In cataloging a controlled vocabulary is a tool that can be used to communicate ideas and concepts embodied in a work using a set of predetermined terms. However, according to “What is a Controlled Vocabulary” by Leise, Fast, and Steckel, communication is only effective if the terms are agreed upon by all parties. This can be frustrating to an individual cataloger when certain terms seem natural to identify and describe an item yet cannot be used. Catalogers must constantly remind themselves that there are always at least three (and usually countless if not infinitely more) differences in how an item is interpreted, which is through the often divergent perspectives of the cataloger the original creator, and the user(s).
Myers & Myers article elucidates the issues encountered when cataloging works that fall outside the scope of “normal” book cataloging, including issues of vocabulary and terminology. One issue is whether “artist’s books” or “book arts” should be considered books or works of art that use books as the media. The authors include terminology like “colophon” and “binding” in their description, which indicate their understanding of the book as an object ( I work in a conservation lab that creates clamshell boxes, which we call “housing” not “binding” but I am certain the term “housing” in this context would cause even more confusion). Another problem is the difficulty in knowing what information to include in the record and if it should be targeted for the relatively small community/user group of those interested in book arts or the general public who may not know what an artist book is. This leaves the troublesome choice of either compromising how much information is supplied or possibly alienating a user group. Myers & Myers provide an example of what they consider to be an ideal record for an artist book, which reads very similarly to a kind of descriptive bibliography that is usually reserved for rare books and takes a lot of skill to master.
I thought Myers & Myers brought up two interesting concepts in this article. The first was their statement that institutions should have a policy of interpretation. I wish that this idea had been expanded upon. Is this similar to trying to interpret the intrinsic qualities or aboutness of items? I also thought that separating the physical description and intellectual content of an item by different note fields was an interesting approach that could be potentially helpful to users viewing the record with varying focuses.