Forward Into the Past
Now that I’ve had a few days to let the MLA conference sink in I’ve come to a troublesome conclusion, the cataloging community is being held back. Maybe this is just because I’m a Gen X/Gen Y cusper who tends to be impatient with the lack of progress, but I think we really have a problem.
So, on Thursday I attended two presentation that are really at fault for my pessimism. First there was the “next generation” cataloging and metadata creation pilot (the quotes are from the program, not from me. This was about an OCLC project based around the central premise that MARC data lacks relevance to many outside the library community, in this instance publishers specifically. Good so far.
However, OCLC solution to the problem is to find ways to make MARC interact better with other systems. In one sense this is OK, finally acknowledging that we’re not going to convince anyone else to do things are way so we should find a way to compromise. But there still seems to me to be a sense that we don’t get why MARC is unimportant to the rest of the world, and that maybe if we keep emphasing it people will eventually get with the program. Sorry, that’s not going to happen.
The Getting Ready for RDA presentation left me with many of the same thoughts. Now I’m hardly the first to get on the RDA has gone horribly wrong bandwagon, but this presentation really put things into a new perspective on me. Now RDA is meants to be a dramatic update of AACR2, so different in nature that the name had to be changed to illustrate it as being an entirely new standard.
So what is so revolutionary about this. It’s based on FRBR, yet rooted so strongly in MARC that we’re adding new fields to the poorly aging standard (one of which, the 337 for media type, the designers already feel will prove to be redundant).
RDA is squarely rooted in IFLA’s international principles, such as the universal principle of maintaining standards and consistency. Which doesn’t explain why the infamous rule of 3 will now be considered optional.
RDA will be geared toward the digital realm, mainly because it will force users to purchase access to the manual as an annual subscription. The manual will have many features (the presentation I saw wasted two slides to illustrate that it will include scroll bars), or so the designers hope as nothing is finalized yet. Similarly nothing will happen with RDA until the ILS vendors get on board, and incidentally those conversations have not occured yet.
Did I mention this is meant to launch by the end of the year? I am not feeling full of hope.