Thank you, Mr. Brenndorfer, for explaining why RDA has chosen to change the
name authority descriptors from titles of position etc. to free-text
descriptions, as shown in Mr. Schiff's document
. He wrote: "Many of the new elements in RDA for attributes of persons
(some of which can be used in authorized access  points) come from FRAD
(Functional Requirements for Authority Data). However, some additions to
AACR2 headings such as titles of position or office, initials of academic
degrees, and initials denoting membership in an an organization, do not
correspond to FRAD elements. The elements in FRAD are derived from a
comparison of authority elements used in other metadata standards and in
European cataloging. The wider issues here are the internationalization of
authority data and crosswalk enabling between different metadata

I realize that such descriptions of profession/activity are--as "Dr." and
its ilk are in AACR2--intended to be a last ditch effort at
differentiation, after all else has failed. But we do come to that point
not infrequently, so need to consider how it would impact searching, recall
and future differentiation of names. I have already pointed out, in my
previous email, ways in which I think these free-text terms will be
detrimental to all of the above purposes. A further example, that I haven't
yet mentioned, of why I find free-text descriptors problematic is the
biases often appearing in such terms. I've already mentioned Rev. Jane
Brown, and the problem of gender related to the term "Clergyman". Even more
than that, though, under the rule change Rabbi George Brown and Imam George
Brown would also have to be described as "Clergyman", if no other
differentiating information is available. This reveals a further,
Christian-centric bias to the term, which some users might find, frankly,
offensive. Do we really want to recreate in the name authority file the
biases that have plagued the subject authority file, which are periodically
addressed with sweeping global changes (i.e., "older persons" in place of
"aged" etc.)? Or leave our catalogs open to the user complaints that would
result, and accusations of bias?

Even leaving aside the problematic nature of the parenthetical descriptors,
I believe the RDA change from titles etc. to descriptors, while
well-meaning will not aid in either the internationalization of data, or
its interoperability. Since VIAF and other databases already link different
authorized forms of name, without the rule change, I don't even see why
this is necessary (search "Bergmann, Werner, Dr. phil." in VIAF, and you'll
see the differing French and Israeli forms of the name peacefully
coexisting with the NACO form). But leaving this aside, I would imagine
that a German or French library, for example, would prefer "Brown, George,
Dr."--a term of address which appears in both languages--to an
English-language descriptive term, that their audiences might not be
familiar with. And especially since terms of address would be traced in the
245 under RDA rules, wouldn't it make more sense if comprehensibility to
foreign audiences is the goal to use words like "Rev.", which could be
puzzled out with reference to the 245, instead of "Clergyman", which
appears nowhere else in the bibliographic record, and is in a language that
isn't necessarily the primary language of all international library users?
Finally, I wonder what other metadata schemata were used as the basis for
the rule change, since some, including MODS and CDWA, for example, suggest
using the LCNAF/NACO authority file as the basis for their name entries.

I understand that in an increasingly complex and digital world, catalogers
also want their information to play nice with others. But I also believe
that, at base, metadata schemata (of which cataloging rules are one) are
developed not primarily to be interoperable--though it is desirable--but to
suit the needs of the users of the schema. And I am not convinced that
either catalogers or end users are being well-served by the proposed
changes, especially with regards to authorities.

Deborah Tomaras, NACO Coordinator
Librarian II
Western European Languages Team
New York Public Library
Library Services Center
31-11 Thomson Ave.
Long Island City, N.Y. 11101
(917) 229-9561
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Disclaimer: Alas, my ideas are merely my own, and not indicative of New
York Public Library policy.