as I found out in the meeting, is that we're not using abbreviations, or acronyms, except in cases of, and I quote "you know, the really obvious stuff."

I'm laughing right now, just typing it out again. "really obvious stuff"? Seriously, that's our rule? Is "cm" obvious? Is "Mr." obvious? What about "NJ", or "misc."? Man, I just laughed and laughed about this rule. And then I put my head down on my desk and cried.

I'm finding, more and more, that I'm banging my head against a brick wall just trying to explain to people that there is more to cataloging than just putting some random words down to describe an object. In fact, I also had a person say "how hard can it be to do subject analysis?" Holy Jesus, apparently a lot harder than you thought.

**While we are eight months in, we're just starting to create metadata, so this was actually a very opportune time to have this particular revelation.

No comments:

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