Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 32: Everything is Obsolete

In cataloguing, we use a set of rules called the AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd Update [with 2005 revisions]) to create and structure all our data in a standardized way so it makes sense, is consistent and is therefore easier to use.

However, these rules are largely a throwback to cataloguing for card catalogues, old technology with distinct limitations; space and size being the most obvious ones. So there are a lot of rules that we use that don't make much sense when you're cataloguing on a computer. For instance, if a book has more than three authors, you only list the first one. Even though, since we're using computers now, we could list every author a work has, even if it had 100 of them. Evidently, these rules could use some updating, and that's where the RDA (Resource Description and Access) comes in. A new set of rules for a new age, or some such business. Basically, the 130$ I just spent on the AACR2 will be going by the wayside in 2013 when the RDA comes into force. I'm not bitter, honest I'm not!

 Anyways, to the lesson! With such a major overhaul on the horizon, and one that we aren't really learning specifically right now, there are a lot of things I don't know about it. But I learned one thing today that I found particularly interesting.

Lesson 32: With the restructuring of cataloguing rules, works will have their own authority records.

We currently have authority records for people, so that if they use different names, or people spell their names wrong, it still directs to the one official, approved (authority) record for that individual. Doing that for works as well will allow us to find all the editions, translations, adaptations, etc. of one work in the same place. For instance, whereas now you'd have separate, and likely unconnected, entries for The Two Towers as a book by J.R.R.Tolkien and The Two Towers the film by Peter Jackson, despite the fact that they are the same narrative entity, with these new rules, you'd have a record for "The Two Towers" and it would link you to the book, the movie, the 50th anniversary edition, the french translation... everything! We'll see how it works out, but for now, I think that's pretty cool.

A good example of this concept in action is if you look at goodreads. There are flaws in the execution, which goodreads librarians like myself work to tidy up, but in general, all the editions of each work are combined into one listing. Which is particularly handy for the way you're meant to use goodreads, because it seems silly to say that I've read "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and have it suggest that since I liked that, maybe I'd like to read "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". Instead, the system knows that those are really just different sides of the same coin.

Though I'd like to know how they're dealing with boxed sets...

Bonus unnumbered lesson: What my program feels is a full course load (4 courses, or 12 credits, a semester), is only considered 80% of a full course load by OSAP. It doesn't really affect or ruin anything, it's just an oddity.


  1. Hey, just wanted to say that as someone currently applying to the MLIS program (McGill, UBC and Dalhousie) I really enjoy reading your blog to get an idea of what to expect if I'm accepted.

  2. Thanks so much! I'm really glad to hear that because that's pretty much the reason I started the blog in the first place: it is the blog I would have liked to be able to read when I was applying.
    I hope your applications go well!

  3. Thanks :) Reading about your experiences is definitely helping me slog through the letters of intent and application essays!