Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lingua franca

So, as I said a few days ago, I have been out of the library game for awhile. But I have a persistent question regarding MARC and BIBFRAME. Maybe it’s been answered already, and if so, some kind person needs to point me to the answer so I can lay my feelings to rest on the matter.

Here’s my question: BIBFRAME is in English. Does this bother people? Did it once bother a lot of people and it's now all fixed up and has a resolution?

I know that English has become sort of the lingua franca (haha) of the digital world, but I’ve always seen the strength in MARC as its language independence. I may not speak German, and the German across from me doesn’t speak English, but we both know what a 300 field is. BIBFRAME is, I’ve heard, being experimented with by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. Are they using a translated version that has a crosswalk to English? Or is it just English and they have to learn it? How do they feel about this? How do other countries’ library folks feel about this English-centric model? I’m so curious, and I haven’t really had time to dig very deep into this question of mine in search of answers, but it seems absolutely of vital importance if this is supposed to be a framework on which we rest all of our future cataloging. Which is why I assume that someone smarter than me has figured this out already. I just don't know what they did about it, and would like to.


Orangeaurochs said...

An interesting question, which I would answer (totally unofficially and using only my own views/thoughts) in three ways. A similar debate raises its head on the RDA-L list quite frequently although the arguments are different there as it is more a content/display standard:

1. MARC numbers are not truly universal either: they use Arabic numbers and Roman letters (not, for instance, Hebrew numbers and Chinese characters. Although, granted, Arabic numbers are more universal than English words.

2. Bibframe is not really in English: it uses English words as symbols. expressionOf is Bibframe but not really English. It's the definition of the element that is important I think and I imagine that this would be translated as necessary. A similar situation has existed in programming languages for decades. PRINT "Hello World" uses an English word but it is still a symbol, and translating it would only make it less interoperable. PRINT (common in BASIC, PHP, and elsewhere) is an interesting case as it hasn't really done what it says it should do since the invention of the monitor, so really is symbolic. PHP seems to try and use English although preg_match is hardly intelligible as it stands without definition and the manual.

3. uniformTitle is still going to be understood by more people than 240 or something random: fdsfljhbgs. Numerical MARC codes are also more difficult for non-cataloguers/librarians to pick up quickly.

That said, I would still be fascinated to know what non-English speaking people actually do think of this issue, both for Bibframe/MARC and for programming and other contexts.

Melissa said...

Thanks for your thoughts...I've always wondered about this issue generally, although haven't been acquainted well enough with non-English speaking users to really ask. The idea of using tags, originally created in English but not really treated as "English" (rather as a set of characters), is probably the most productive strategy in this case, and the one that others have adopted. But yes, I'm also still fascinated to know how other users feel about always using Roman characters/English words for their tagging/programming.

Jörg Prante said...

Ask a german librarian about field 300 and you will be surprised - it is unknown here. We have used MAB, not MARC, as catalog record format for a long time, and are in the midst of ceasing it now.
MAB has different tags, MARC is not well known here.

But, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek is driving the change, it will adopt international standards like Bibframe, as Reinhold Heuvelmann explained

All I expect from DNB is a "PICA mapping" - a result of limited use, only for libraries who are using the PICA system.

You must not confuse the english language for the abstract model and the display language.

In Germany, to library users, bibliographic data was always and will ever get presented in the native language, of course.

I have to teach Bibframe as a model in autumn, and I will present it in original terms.

There are two reasons for that:

First, clarity. If you rename Bibframe elements, it is no longer Bibframe, and you will have a bias in the model because Bibframe technical terms can't be translated well enough to match the well-established technical terms of native-speaking librarians
here. This barrier is not caused by Bibframe. It exists also for MARC, and for
every other international framework in use here, like RDA. There is a german
RDA translation, but not only the methodology, also the language and the
technical terms are different.

Second, if you want to apply programming techniques based on Bibframe models, or
to other models, the english language is already the lingua franca in Germany.
There is no programming language in Germany in german language. Everybody who
wants to create seriously taken source code must use english - many standards
like W3C, Dublin Core etc. are only resonable in english.

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