I agree with Adam Schiff. I have enormous respect for "cataloger's judgment" but IMO it should be reserved for issues that really require judgment, not just preference. We may think we would be saving cataloger time by (more or less) chucking capitalization rules, but I'm not convinced that this is true. In my experience having a clear set of rules (with exceptions fully explained as we see in Appendix A) saves time in the long run, by keeping catalogers from having to "reinvent the wheel" when they come across an exceptional case.
Under AACR2 (or RDA appendix A) rules, what gets capitalized are proper nouns, and words that are supposed to be capitalized according to the rules of usage of the language of the title (German nouns, etc.) Exceptional circumstances are laid out clearly according to language (pre-Cambrian, but French-speaking; South Atlantic, but not southern Atlantic; arabic numbers, not Arabic numbers; Société de chimie physique, not Société de Chimie Physique, etc., etc.) Capitalizing a title according to these rules requires not just copying but transcribing--thinking not just about what you see but what it means in context. This, to my mind, is an integral part of the basic added value that human catalogers provide: "someone looked at this before adding it to the collection/catalog."
Moreover, it may seem like users don't care about capitalization, but consider: one of the features of the catalog that users are coming to expect from the catalog is the ability to export bibliographic data into citation management systems (EndNote, Zotero, etc.). There are, of course, many different citation formats, with differing rules for capitalization. So, regardless of the citation format, users probably don't expect to move straight from the catalog to the final bibliography without doing some editing. But the more consistent our metadata elements appear, the easier that editing will be.
The AACR2/RDA appendix A rules are judicious, IMO, because they force catalogers to identify those words that must be capitalized regardless of whether a final output format requires "sentence case" or "headline case". Another way of putting it: a script could easily turn a citation capitalized according to RDA appendix A into "headline case" or (heavens forefend) all-caps. (And not even a particularly exotic script; MS-Word can do this.) But one could not use a script go the other way around and turn all caps or "headline case" back into sentence case. At least, not without giving access to a huge dictionary file that contains proper nouns in hundreds of languages.
Now, I am fully aware that part of the RDA approach to bibliographic description is to allow greater flexibility. When we start ingesting more bibliographic metadata directly from publishers we are going to have to learn to accept a greater degree of variation in the file. But nonetheless I think a group like PCC, whose catalog records represent something of a "gold standard" of cataloging practice, should continue to maintain agreed-upon capitalization standards.
My .02, to further the discussion,
Acquisitions, Metadata and Enterprise Systems
From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Amy Turner
Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2012 8:19 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [PCCLIST] More about two concerns about RDA
Nobody has explained how RDA will help us embrace the brave new world of linked data. Oh well, it seems that the train has left the station, and we'll have to do the best we can with what we have. So I'd like to focus on the issue of flexibility when it comes to details such as capitalization and punctuation.
Adam Schiff wrote " Personally, I hope that the PCC will decide to follow the basic instruction in RDA for capitalization, which says to follow the appendix on capitalization. Which is to continue the capitalization practices that we are now doing in AACR2. I would not like to see libraries taking the option to follow the capitalization in the manifestation. In particular, the RDA records created in all caps I find less easy to read and it's like shouting. I could live with an exception for batchloaded record sets where the library cannot redo the capitalization already present in the records."
In an email, Bob Maxwell wrote " in my opinion the LCPS mischaracterizes the RDA alternative- the 1.7.1 alternative is to either follow a house manual (such as the Chicago Manual) or, IF the data are derived from a digital source (e.g. ONIX information, or cutting and pasting from a source such as Amazon), to ingest the data without revising the capitalization. Neither alternative calls for manually copying the exact capitalization from a title page, as the LCPS allows."
So, we have [at least] three options for capitalization. I would like for PCC to define "optional" as "at the discretion of the individual cataloger." We all have our preferences. Why do we have to argue which preference is better when it comes to details that a user is not going to care about?
Even if PCC decides to lay down the law about capitalization and punctuation, are they going to enforce the law? Take the final punctuation of the 300 field, as explained in NCSU's RDA documentation:
* When a Series Area is present, the 300 field terminates with an ISBD full stop (RDA D.1.2.7)
* The 300 field does not terminate with an ISBD full stop when followed by the Note Area because the prescribed way to begin the Note Area is to begin a new paragraph (RDA D.1.2.8)
* The 336, 337 and 338 fields are ignored when determining if an ISBD full stop is needed
* Use abbreviations prescribed in RDA B.7 for terms used for dimensions (e.g. "in.")
* Metric symbols are not abbreviations; such symbols are not followed by a full stop. (e.g. "cm")
What if at least some Duke catalogers decide that while it is no big deal to have workforms appear with "pages" and "illustrations" as defaults, they aren't going to correlate the final period of the 300 field with the presence of a 4XX field. We are used to using "cm." and we'll keep right on using "cm." Will this act of defiance get us kicked out of PCC? Will other PCC libraries instruct copy catalogers to be sure to check copy for compliance with this rule?
Some time ago, an administrator here at Duke asked me for some information about RDA. Thinking about it, I boiled my opinion down to two sentences. "RDA is a distraction from more important issues. We should work to minimize the distraction."
I am now on the RDA Training Materials Task Group, and I am especially interested in finding materials which will allow catalogers to hit the ground running with RDA, and not spend hours scratching their heads over what option they are "supposed" to follow.
Comments welcome, as always.
Amy H. Turner
Monographic Cataloger and Authority Control Coordinator Duke University Libraries Durham, NC
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