Special Libraries Cataloguing, Inc.

Rules Were Made for the Patrons, not Patrons for the Rules

J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, 17 October 2010

Greeting and Digressions

Greetings from Canada, the land of universal health care and equal marriage rights.

I tell you the following to establish my credential as a rabble rouser.

Please don't believe the lies you are being told about either. Contrary to what you've been told unlike my American cousins in HMOs, I select my own doctor, my own specialists, and my oWn hospital. When I was discovered to have a cancer, I was on the operating table in three days. There was a longer wait to have non life threatening gall stones removed. Neither operation cost me a penny.

As a retired Unitarian minister in my other life, I've performed numerous gay weddings. None of the heterosexual couples I've married since 1967, something over 1,500 when I did my daughter's wedding, have reported the gay weddings I've conducted having caused their marriages to crumble.

Although I've spent well over half my life in Canada, I was born and bred in a Georgia briar patch, as we used to say. I lived here until I went "North" to school in Tennessee, Peabody Library School. That's when I saw my first admitted Republican. I doubt any of you Georgians here are old enough to remember when Georgia lacked Republicans, and the Democratic primaries were the real elections.

This is my first time back in Georgia since returning to do my mother's funeral, having been unable to find a minister willing to honour the life she led. In the 1920's she took her one room school house White students to visit the one room Black school in Flatwoods, Oglethorpe County. In the 1950's she resigned her job as Executive Secretary of the Georgia Tuberculosis Association (as it was then called) because the Directors were spending dimes sent by children to purchase drinks and smokes for their meetings.

I come by my rabble rousing ways honestly, having inherited them from my fiery red headed mother. And you are the rabble I wish to rouse! Apologies for the term.

Centrality of Librarians, Cataloguers, and Media Cataloguers in Particular.

Why is that? In my perhaps biased opinion, librarians are essential to a well informed society. You are the front line in the defense of freedom of information. When I was in Moscow, a Russian librarian told me she would no more put an untruthful book in her collection than she would put poisoned food in front of her child. There was no adherence to John Stuart Mill's position that no idea should be suppressed, because 1st, it might be proven true; or 2nd, it might contain some portion of truth; or 3rd, even if totally untrue, truth would be strengthened by proving it untrue.

It was librarians who fought the banning of "The Rabbits' Wedding" by Garth Williams here in Georgia in 1958. Why was it banned? One of the rabbits was White and one was Black! It was librarians who fought the banning of "One Dad, Two Dads .." by Johnny Valentin in 1994. I don't think I have to tell you why that one was challenged.

In my equally biased opinion, cataloguers are the prime group among librarians. It is cataloguers who organize the recorded history, information, and artistic expression of our civilization.

It is not biased, I think, to say that you, the rabble (with due apologies for the term) I wish to arouse, are the most important group among cataloguers. Why is that? For two main reasons. First, national cataloguing agencies provide catalogue records for a great majority of print resources. That is not the case for the resources you catalogue. Most records for the types of resources you organize are created originally by you. Second, while print resources are now, and I suspect will continue to be, important in our library collections, increasingly the material you make available is the most used, and the most influential, of all library resources.

Rules Were Made for the Patrons

What message do I wish to impart to you this Sunday morning? Since it is Sunday morning, perhaps I may be forgiven for paraphrasing Jesus speaking of the Sabbath, when he was criticised for breaking it to feed the hungry. Rules were made for patrons, not patrons for the rules.

Patron convenience is the light by which we must interpret rules.

Rules, I think, have two main functions. First and foremost, they are to bring resources to people. Second, they function to create enough uniformity among the records we create, that they may be exchanged among us, and used in conjunction with records created by others of us.

Sanford Berman has shown us that, no matter how superior our methods over traditional ones, and no matter how they cause growth in use statistics, our administrators will not fund major departures from rules as they exist. Our innovations can not be extensive nor expensive.

Rules, whether AACR2 or RDA, are a means to an end. When they get in the way of utility and pragmatism, they should be judiciously bent, so long as this does not impede record use by others. And, as soon as possible, rules need to be changed to be more functional. IN my NSHO RDA is a step in the opposite direction.

We will soon faced with the additional task of coping with a major shift from Anglo American Cataloguing Rules (henceforth AACR2) to Resource Description and Access (henceforth RDA). I doubt if many of you are old enough to remember the shift from AACR1 to AACR2, much less the shift from the "green book", LC's rules for descriptive cataloguing, and the "red book", ALA's rules for entry, to AACR1. For those of you too young to remember, allow me to introduce you to a word you may need. That word is "superimposition"; basically leaving well enough alone in older authority and bibliographic records, and applying new practices to new entities. Superimposition had its problems, and created inconsistencies we still encounter.

As Michael Gorman reminds us, for centuries we have been cataloguing the item at hand. That record may be used by others to represent other items in the same edition (manifestation in FRBR new-speak). If, in that description, we need to refer to another work, that is done in a Machine Readable Catalogue (henceforth MARC) record by using a 6XX or 7XX subject or added entry field based on a 130 or 100|a|t authority record. If we wish to narrow that down to what is now called an expression, we simply add additional subfields to the authority record, such as language, version, or date.

The Functional Requirements For Bibliographic Records (henceforth FRBR) relate much more to the functionality needed by the Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC), and the Integrated Library System (ILS), than to individual bibliographic records. Since we abandoned the card catalogue, we cataloguers have largely abandoned catalogue building, leaving it in the hands of systems people. It is time we reclaimed that function, rather than fiddling with the building blocks, and allowing others to do the building.

Standards are Floors, not Ceilings

Our rules and standards are not always in agreement. AACR2 and the provider neutral record standard both disagree with the LCRI on reproductions. AACR2 and CONSER do not agree on 260|c imprint date, formatted vs. unformatted 362. AACR2 and MARC21 do not agree on repeating 260 imprint. We should should choose among these conflicting provisions those which best serve our patrons.

All our rules and standards should be considered floors, not ceilings. They should be seen as the minimum required, not limits on known information which would be of help to patrons. Because AACR2 allows the omission of collation for remote electronic resources, does not mean you should do so. Because CONSER allows the omission of parallel titles and imprint year, does not mean you should do so. Because the PCC Provider Neutral Records for Electronic Monographs allows the omission of terms of access for a monograph available from multiple providers, does not mean that information should be omitted from the record for a resource available only by subscription from the electronic publisher.

Adapting Rules to Patron Needs

We at Special Libraries Cataloguing (henceforth SLC) will for a long time be supplying MARC records to small libraries with ILS's not yet adapted to support changes in MARC made to accommodate RDA. We can retrospectively remove "N.T." and "O.T." between Bible and the name of a book, and spell out those two when not followed by the name of a book. We can spell out "Dept." in headings. We can remove |k from treaty headings. That's about all it will take to have new records interfile with old ones. But what about the demise of 245 GMD, and the introduction of 336 Content type, 337 Media type, and 338 Carrier type? At the moment we are exporting 338 and 336 (i.e. carrier colon content) as a compound 245 GMD. But this means bending the rules to substitute sensible terms for some of those ridiculous ones in 336 and 338.

Please allow me to give two examples of success in having the rules made for the patron, not the patrons for the rules. Both are from music cataloguing.

How many of you catalogue music CDs? Notice who raised their hand, take one of them out to lunch, and pick their brains. Find out how they managed to get "CD" moved from MARC21 538 to 500 so quickly after MARBI made the mistake of putting it there. Those of us who catalogue motion pictures on DVD have had to put up with "DVD" in 538 for years!

As a second example, consider the terminology for music in MARC21 336 Content.

notated music
performed music

That's it. Two simple phrases any patron could understand, and which will not absorb too great a space in OPAC display, whether in 245|h or elsewhere.

Others are not so well served. "Spoken word" was a later addition; "videodisc" was removed and restored; but music cataloguers had their needs sensibly met at the outset.

Contrast those two simple phrases with what faces map cataloguers:

cartographic dataset
cartographic image
cartographic tactile image
cartographic tactile three-dimensional form
cartographic three-dimensional form

Even if, as some assure us, icons will be displayed rather than these long, hard to comprehend phrases; what icons can express those distinctions?

For our clients, SLC is simplifying those phrases to "cartographic", but it was tempting to just substitute "map" and "globe". We try to stick as closely to standard terminology as our clients will accept, to escape expensive editing. I doubt any of our clients will be willing to allocate the space in a brief display that these awkward cartographic terms would require. I will admit that the term "cartographic" sounds more like an adjective than a noun (as does "chiropractic" which I find strange on signs when no noun follows). But "cartographic" is what our clients will receive in their compound GMD.

What do you think a patron would make of "tactile three-dimensional form", a term in 336? How can we sacrifice that much display space? I suspect SLC will not ask its clients to try. Whether we will use "realia" or some other term remains to be seen. At least "object" has been added to carriers under unmediated.

Certainly we will use "electronic" from International Federation of Library Association (IFLA) International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) Area 0, as opposed to RDA's "computer" in 337 Media Type, if we use 337 at all. "Computer" would make patrons think the record is describing a computer, a piece of equipment. But it is unlikely we will export 337 Media type. A two part GMD, carrier plus content, is enough. e.g.. 245 GMD [online resource : text].

Speaking of equipment, we will certainly add that term, "equipment", to those under "Unmediated" in 338 Carrier Type, allowing for example 245 GMD [equipment : spoken word]. for an e-book on a Playaway, or [equipment : text] for a Kindle.

Since the national libraries of the United states, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia tend not to catalogue equipment, equipment cataloguing is poorly served by both AACR2 and RDA. Perhaps OLAC can supply that lacuna, as has been done with the provider neutral electronic monograph standard, and the more recent SlotMusic guide.

Utility of MARC

Before continuing with adaptation of RDA changes to meet your patrons' needs, a few words about MARC.

You will notice that I have been speaking "MARC". Since I found it so much simpler to say "130" or "240" as opposed to "uniform title as main entry", or "uniform title after main entry as filing title", I've been fond of MARC as a shorthand for communicating with SLC's 20 or so remote cataloguers.

To paraphrase Mark Twain (after having paraphrased Jesus), the reports of MARC'S death are an exaggeration. There are several reasons for this. One is the wealth of bibliographic data now encoded in MARC. A second is MARC's granularity. SLC finds is simple to crosswalk from MARC to any configuration used by the ILS of our clients. We have found crosswalks back much more problematic. Some systems make no distinction among 100, 110, 700, or 710; they are all dumped into an "Author" field. When system migration time comes, we must replace that client's entire database.

A third reason for the utility of MARC is the language and script neutrality of numbers. SLC supports library catalogues in Europe and Asia as well as North America. We have no wish to suggest they convert to hypertext markup language records using English terms. Similarly we will not ask them to accept "language of the catalogue" inclusions replacing ISBD's Latin abbreviations. What is the language of the catalogue in a trilingual Swiss library? How would we use Chinese inclusions in an English language record for a Hong Kong library?

A fourth reason MARC lives is the ease of proof reading a MARC record. Have you attempted to read an html or xml record? They are hardly unmediated text!

This is not to say I haven't bones to pick with MARBI. Henriette Avram (blessed be her memory), created a numbering system which reflected the order of the display of elements on the unit card of her day, an order later codified by the ISBD. MARBI has unfortunately departed from that. I can accept the substitution of 246 for 740, and the distinction it reflects; and would like to see the adoption of UKMARC's 248 for constituent parts, removing the double use of 740 for analytic and related titles. But much of new MARC numbering fails to reflect a logical order of elements which would parallel optimum display order, creating additional work for programmers and cataloguers. The numbering of 5XX notes is senseless. For example, 5XX numbering puts the note most often wanted first, 538 System requirements, far down the line. Restriction on access 506, and Terms governing use 540, should be contiguous. The PCC division (unlike CONSER) of source of description notes between 500 and 588 is unfortunate.

