Recently I attended both the ALA Annual Conference in Washington DC and the ALCTS Preconference on Map Cataloging, taught by Susan Moore, Paige Andrew, and Mary Laarsgaard.
The preconference was a 1.5 day event, starting on Thursday, June 24th. On the first day, Susan Moore and Paige Andrew presented on the intricacies of cataloging printed sheet maps. Although the majority of the presentation was specific to the cataloging of maps, the overarching principles that the dynamic duo repeatedly attempted to instill in the session's minds ring true for all kinds of cataloging.
They continuously remarked how important it is for you to constantly think of who your audience is. First and foremost, your audience will be your users, so you must do what you can to give those users the access and level of detail they will require. Mary Laarsgaard, who taught the second portion of the session specific to digital map cataloging, repeated this theme with a number of examples of the responsibilities we have to our power users.
However, there is a second group of users that we must also keep in mind: other catalogers! While the point of what we do is to provide access to our users, the cooperative nature of cataloging today allows us better opportunities for providing such access, and records crafted with other catalogers in mind inevitably lead to better access for our patrons, as we will spend less time wringing our hands over what may or may not be duplication of efforts, and more time creating access to our unique and important collections.
Among the numerous sessions I attended at ALA, the shadow of RDA loomed large.
RDA (Resource Description and Access) is the document that puts forth the new standard of cataloging rules. It may eventually replace AACR2 as the description standard we use to catalog.
Before RDA can replace AACR2, the document needs to be tested to see if it adequately addresses the inadequacies of AACR2, and to see if the change merits the time and money it will take to transition. A number of institutions are taking part in a U.S. National Libraries RDA Test. These institutions include the Library of Congress, the National Agricultural Library, the National Library of Medicine, and a host of other institutions throughout the country.
Here’s an overview of the RDA timeline, as it stands now:
Now-8/31/10: RDA Toolkit Open Access Period
9/1/10-9/30/10: US National Libraries RDA Test group becomes familiar with RDA
10/1/10-12/31/10: US National Libraries RDA Test takes place. During this test period, the testing libraries will create a number of new records in both AACR2 and RDA formats. These records will be reviewed, and surveys will be done to assess the overall process and results.
1/2/11-3/31/11: Test assessment, leading to a report or recommendations
4/1/11-6/1/11: Hopefully decisions will be made by the testing group, and those decisions will be ready to be reported by the 2011 ALA Annual Conference.
Looking out even further to the future, I found the OCLC session entitled "Cataloging Alchemy: Making Your Data Work Harder" to be quite engaging. Particularly interesting was Rich Greene's presentation on GLIMIR (which he admitted was an odd acronym for Global Library Manifestation Identifier). Albeit a long way off, GLIMIR purports to fill the gap that other identifiers have created. I know some might be thinking, "oh great, yet another number, yet another field, something more to worry about," but realistically speaking GLIMIR numbers could do a lot of good. Although ISBNs have been around for quite some time now, they pose a number of problems. First, they are not truly manifestation (in the FRBR sense) identifiers as they can sometimes be reused by publishers for works that are different manifestations. Second, in a big picture sense, they have not been around for that long. Rich Greene quoted that around 70% of all the records in WorldCat lack an identifier other than some form of system control number. Clearly, there are a lot of tests and even more developments that need to occur before GLIMIR will be a universally recognized term; it is (ready for the bad pun:) but a glimmer in the eye of catalogers worldwide. Nonetheless, it's always good to keep that eye on the possibilities of enriching access for our users.