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.

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