Weekly response #4: Cataloging Rules, Rachel Skinner-O’Neill

Cataloging rules…or does it? Reading through the articles this week, I was struck by the Groundhog Day element to the debate about the future of cataloging, right the way down to the way Roy Tennant continues to use a musical riff to get into his anti-MARC21 groove, 11-years after his MARC Must Die piece.

I appreciated Coyle and Hillman’s potted history of how cataloging adapted to the new carriers of information, moving from card cataloging to MARC, to using metadata and rolling out MARC21, but sensed their frustration that recent proposed changes to the standards of cataloging from AACR2 to RDA as akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic in terms of the real task of libraries – to avoid the iceberg that is the monumental increase in digitized information that is easily accessed via web browsers such as Google, and to have collections remain relevant to those same users. Or, as Coyle and Hillman put it:

The goals and functions of a catalog determine the shape and content of its entries, and the creation of those entries is what the cataloging rules define. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make a meaningful separation between the nature of the holdings of the library, the characteristics of the user population that the library is mandated to serve, and the library catalog. All of these factors have been bound together to provide the service that embodies the main mission of the library: to put the desired resources into the hands of users.

Eden’s piece was useful too in terms of raising the on-going debate surrounding Libraries’ use of outside vendors for their cataloging needs as a means of cost cutting. While this would seem a logical benefit to those Public Libraries with near identical collections, for Academic and Research libraries, the answer is not quite so clear cut. And so, learning about the current catalog rules as per the Chowdhury and Chan readings cannot be overlooked!


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