January 17, 2007

The future of cataloging rules

Linda Tiernan Kepner of the Peterboro Town Library sent me an email this morning about an article that I think may be of interest to others following the development of RDA. The article comes from D-Lib Magazine which is an electronic journal focused on digital library research and development.
This opinion piece basically explains all the ways that the authors think that the Joint Steering Committee is heading in the wrong direction with their redesign of the cataloging rules. The author's make some valid points, and provide an excellent overview of the development of the cataloging rules along with citations (and links) to the documents and articles they are discussing.

Personally, I think the authors of this article are too willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater in their desire to look forward into a digital future instead of building on the past.

"While the goals of the progressive librarians building new interconnected
library services are admirable, they need to be achieved in short order if
libraries are to retain their users' loyalty. It does not seem to matter to most
users that libraries currently are the only conduits for a wealth of published
literature that is not available for open access on the public Internet. Users
will engage with services that provide materials quickly and with the least
effort. The "invisible library," like the dark web, is of no interest to those
who do not know that it exists. "

The premise that an electronic catalog should be driven by rules designed to create handwritten 3x5 cards has always struck me as idiotic, but it seems equally short-sighted to abandon the wealth of materials already held in (and cataloged by) libraries in favor of the born-digital documents proliferating on the web. It seems to me that a compromise between the two is the best approach to providing accurate, useful information to people when they need it. (Isn't that what libraries are here for?)