Friday, February 08, 2013

Creative Cataloging

I was reading through the bibframe listserv, as I do, because I lurk, and I kept kind of muttering at my computer screen “what? But you’re not the user!” or “catalogers feel better when there are guidelines?” And then I happened across this from Karen Coyle:

“I'm convinced that we cannot "model our universe of data" as a metadata model that covers everything anyone would ever want to catalog, or how they want to catalog it. This is why I am highly skeptical of FRBR -- because it tries to fix one view of bibliographic data, as if the world isn't undergoing constant change. While there may well be a convenient core of elements, beyond that the main qualification, IMO, is re-usability -- give catalogers a whole host of elements that they can use wherever they want, even if no one has used that combination before. The instance data then becomes the picture of the bibliographic universe, not a pre-defined structure. In other words, create the tinker toys (or Legos for those not old enough to remember tinker toys) and let the catalogers make things with them.”

Now, I agree with her very much, but only in certain cases. The certain case that I am thinking of is the one where you have a very experienced cataloger who can make educated guesses about the thing they are cataloging. Nate Trail, from LC, responded and argued that some catalogers do like the structure offered by distinct elements for distinct classes of material. And I agree with him, too, but only in the case of an apprentice cataloger, or maybe someone who has not before been let off their cataloging leash.

I am convinced that we need to put more trust in catalogers, not because they necessarily deserve to be let loose on the wilds of cataloging, but because if we don’t create standards that allow people some free reign, they will *never* learn how to catalog creatively. And we need creative cataloging more than ever. I just heard about a book that had an ipad with it, with an app that added dimension to the book. There is no possible way to predict what the things that come into our library will look in even five years, and to try to create snuggly blankets of rules for carrier types and pre-built cataloging structures is probably going to end up making catalogers more confused and less experienced in the long run. I think we learn better when we’re a little scared.

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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.