Friday, June 28, 2013

RDA - Resource Description and Access or Justified more than a decade later

While I was in my last semester in library school, I was hired as a student assistant by a Canadian NGO. They were here in Cebu to collaborate on water and water resources. They were supposed to hire a professional librarian, but since the job did not offer security, they did not have a taker. Plus of course, then as now there are few library science graduates to go around. So they make do with the likes of me.

One of the few things, no, the only thing the Canadian CEO expected from me was that I could give him access to all relevant water and water resources information from their collection. 

To make a long story short, I cataloged the books and monographs. And then made an index to the journals, magazines, conference proceedings, pamphlets, and other occasional papers. But I did not make it like I was taught to. I cataloged the books and provided added entries to all the authors I found. And I did the same thing with the articles. 

One of my excuses, why I made all those added author entries, was a comment of one of the Canadian water experts/engineers. He said, and I am quoting and paraphrasing it 14-15 years later, “Oh good you are cataloging our library. I expect you would encode those in the computer when you are done. I expect I would be able to find every one and every thing then.”

Now, I may not know a lot about computer databases then, I still don’t, but I know for sure, you cannot really make a computer spit out something you have not fed it in the first place. So if you did not make added entries to the three other authors, you cannot enter those authors in the database. And if you did not encode them, how will you find them.

Another reason I made all those added entries was that it was a special library. And according to my limited knowledge, surely the world of water experts is not vast. I expected everyone knows or is acquainted with everyone. They would know more or less someone has authored a book or an article. But then what if they are the fourth author and their friends wanted to check their work?

I not only made added entries to all authors after author number three, I also made as many subject headings as I thought relevant. I decided one broad subject heading would not do justice to a conference proceedings that talked in one part about potable water, in another part about industrial sewage and sewerage, in another part about household sewers, yet in another part about rivers and lakes, and yet in another part about construction standards. In short, you cannot limit to labeling a proceeding with three or four broad subjects when it clearly talked about ten different topics. 

I was worried for a very long time what the next librarian or SA would do to my work. Or what she would think of me. I did not write a Policy Statement then. I did not know about policies. Maybe I was asleep during the lectures. A part of me was embarrassed of what I did. Embarrassed in a way that they do not really know the reasons behind my actions and that they might think I did not know what I was doing. Because it would appear to anyone I did not really know what I was doing.

RDA, of course is not explicit on their ruling on providing added entries. It is still on cataloger’s discretion. But now you would no longer look like a fool and an idiot for making added entries to seven or eight other authors. Especially to subjects and topics that are or have become so specialized. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Capes. And our obsession with it in superhero costumes

Man of Steel.

See how it was used by General Zod to swing Superman around in mid-air? And then released him so very abruptly so that Superman was slammed so hard into some building far away?