Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm Out

Dear Blog,
I'm going away for a week. Don't cry! I promise to be back in the land of the electronic very soon. If my parents' house had any kind of internet connection (or computer), this scenario would look very different.
Keep your chin up,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I've been cataloging....

A LOT. Dear Lord, so much cataloging. It's actually shocking how much I need a meeting every day in order to break the monotony of cataloging. I haven't had even one meeting yet this week. And I like original cataloging, I do, but when you come across the 17th book that simply has no copy of any kind, with no discernible author, published in a city I've never heard of in India, and it's the cheapest paper around, and maybe is unpaged....ughhhh.

I know all you catalogers out there feel me. Sometimes it gets hard. But since I'm going to be gone all next week...well, sometimes you just have to keep going. Let's do this, Class-separately-serial-publication-in-

Thursday, June 12, 2008

FRBR and FRAD and RDA, Oh My

If any of you are also lurkers on the DC-RDA listserv, you've seen this discussion that has bloomed up over the past two days. For those who are not on the listserv, this discussion is totally worth throwing out to the masses.
Here's the deal, from the end of the conversation: FRBR and FRAD do not actually define a person in the same way. In fact, their definitions of a person seem to be opposed to one another. (If you don't want to read the definitions, but would rather see the color commentary, skip down to below the dotted lines)
4.6.1 (FRBR):
"A person may be known by more than one name, or by more than one form of the same name. A bibliographic agency normally selects one of those names as the uniform heading for purposes of consistency in naming and referencing the person. The other names or forms of name may be treated as variant names for the person. In some cases (e.g., in the case of a person who writes under more than one pseudonym, or a person who writes both in an official capacity and as an individual) the bibliographic agency may establish more than one uniform heading for the person."
"Person : An individual or a persona established or adopted by an individual or group. [FRBR, modified] : Includes real individuals. Includes personas established or adopted by an individual through the use of more than one name (e.g., the individual’s real name and/or one or more pseudonyms). Includes personas established or adopted jointly by two or more individuals (e.g., Ellery Queen — joint pseudonym of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee). Includes personas established or adopted by a group (e.g., Betty Crocker)."

As smarter people than me said on the listserv, if you read these closely, with an eye towards personas (think Mark Twain for Samuel Clemens), you will quickly see that these two standards (which came out of the same institution!) are not similar, and deal with the idea of personas quite differently.

The issue, then, is...RDA is only taking its person definitions from FRAD. For me, this is just another signal that RDA, which is kind of supposed to be based on FRBR, is falling farther and farther away from FRBR, while all the regular librarians out there are still trying to wrap their heads around FRBR in a vain attempt to understanding how RDA will work when it comes out. How gratifying it will be when RDA comes out and all the people who thought they understood what was coming, don't.

Yes, I'm a naysayer. But this little issue (which is not actually little at all) worries me.

Friday, June 06, 2008

A Fork in the Road

I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't a fundamental difference between scholars and practitioners that has always been there, and I have been denying.
When I started my post-high-school career as a "scholar" (I use the term loosely, since I was after all but a humble undergraduate), I put my professors up on a pedestal. That was wrong of me, of course, because scholars and professors are certainly respectable, but they are not Gods. They are just people who happen to do very well at analysis of different kinds of data, who also happen to be very good at writing papers and books. A small skill-set, to be sure. The other thing that characterizes these educated souls, is that they are, at core, not interested in practice.
That's a not a pejorative statement, by the way. Why? Because when you spin it the OTHER way, and say that most practicing librarians are not interested in creating theory, no one seems to mind.
Anyway, while I was in undergrad, I put these people up very high, and I put practitioners at some sort of "lower" rung. When I got to graduate school, I finally started seeing that it wasn't a hierarchy, but rather a difference of opinion about how it was best to spend one's time.
The longer I work with "academics", the more I see that this basic divide is a real problem for any kind of project between practicing professionals and the theoreticians. Why? Because the theoreticians say "we want X" and the professionals say "Oh. Well, X isn't actually possible." And the theoreticians say "but you asked us what we wanted!"
Now, I don't think that either side is "right" in this particular debate, because on the one hand, you can say that the theoreticians aren't grounded enough to see that what they desire and what they can have are different, but you could just as easily say that the practitioners aren't allowing themselves to dream enough in order to innovate.
So the two sides are constantly at loggerheads, and it takes some very adept people to keep them both happy and productive and working towards a common goal. And it's so, so easy to put these two groups against each other. "Their heads are in the clouds!" "They just don't want to change!" And neither of those mentalities are constructive, and neither of those mentalities are true.
I think we see this all the time. The Working Group for the Future of Bibliographic Control is a great example. Well, not them, per se, but the response to them. We have the very, very practical side saying that we need to scrap RDA and just focus on cataloging, and we have the extreme other side who are completely content to just "try it out" and let things run their course, because hey, why not?
There are more examples out there. They're always there.
"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.