Sunday, February 06, 2005

Tides of change

There has been a great deal of thoughtful discussion over the past two weeks or so on the AUTOCAT email list about the circumstances under which AACR3 is being developed. The JSC is taking a "big picture" approach to sharing information with the cataloging community about AACR3 development. They are publishing high-level organization and principles guiding development, but not specific rules. As a big-picture sort of person, I can definitely agree with this approach. It is easy to get caught up in details like capitalization, wording, and choice of examples, and not see the purpose behind the change. I'm also a practical person, and can appreciate the position the JSC would be in if they released full drafts, and got 347 emails lampooning a certain rule change as something that would bring about the end of civilization as we know it, and 346 emails praising the same change as the most brilliant decision ever made, sure to singlehandedly make library catalogs completely transparent to our users.

I can also appreciate the position of those who feel they are not being kept informed throughout the AACR3 development process. The devil is in the details, after all, especially in such a field as library cataloging. In addition to being a big-picture person, I'm also a heavily detail-oriented person. (It's a total contradiction, I know. But then again I don't understand me most of the time, either!) I frequently pay attention to how a single word that many wouldn't give a second thought can completely transform the potential interpretations of a sentence. And therefore I can understand how the details of AACR3 rules are of paramount importance to those who use them every day. There's no solution that will make everyone happy. My initial reaction is that the JSC is proceeding upon a reasonable path. But only time will tell, I suppose.

To learn more about where both sides are coming from, I've decided to research further how librariand have dealt with big changes to their workflows: move from AACR to AACR2, local automation of catalogs, adoption of cooperative cataloging, etc. I'm going to start with a book mentioned on AUTOCAT:

Research libraries and their implementation of AACR2 / edited by Judith Hopkins [and] John A. Edens. -- Greenwich, CT : JAI Press, c1986. (Foundations in library and information science ; v. 22)ISBN: 0-89232-641-7

...and move on from there. Suggestions for other good places to start are appreciated!

Oh, and I'm cheering for New England, by the way. :-)

No comments: