I have been saying the same thing for years, ever since the loss of precision, accuracy and control for special libraries that comes from forced “cooperation” with general libraries became apparent to me.

 

I would say that the further a particular library or collection lies toward the “special” end of the scale, then the more problematic things like the present bibliographic and authority files become.   Place at the extreme “special” end of the scale unpublished materials such as archival documents, family photos, original technical drawings or renderings, and realia such as samples and scale models.  Moving ever so slightly away from the unpublished end of the scale, one encounters things that were printed for limited free distribution but not formally published and never intended to end up in libraries, but which have done so through twists of fate.  Among these are legal documents printed and circulated to the signatory parties and  their lawyers, paperbooks of testimony and exhibits of cases appealed to a higher court printed for the use of counsel, trade catalogs, reports of consultants distributed to the clients that commissioned them, advertising handouts, and the like.  These too are problematic, because they are either more or less precise than the typical publication and lack the structure of formal monographs and published serials or the products of commercialized performance.  What is troubling for law and music is still more so for the unpublished and printed-not-published realms, and for uses like family history, genealogy, legal discovery as opposed to precedent and jurisprudence, engineering calculation, building maintenance, and so on.

 

Earlier in the year, I raised examples of authority records that are entirely wrong in point of fact, both in terms of name and of distinctions and relationships among entities.  In the domain of the bureaucratic, commercial and technical realities that have existed for the past 200 years or so, this bad metadata is particularly prevalent.  So, the single authority files, NAF and SAF, are so compromised that they have a very low “general reliability” already, so much so that trying to correct them is beyond the resources available.   This doesn’t even begin to deal with the BIB file, with misunderstood content, improper and completely misleading subject headings, and the like.  They may be “good enough” to place and retrieve relatively ordinary books on shelves or to collocate the works of mainstream authors, in a manner similar to the way the cereals of General Mills will be separated from their Kellogg’s counterparts on supermarket shelves or videos clumped by genre or topic by Netflix, but that is about the end of it.  As a guide to the world outside the library, especially the mundane world of non-publishing ordinary people and unpublished ordinary things, they just don’t work.  And when you start quibbling about whether “prince” is an occupation or rank (which suggests to me that the terms are poorly defined to begin with) you need to be reminded of this over and over again.

 

I note that no one responded to my earlier examples of false metadata in authority records and the difficulty or impossibility of correcting it.  I voiced my objections to having to trade accurate metadata laboriously built up in private over our 50 years, for quick and dirty, good-enough “junk.”  I am glad to see that others have a similar “junk” problem when it invades their own specialized domains of knowledge and that of their clients.  I could and should raise the question again -- does downloading metadata that one knows to be false or confused not “corrupt” one’s data base?  And does it not also corrupt one’s knowledge base as well, to the extent that in the future, people will take this hash of true and false, real and make-believe, as holy writ and superimpose the false over the true, the good-enough-for-me over the accurate-for-everybody.

 

And on the subject of BFM, consider the BFM required by non-automated-update outfits like ours when someone or something falls out of the real universe into the bibliographic one.  It is rather like they have fallen into an oubliette from which  no release is possible and they must henceforth exist in a reduced, dimensionally-flattened, “good-enough” state, and we are supposed to trade precise local  fields derived from truly authoritative documents, for good-enough-for somebody else’s “junk” taken from nothing more than a questionable title page.  

 

Amy, much as I often agree with you, we are already beyond a single authority file.  In fact, it think the whole idea of such a thing is a fata morgana.  Catalogers might be able to compose a comprehensive catalog of the world’s canonical and cult published works, especially for those academic  disciplines whose business is entirely based on texts and whose practitioners are rarely required to work in the field or the laboratory, much less in the workshop or on the road.  LCHS simply does not meet our needs, and in our area of concentration it is simultaneously too underdeveloped, too confused, and too broad.  Its administration is too lopsided, bureaucratically cumbersome and unresponsive, yet to open it up would open the floodgates of babel.  So we turn to other thesauri like AAT and now the defense industries thesaurus that have entirely different takes on things and were not exclusively designed with libraries in mind.  We could not have described the 900 linear ft. of research reports from the David Sarnoff Library in a meaningful and useful way with LCSH.  The same holds true for carton after carton of other unpublished stuff.   There is also no time (and often reason) to create authority records for the tens of thousands of names of individual persons, corporate bodies and named things that can be found and need to be noted in large archival collections.  And there is no way that you can work up an authority record from scattered raw data in 10 minutes.  If we had unlimited resources, we should probably have our own thesaurus of business, commerce and technology and of business names in the same way that the Getty maintains AAT and its database of artists’ names, but we don’t.  However, we ought to be able to do it locally as we have been doing successfully for over 50 years.

 

Chris Baer

Hagley Museum and Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Phyllis Jones
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2016 11:25 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Authority updates and BFM

 

I would like to echo Christopher Thomas's comment, this time from a music library perspective. We live in an era where "good enough" is often the standard to which we are expected to work -- and I certainly understand that many of us are laboring under straitened circumstances in terms of staff resources -- but I for one am on the side of resisting whenever possible the pull toward a downwardly-mobile catalog. The single authority file with which most of us work remains a more or less "artisanal" province, accounting for its general reliability. Unfortunately the same can't be said for most shared catalogs, which bring together the excellent, the good enough, and the just plain bad. Local control is indeed a necessity for specialized collections (law, music, etc.) and could be considered a plus in many other libraries as well. 

