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MODS  March 2002

MODS March 2002

Subject:

Typeless names

From:

Geoff Mottram <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Metadata Object Description Schema List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 26 Mar 2002 17:50:57 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (47 lines)

Since you have done such a wonderful job of simplifying the MARC format in
MODS, I would like everyone to consider removing the vestigial tail of
distinguishing between types of names (personal, corporate, conference,
etc...).  Is there really a need in this day and age to make such a
distinction?

Over the past 17 years I have developed and sold MARC-based cataloging
systems to institutions with large non-book holdings.  The biggest hurdles
to "selling" the MARC format to archives and museums has been the steep
learning curve and the additional time and cost required when creating AACR2
MARC records.  The problem is caused by the excessive subfielding of data
and the need for so much coding and classifying of each element ("this is a
forename, a surname, a family name, a personal name, a corporate name, a
conference" and so on).  Not only are these seemingly arbitrary distinctions
hard to explain but they tend to drive users to non-standard and proprietary
alternatives.  There are a significant number of smaller institutions with
original holdings that want to document their collections using a standard
format but find MARC too difficult.

MODS presents an enormous opportunity to bring these users back into the
standards fold.  I encourage you to ask yourself why the MODS name field
should distinguish between types.  What does it matter?

Some may argue that the MODS "uncontrolled" name type can be used to enter
non-distinguished names.  My objection to that approach is the same as in my
last critique of MODS regarding structured and unstructured names:  that the
more ways a name field can be constructed, the more complexity you are
requiring in order to display, process and explain MODS data.  There should
be fewer and more basic building blocks out of which a MODS record can be
created, not the other way around.

My hope is that MODS doesn't end up with any baggage from the era of punch
cards and air conditioned computer rooms just because "that's how it's
always been done".  MODS won't be truly useful unless it makes it easier
than ever to create standard cataloging records that describe a whole range
of cultural objects (not just books and increasingly, digital files).  If
MODS becomes just another way to display a MARC record, then it will not
have reached its true potential.  I hope all of you to use your expertise to
scrutinize the MODS draft and assist in this task.  Real success would be a
format that anyone could use to describe cultural and intellectual holdings.

Sincerely,

Geoff Mottram
Minaret Corp.
[log in to unmask]

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