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PCCLIST  May 2006

PCCLIST May 2006

Subject:

Re: Stereotype doesn't fit

From:

Ted P Gemberling <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Program for Cooperative Cataloging <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 25 May 2006 16:41:10 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (306 lines)

Diana, maybe it's true that the UW isn't unique in this area, but I do
think you have made great contributions. Your department is a real
inspiration. I just sent a message of appreciation to Joe Kiegel and
Adam Schiff about that earlier today. I don't think it hurts to quote
part of it:

"I have been struck by how often, when there is a difference of opinion
about some cataloging issue, someone from the University of Washington
will be on the "sound" side of the issue. For example, at ALA Orlando
two years ago, I attended a panel discussion on thesis/dissertation
subject access.  On one side of the issue was someone from the
University of Kansas who argued it was a waste of time to provide
subject access at all. She claimed that scholars all over the world
would know who was working on a thesis in their area of study, so
there's no need to provide subject access. Thomas Mann of LC told me
that is simply not true when I told him about the session: there isn't
necessarily a worldwide "network" of scholars who all know each others'
work, and he's seen a number of scholars who benefited from subject
headings on thesis records. 

"On the other side of the panel was someone from your department who
described how you create new national-level subjects whenever one can't
be found that fits a thesis well. And how you've found that, typically,
within a couple of years, lots of other libraries around the world have
used those new headings. That's a real example of the benefits of SACO.
And of people really using our cataloging principles creatively and
responsibly."

Could you have been that representative I referenced there? As I went on
to say to them, she admitted you could do that work because your
department is well staffed. And that's the challenge ahead for us:
whether we can continue to make a case for the importance of cataloging.
I'll admit that my library was one that fit somewhere in the middle of
that continuum: we didn't feel we could create new subjects or even take
the time to look for preexisting ones that fit (especially for
engineering theses/dissertations), but we attempted to provide keyword
access by including the thesis abstract. At times I found that
unsatisfactory and used subject headings instead. Abstracts by students
whose native language was not English often also contained many
grammatical errors. A subject heading approach would be preferable if
the staffing is available.

Thanks for being an example to all of us.
	--Ted Gemberling, UAB Lister Hill Library, Birmingham, Ala.    

-----Original Message-----
From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
Behalf Of D. Brooking
Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2006 12:28 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [PCCLIST] Stereotype doesn't fit

We should not allow the debate about the LC series decision to be framed
as a 
"culture war." Characterizing it in that way does not seem likely to
lead to 
open dialogue.

It is not accurate to describe all catalogers who are unhappy with LC's 
decision as people unwilling to change. *This is not about resistance to

change.* It is about, how do we change for the better? How do we improve

cataloging efficiency and reach a wider audience while maintaining the
features 
that help users work effectively?

For example, since 1998 the University of Washington Libraries has been
very 
involved in digital library projects and cataloging outside the
AARC2/MARC 
world. UW catalogers have embraced change, including seeking out
improved 
standards and approaches, testing them and adopting what we see as the
best of 
them (e.g., EAD and DACS for archival collections, CCO and VRA Core for
art and 
architecture, experimenting with METS for implementing OAIS functions).


*It is precisely this experience with change and cataloging of the
future that 
informs our continued support for controlled headings.*


For instance, one of the things we have found out is that keyword
searching by 
itself often does not produce adequate results. The value of
collocation, 
cross-references, and the other benefits of authority control become
more 
apparent when you have to live without them. We supplement LCSH with
more 
specialized vocabularies such as the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials and
the 
Art & Architecture Thesaurus, and some of us are involved in
grant-funded 
projects to develop new controlled vocabularies. All this can hardly be
called 
an entrenched determination to support the status quo. In fact, is it
often the 
catalogers on our staff who have been the most proactive in seeking new
and 
better ways to help users find both analog and digital materials.

The UW Libraries is not unique in this. What I have described applies to
many 
PCC libraries. And many of them are also concerned about the LC series
decision 
and how it was handled.


************
Metadata Implementation Group, University of Washington Libraries,
Seattle, WA

Diana Brooking
Stephanie Lamson
Marsha Maguire
Kathleen Forsythe


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 12:15:36 -0400
From: David Banush <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Program for Cooperative Cataloging <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: "Culture wars" in cataloging

All:  I sent a slightly different version of this message to the PCC
Policy
Committee earlier today.  I've been asked to share it beyond that
group.  Here it is.

The flurry of messages on the various lists concerning LC's series
treatment decision has been an interesting look at the current (mental)
state of the profession.  LC's announcement, coming on the heels of a
number of other significant developments --the reports from Karen
Calhoun,
the University of California, and Indiana University, as well as the
merger
of RLG and OCLC, have certainly brought a lot of heat, if not always a
great deal of light, to the ongoing discussion of the future of
cataloging
and library catalogs.

