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Thursday, November 05, 2009


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Cheryl Tarsala

I spend a semester trying to get across the idea that MARC is a container. Tillett's response reminds me of Sally McCallum's first words when she spoke at ALA: "MARC is a communications format and we will still use it for that function." That is, it isn't the determinant of cataloging content. Kind of too bad that working catalogers need to be reminded.

Diane Hillmann

I agree with Barbara that RDA is not a format, neither are the vocabularies a format (though I try not to get cranky when people try to use that term).

On the other hand, I disagree with the notion that we're going to have to struggle with MARC all that much longer. Exactly how much longer depends on us, our vendors, and our administrators.

Change is good, folks, at least if we want to be effective in the world outside libraries.


I keep trying to tell the catalogers in my system that not much will change with RDA. Many of them are terrified of change - and several have been heard to say they'll retire when RDA is implemented.

On Diane's comments on "struggling with MARC" - I can only hope.

I also subscribe to the "change is good" philosophy - unfortunately, I will have the task of training lots of people who don't agree.

Christine Schwartz

Hi Cheryl,

I often think of this quote from Janet Swan Hill (posted on AUTOCAT on March 15, 2007):

"After hearing many comments, I realized more than ever that in these discussions, it is critical to distinguish between the bibliographic data itself, the format in which it may be arranged, and the mechanisms by which the data is searched, assembled, and utilized. For the most part, people tend to concatenate all three and confuse the roles and boundaries of each. A criticism of "cataloging" may actually be actually a criticism of the capabilities of the discovery tool; a comment about MARC may really be a comment about cataloging; a comment about "the catalog" may be actually a comment about MARC; etc."

Christine Schwartz

I agree with Diane and arkham, that "change is good." But the change mantra has been used in libraries to dismantle cataloging departments and catalogers have been made to feel bad that they're "still doing MARC/AACR2 cataloging" when the reality is whatever good, accurate metadata they create now with MARC/AACR2 can be crosswalked to whatever new container is used in the future.

Instead of being encouraged to continue to do value-added metadata for their users, catalogers are being told that only efficiency and streamlining matter. The end result will be crappy metadata and the users are the ones who lose when they can't find valuable library resources.

So, I like Barbara Tillett's quote becuase it removes the change rhetoric or rather it grounds the change rhetoric in reality. A reality that is moving slower than some expected or hoped for.

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