It seems to me that the comments on this proposal reflect two very different viewpoints. The first is concerned with what makes sense in our environment of shared cataloging and shared headings. The statements reflecting this viewpoint focus on what are the requirements for creating unique headings, identifying individuals and associating them with those headings, what library systems can and cannot do, whether the proposal creates too much work, which headings might or should be changed and how, etc. The second viewpoint is concerned with the needs and expectations of the users of our catalogs. The statements reflecting this viewpoint focus on whether the information we are providing in headings is sufficient, accurate and complete.
At the recent ALA annual conference I must have heard a dozen times that our public is turning to Google for information about library material and that the only thing that we librarians have to offer is that we are the ones who provide vetted authoritative information. It embarrasses me that we continue knowingly to provide inaccurate and incomplete information in our catalogs. I think we should do anything possible to remedy this. The questions of whether to update headings with birth dates, but not those without any dates, or whether to update headings only for famous people, are red herrings. The principle behind all of our cataloging should be to provide accurate and complete information. Once that principle is accepted I'm sure we can figure out how to accomplish it; it isn't as if every single heading is going to be changed immediately. This sounds much like the discussion surrounding the implementation of AACR2. We made the collective decision to implement it after some delay, and it resulted in an improvement to our catalogs. No one suggests that AACR2 was perfect, and I expect most of us still have records with pre-AACR2 headings in our catalogs, but that is not an argument that we should never have made the change. I suggest we accept the proposal, begin to work out the problems, and in five years we will think it a quaint reminder of older times when we stumble upon a heading for some obscure person that still has an open date, 1901-
Manager of Bibliographic Operations
Thomas J. Watson Library
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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