Wednesday, March 09, 2005

PCC reaction to AACR3 Part 1 draft

I've posted before about the divisive reaction occuring in the library world to the forthcoming AACR3 drafts. A new development came about this week when the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) publicly released their official comments sent to CC:DA (who will then send them on to the JSC) on the AACR3 part 1 draft.

I find the comments strange, to say the least. They're not consistent in tone, which I suppose can be expected for a document compiled from comments from a number of people. But for the most part, it keeps a reasonable message, connecting specific comments to large-scale goals. One major complaint of the document is that evaluation is happening before the introduction is written outlining the principles underlying the rules. While this is true, it's not as if there is no information available on what these principles are. They are discussed in virtually every presentation on AACR3 (some presentation slides are online) and are given in a more formal discussion paper on the AACR3 site. More information on AACR3, its goals, and development process, are available from the JSC site.

The PCC comments spend several pages lampooning the process by which AACR3 is being developed. No news there, and I understand they do this to get on the record objecting, but I wonder if it doesn't do them more harm than good. Certainly at this point the process isn't going to change, and I can envision a reader at the JSC giving less weight to the wealth of very reasonable feedback present in the bulk of the document as a result of the opening diatribe. But then again I could definitely be wrong about that.

There is one other major item of interest to me in this document. The paragraph beginning on page 9 and continuing on page 10 (those are the page #s in the PDF, the printed page #s are 8 and 9), contains what I can only characterize as a threat:

"If COP/JSC continue AACR3 along its current path, AACR3 simply will not be worth our while...AACR3 will become an even bigger laughing-stock in the broader information community. As Chair of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging's Standing Committee on Standards, I feel that I will need to recommend to PCC to look for or develop alternate metadata standards to govern its records."

If this is a threat, it rings as an empty one. While I back to some extent the community asking for more open access to the AACR3 revision process, I don't believe this sort of statement will cause anything to change. Maybe over the next few decades we'll see a large-scale shift in library descriptive practices away from AACR in favor of something else. I'm a bit skeptical of this, but it could happen, albeit slowly. The rhetoric here sounds to me like a child holding her breath and threatening to run away (and believe me, I know how those children feel!). It doesn't read as effective in meeting its goal.

But I don't want these few statements to take away from a great deal of very useful comments in this document. This is the chance to let voices be heard in AACR3 development; here's hoping they don't fall on deaf ears.


Rusty Smith said...

Can somebody e-mail me the URL for the AACR3 homepage mentioned in this "PCC reaction . . ." posting.

Jenn Riley said...

Hi Rusty-

It's at