Miscellany, MARC, and Authority

I recently procured the book Everything is Miscellaneous from my local public library. This is a book, I believe that every librarian and MLS student needs to read.

What Weinberger is promoting is “messiness” being a virtue in a digital environment. He believes that as tagging increases, a data set is created that is more and more useful every day – particularly with images.

However, he doesn’t believe in the end of MARC, as some have accused him of believing (those who haven’t actually read his book from cover to cover). He also stated in the Many2Many blog specifically that he would like to see tagging integrated with the MARC records, creating a richer OPAC experience.

Roy Tennant, on the other hand, wrote in the Library Journal blog back in 2002 that “MARC must die.” He believed at that time that MARC has outlived its usefulness. An example he gave is the inconsistency in encoding an editor in the 700 field. He states that “clinging” to MARC cataloging makes it difficult to serve patrons in a way they expect in the 21st Century. He now states that “limiting ourselves to the MARC/AACR2 (or even RDA) standards is inadequate — we need a metadata infrastructure (and the skills to use it) that supports a wide variety of metadata standards. The days of MARC hegemony are over.”

There are certainly problems with tagging. Misspellings is one oft repeated example. I recall creating web pages for a grief recovery web site back in 2001, and having to put “greif” in the metatags to ensure that if a seeker misspells the word, he can still find the help he needs. Nowadays if you enter “greif” in a search engine, you will be asked “do you mean ‘grief’?”

Nichole Engard quoted John Blyberg in a synopsis of a moderated discussion on Weinberger and Cataloging:

“Library 2.0 is not the dismissal of authority. It’s the retooling of authority and coming at it in different ways.”

I think that is it in a nutshell.

Moya K. Mason writes:

The aim of authority work is to select the form that subject headings, titles, and names will take as headings for bibliographic records and to choose the references needed to support those forms. Since the headings function as access points, making sure that they are distinct and not in conflict with existing entries is important. (http://www.moyak.com/papers/libraries-bibliographic-control.html).

In order to be “frbr-ized,” a catalog’s access points need to be standardized as well…

The Futurelib Wiki has several interesting scenarios for how to replace the current MARC records. Their first scenario – expanding MARC to include new data – seems to make the most sense to me. It makes little sense to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Let’s keep our current MARC records, updated with RDA according to FRBR standards, and add the dimension of tagging in a searchable way. That is not a trivial problem, but a very solvable problem in this day of relational databases.

We need MARC, and the Library of Congress Subject Headings in particular, for the basis of the organization of information. However, patron supplied tagging is another useful tool to increase information finding. That is what the library is all about – providing information. We can’t provide it if no one can find it.

I have had this library copy of Weinberger’s book for so long that it is time that I purchased my own. I have placed an order through Amazon to purchase a used copy (the best recycling there is – used books!).