Placing notes out of tag order is time consuming both in record preparation and in record revision. Even if programming is done to place notes in a better order, the cataloguer is slowed down in locating a desired note to revise it.

MARBI has repeated the 5XX mistake with 336-338. The original MARBI proposal had these fields numbered from the most general, 336 Media type, to the most specific, 338 Content. Now the tag numbering is as nonsensical as the order of RDA rules.

Another aspect of the addition of 336-338 is that it increases the already existing redundancy of much fixed field information and variable field information. Variable field information is far more accessible than it was in Ms Avram's time. I suspect that the complexity of fixed fields is one of the reason some are so eager to abandon MARC.

Adapting to RDA

In addition to revising AACR2 Bible and treaty entries, there is little change needed to older records to have them interfile with RDA records.

But there are some changes you may wish to consider making part of an automated download or mapping process to RDA records to make them function with AACR2 ones.

As long our clients wish, we will export RDA records to be compatible with their AACR2 records.

RDA directs that International Standard Bibliographic (ISBD) brief Latin abbreviation inclusions be dropped for spelled out phrases in the "language of the catalogue". For example, when the publisher is not known, rather than inserting 260|b[publisher not identified], [editeur non identifie], [Verlag nicht identifiziert], or [chuban shang meiyou queding] (depending on the language of your catalogue) as directed by RDA, we will continue to insert the ISBD abbreviation 260|b[s.n.]. With our international customer base, we feel this is necessary. This will not affect the electronic publishers among our clients, since we know who published the titles.

Until asked to do otherwise, we will export {338 : 336] as a 245|h compound GMD.

RDA directs that there be a "relationship designator" for traced persons or corporate bodies, e.g., 100 or 700 1 |aJones, Tom, |d1932-2010.|eauthor. These |eterms will be removed on export, e.g., exported as 100 or 700 1 |aJones, Tom,|d1932-2010. If included in the record they would cause split files in some ILS, until programming has been done. These terms are not core elements for the LC test period.

Display Programming

When having your ILS programmed to display MARC fields 336 and 338, you might want to consider at head of other data as suggested by ISBD Area 0, and remapping 245|h to display there as well.

Specific Material Designations (SMDs)

With RDA we will use more exact 300|aSMDs, e.g., "DVD" rather than "videodisc".

Some use the 300|aSMD "online resource" for remote electronic resources. You will notice that it duplicates a 338 media carrier (or compound 245|hGMD) term. We will use more exact SMDs: "electronic text", "website", "streaming video", "computer game", "computer database", etc.

Other Specific Suggestions

I have other specific suggestions to make concerning bending rules in many MARC fields, to make records more patron friendly, ranging from not using a 130 qualified as "(motion picture)" for a DVD, combining motion picture DVD non cast credits in 508 rather than dividing them between 245/|c and the 508 note, to always including collation for remote electronic resources. But time does not allow detailing them here. They are contained in a handout.


We have found that over the years several SLC practices did become codified, e.g., GMD after first title proper in a collection without a collective title. (RDA allows the option of a cataloguer supplied title in those cases.) RDA adopted other practices our clients prefer, such as not considering alternate title as part of title proper, but backed away from that decision.

Please allow me to conclude by expressing again my great admiration for what you do. I see it as no less than central to the continued health of our society.

When a jury brings in a verdict which is contrary to law, but correct in terms of justice and equity, it is called jury nullification.

Just as the ultimate law enforcement power lies in the hands of the jury, the ultimate rule practice power lies in yours. Just as a jury can refuse to send a kid to jail for a bit of pot, striking a blow against the counterproductive war on drugs, so you can practice jury nullification to produce bibliographic records which best serve us all.

Thank you.

Home Cheat Sheets Products and Services Prices