 

-Phyllis Jones

 

On Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 10:39 AM, Christopher Thomas <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

This “one size fits all” mentality doesn’t work well for special libraries.  In a law library, we frequently deal with cooperative cataloging copy created by people who do not understand legal literature.  We won’t just accept whatever junk comes down the pike, and we need to have control over our own data.

 

Christopher Thomas, M.L.S.| Electronic Resources and Metadata Librarian

(949) 824-7681 | fax (949) 824-6700 | [log in to unmask]

Law Library · University of California · Irvine

www.law.uci.edu/library

 

From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Amy Turner
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2016 6:59 AM


To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Authority updates and BFM

 

Wouldn’t it be great if there was just one cooperatively maintained bibliographic file, just as there is one cooperatively maintained authority file, and BFM done for one library (with a snazzy automated system) would be done for all?

 

Peace on Earth, good will to men,

 

Amy

 

From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of McDonald, Stephen
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2016 9:50 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Authority updates and BFM

 

Ack—my apologies.  It was not Mary Jane that actually asked the question.  It was Charles.

 

                                                            Steve McDonald

                                                            Cataloging and Metadata Librarian

                                                            [log in to unmask]

 

From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of McDonald, Stephen
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2016 9:47 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Authority updates and BFM

 

It is a fair question, Mary Jane.  For you and for many libraries, the file maintenance is not a burden.  Some systems would handle it entirely in the background with no intervention by staff.  However, there are libraries where file maintenance is a much bigger deal.  For some libraries, this change would have to be done by hand.

 

In general, a single change is not much work for one library.  But we have to remember that every AAP change we make incurs file maintenance for tens of thousands of libraries.  So we have to strike a balance between creating the best records and creating unnecessary work.

 

Ultimately, the decision on where to set the dividing line between necessary and unnecessary changes is somewhat arbitrary.  To build consistency and make the decision easy, PCC has established policy.  They could have decided to make the dividing line elsewhere; indeed, under old policy, even adding death dates to existing birth dates was often considered excessive file maintenance.  The policy may change again in the future, and under a linked data scheme it may be unnecessary to construct AAPs at all.  But for now, the policy is that we should not add birth dates to an established heading unless it is also necessary to make another change to the heading.

 

                                                            Steve McDonald

                                                            Cataloging and Metadata Librarian

                                                            [log in to unmask]

 

From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Cuneo, Mary Jane
Sent: Monday, December 19, 2016 7:52 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Authority updates and BFM

 

I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but so what?  The file maintenance is not an unbearable burden.

 

Hi Charles,

Not unbearable, but a great pain in the rear, & time that could be spent doing more useful things.  (From someone who, with colleagues, gets a report every month and slogs through it).

 

Mary Jane Cuneo

Senior Serials Cataloger & NACO coordinator

Harvard Library

 

From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Herrold, Charles
Sent: Monday, December 19, 2016 11:47 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Authority updates and BFM

 

    I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but so what?  The file maintenance is not an unbearable burden.

    However, before anyone goes off the rails, I will also say that John is right, of course, as the name is unique and doesn’t need dates.  The only serious objection I have is that, incredibly, LC provided no justification in the record for the death date:

 

010  n  84216417

040  DLC ǂb eng ǂe rda ǂc DLC ǂd DLC

046  ǂf 1917-02-06 ǂg 2016-12-18

1001 Gabor, Zsa Zsa, ǂd 1917-2016

370  Budapest (Hungary) ǂb Los Angeles (Calif.) ǂ2 naf

374  Actors ǂa Socialites ǂ2 lcsh

375  female

4001 Gábor, Sári, ǂd 1917-2016

4001 Gábor, Zsa Zsa ǂw nne

670  Such devoted sisters, 1985: ǂb CIP galley (Zsa Zsa Gábor)

670  Filmgoers companion, 1977 ǂb (Zsa Zsa Gábor; b. 1919 [sic])

670  LC data base, 9/10/84 ǂb (hdg.: Gábor, Zsa Zsa)

670  IMDb, May 9, 2008 ǂb (Zsa Zsa Gabor; b. Feb. 6, 1917, Budapest, Austria-Hungary; birth name: Sári Gábor; unclear as to Zsa Zsa's birth date)

 

      Maybe the LC cataloger should just add that essential information and remove the dates from the access points.

 

Chuck Herrold

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

 

 

 

From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of John Hostage
Sent: Monday, December 19, 2016 11:32 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [PCCLIST] Authority updates and BFM

 

Zsa Zsa Gabor was laid to rest in the authority file last night.  The access point that previously had no dates now has birth and death dates.  Why?

 

------------------------------------------

John Hostage

Senior Continuing Resources Cataloger

Harvard Library--Information and Technical Services

Langdell Hall 194

Harvard Law School Library

Cambridge, MA 02138

[log in to unmask]

+(1)(617) 495-3974 (voice)

+(1)(617) 496-4409 (fax)
ISNI 0000 0000 4028 0917

 



 

--

Phyllis J. Jones
Senior Recordings Cataloger   
Conservatory Library
Oberlin College             
Oberlin, OH 44074
Phone: 440/775-5137
           
Email:[log in to unmask]