Respectfully, I wasn't trying to dismiss your comment, I honestly could not determine your tone.
I don't disagree with you that we should be looking at the costs vs. benefits of cataloging practices. Nor do I feel that RDA has been evaluated rigorously enough in this respect. Like catalogers everywhere, I suspect, I sort of feel like I'm about to hop on a train to an unknown destination, and the only reassurance that I have that it's where I want to go is, "Well, everyone else is getting on this train..."
But with respect to undifferentiated NARs in particular, or even NARs in general, while I would love to see some empirical evidence regarding their usefulness (or lack thereof) I'm honestly not sure how one would go about measuring it. The value of authorities practice is primarily to provide an infrastructure that users don't necessarily see, or interact with directly. (A lot of the newer, so-called "next gen" discovery interfaces I've looked at, such as WCL, Summon, and EDS, don't make the authorities index visible to users at all.)
Like real-world infrastructure, authorities are only apparent to users when they're not there, or not functioning properly. We naturally notice the bridge that collapses, not the thousands that don't. How does one measure that in an empirical fashion? (Not speaking rhetorically here, if someone has an idea how to do this I'd be interested in it.)
Acquisitions, Metadata and Enterprise Systems
From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of john g marr
Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 2:10 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Undifferentiated personal names: call for community discussion
On Wed, 4 Apr 2012, Benjamin A Abrahamse wrote:
> I doubt most users even know what and authority record is ... if a
> non-unique heading impedes discovery, they only notice that "the
> catalog is broken", and we're lucky if they even come to the reference
> desk to ask for help.
Any pointed criticism contrary to common assumptions can be dismissed as "sarcasm", but how can we assume that what is being considered (inclouding
RDA) is absolutely essential to patrons, or could we be spending our efforts and money on other things that they really need now?
I'm all in favor of cataloger job security, but we have an obligation to our longevity in the face of budgetary constraints to make our profession as obviously relevant to as many people as possible. If the vast majority of patrons and library administrators see an exceptional value in eliminating undifferentiated name headings (and RDA) immediately, then let's start with some supporting documentation of that fact.
John G. Marr
Univ. of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131
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