Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Z39.19 Revision

Well, today is the deadline for comments to NISO on the new Z39.19 revision, and unfortunately I haven't had a chance to dig in far enough to make any comments useful to them. Blast. I did, however, open the document up today to look for something specific. In the course of that search, I came across this text: Parts of Multiple Wholes
When a whole-part relationship is not exclusive to a pair
wholes, the name of the whole and its part(s) should not
they should be linked associatively rather than hierarchically
Carburetors, for example, are parts of machines other
relationship in this instance is cars RT carburetors.

I'm disappointed in this decision. In order to preserve a pure hierarchy (something cannot be a part of multiple wholes), some semantics are lost. The idea that a carburetor is a part of a car (as well as potentially a part of lots of other stuff) is lost by relegating it to an RT (associative relationship). Whole-part relationships appear in the document as one of three types of hierarchical relationships; therefore, it seems that by categorizing them here the authors were forced to make the decision to move a huge number of things commonly thought of as having a whole-part relationship to an associative relationship. We librarians just love hierarchy, don't we. Too bad the world is polyhierarchical. Looks like our information systems won't be able to catch up yet.

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