That two camps with widely divergent views exist is quite obvious. The
sharp reactions on both sides indicate to me that we are in the thick of
a
major transition.  We might think of this as a "culture war" within
cataloging, with each side trying to (re)claim the purpose and nature of
cataloging and catalogs for both present and future.  The more
conservative
forces, which seem to include many front-line staff, are vigorously
(sometimes stridently) defending the status quo, or even the status quo
ante; others, primarily managers and administrators, are trying to move
away from the old models toward something very different.  The challenge
for folks in the latter group is that they don't --indeed, can't--know
exactly where all of this will lead.  A gulf of uncertainty created by
the
inherently unknowable nature of this future has become patently evident
these last few weeks.  That the uncertainty threatens many whose
professional identities and notions of worth hinge on the indefinite
continuation of the status quo accounts for much of the emotion
surrounding
the debates here and elsewhere.

To use an imperfect but illustrative analogy, cataloging today resembles
the welfare states of Europe. Like contemporary Germany or France, it is
marked by high labor costs and a high degree of regulation; is heavily
bureaucratized in the form of a vast array of professional groups and
institutional committees; and it has a rapidly aging population.  Its
prospects for long-term growth in a very dynamic global information
economy
are dim unless significant structural changes are made.  Like many
political and business leaders in Europe, most library leaders have
identified the problems and know what needs to be done, at least
generally.  But they also realize that for the most part, the staff do
not
want change.  Like life in the European welfare states, the professional
environment for catalogers has been comfortable and secure.  The rules
of
the trade may be elaborate and the bureaucracy can be stifling, but
mastery
of both brings to many practitioners a strong sense of satisfaction and
the
comfort of community.  Indeed, the community been especially valuable as
a
support for its members as the pressure to become more efficient  (and
thus
to re-evaluate the need for traditional practices) has increased.   To
exchange that existence for one filled with risk and uncertainty, even
if
the status quo seems unsustainable, is not something the majority are
prepared to do.  It is more appealing to resist the change and insist on
the importance of traditional values than to engage thoughtfully in a
discussion about the future.

My unsolicited advice for the PoCo is not to fall into the trap of
arguing
with the people most threatened by change.  The debate is surrounded by
far
too much emotion to be productive.  Instead, I think that the PCC
leadership should think carefully about what kinds of roles catalogers
will
have in the future.  They need to gather feedback, listen closely, and
allow for open discussions to take place.  A genuine dialogue must
occur;
if the opinions are solicited only to be ignored, the process will be
nothing more than a cynical facade, and it will most certainly
backfire.   If front-line folks feel they are part of the planning
process,
they may be much less likely to resist and much more likely to become
engaged.  We must also remember that in looking to the future, the past
must be honored and respect.  Traditional cataloging has served many
library users well for decades.  The principles underlying those
practices
remain valid today.  We must be careful not to disparage those
principles
even as we seek to move away from the old practices that hinder our
ability
to respond to rapidly changing user expectations, that have higher
opportunity costs than value, or both.  But we must also look
forward.  Honoring the past does not mean living in it, nor does it mean
squandering opportunities for the future to placate the disgruntled
staff
of the present.

The statements from the ALA Executive Board about the LC series
decision,
Thomas Mann's rebuttal of Karen Calhoun's report, the many, many
messages
on AUTOCAT and other lists about both topics, and even Michael Gorman's
most recent column in American Libraries, bemoaning the state of library
education (he believes it's not traditional enough) strongly suggest
that
moving away from the old practices is being met with fierce
resistance.  It's obvious that library leaders who seek meaningful
changes
in the way we work have their work cut out for them.  What is not so
easy
to see is how to bridge the gap between those who wish to move to a
different way of looking at cataloging and catalogs and those who feel
too
threatened by change to consider reforms anything but heresy or
betrayal.  If the PCC wishes to diffuse some of the heat surrounding
these
issues--and I am hopeful it does--then PoCo needs to be thinking very
carefully about how it can help to bridge this gap.  I believe Joan
Swanekamp has pointed out that the strategic plan calls for PCC to
assist
catalogers in this time of transition.  I think there can be no issue of
greater importance.

But how to do it?  Obviously (pace Hamlet) that is the question, and
unfortunately, no one has the definitive answer to it.  But perhaps
there
are few things that could be done now.  Holding open forums at the PCC
membership meetings to gather the kind of feedback I mention above are
simple to do and would help community members air their views.  The
discussions would need focus lest they turn into rambling gripe sessions
about the end of the world.  The community has people who could lead
such
discussions skillfully and productively.  PCC should also consider
taking a
more active role in gathering real evidence to inform decisions about
cataloging through thorough and ongoing user studies.   Anecdotal
evidence
alone is not sufficient to justify continuing a given practice, but the
debate is filled with assertions that "our users rely on X to do their
work."  A partnership with appropriate groups across specialty lines
would
seem the most logical way to handle this.  Having examples of projects
in
member institutions where catalogers' skills are being put to use
outside
of the traditional MARC/AARC2-based universe may also help illustrate
that
there is indeed life after the card catalog, ISBD punctuation, and
series
tracings, at least for those who want it.

I realize these are only a few suggestions, but I think if PCC is to
demonstrate a true leadership role, it will have to move beyond reaction
to
change or mitigating the "damage" caused by changes in practice.  Thanks
for your attention.


David



David Banush
Head, Cataloging Services
Subject Specialist, Bibliography, Information and Library Science
Library Technical Services
Cornell University Library
110D Olin Library
Ithaca, NY 14853

Voice: (607) 254-8031
Fax: (607) 255-6110
[log in to unmask]
http://www.library.cornell.edu/tsweb/

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