Article Summary #9 Archivists vs DAMs

When Archivists and Digital Asset Managers Collide: Tensions and Ways Forward (article – 2016)

This was an interesting study. Anthony Cocciolo conducted his research as a participant observer while consulting in a major art museum, where he was able to observe the relationship between archivists and digital asset managers.

On the surface these two jobs appear to cover much of the same ground. But reality is they serve different but complementary functions and interests. The subjects of the author’s study were often at odds with each other, but it seems to me that they were both needed for different reasons in their organization.

The archivist manages artifacts that are no longer in use. The digital asset manager manages digital objects that still have some monetary value and use. The problems result from the confusion over how these purposes are different.

Most people (me included, until I took an archives class last summer) seem to think that if something is digitized it is preserved. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Dr. Riter used the example of finding a 75 year old box of photographs in a hot dusty attic. They are still in good shape. But finding a 75 year old computer in your hot dusty attic… who can access the files in it?

The DAM makes it easy to store, find, and use digital files in an organization. But it is not archiving those files. Unless there is a system in place to regularly check for file degradation and update files to new file formats, and save them in multiple locations, those files are not preserved. The average person does not think about those kinds of things. That is what archivists are for. The DAM is there to manage an asset that still has value.


Gross on Subject Headings… No, they aren’t “gross”

And another cataloging assignment

Gross, T. What have we got to lose? College & Research Libraries 66(3):212-230 (May 2005)

This was an article describing research on library catalog search results. This study asked, “What proportion of records retrieved by a keyword search has a keyword only in a subject heading field and thus would not be retrieved if there were no subject headings?”

The research behind this article supports what I have been thinking all along, subject headings are important.  One third of the retrievals from searches were found only in the subject headings, so if subject headings had been left out, those resources would not have been located. In some cases 100% of the hits would have been left off without subject headings. The authors left out the foreign language searches because as a group they were outliers, but the very fact that those would have skewed the results so dramatically in favor of subject headings adds to the necessity of including subject headings.

This research did not include relevance of results, but other research has shown that keyword searching produces more un-relevant hits than subject heading searching.

Clearly subject headings need to continue to be used in cataloging to improve findability of our resources. While keyword searching is here to stay, the subject headings need to be part of the keyword search. Additionally, education of the user remains important. It seems that most of the problems associated with research revolve around users not understanding how to search the system.

Gross, T. What have we got to lose? College & Research Libraries 66(3):212-230 (May 2005)


Another cataloging assignment

My incredibly limited understanding of Resource Description and Access (RDA), is that it is a new set of rules for cataloging any medium using the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) model. RDA is built on the foundation of Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules 2 (AACR2), with resource description and access designed for the digital world. RDA is focused on more of a metadata structure, with relationships that provide more access points to records, so that it works more like web searching than like catalog searching. It seems to me that it is trying to mesh descriptions of many kinds of objects into one search function. It has more fields with more attributes that give more descriptive information, which is what gives it more access points. This also allows museums and archives to use it, giving access to more information from a single search (A. S. Chandel & Prasad, 2013).

Clearly AACR2 did its job of cataloging our libraries well. It has been the standard for many years, and was accepted internationally. It has as its foundation the Paris Principles from 1960. As the years passed it was revised to handle new situations and new materials, but increasingly catalogers found the AACR2 rules too specific and not easily adaptable to the new formats (Adamich, 2008).

AACR2 has very specific rules, formats, punctuation, and abbreviations. RDA is vague. It has more options, with the idea of making it more useful to the user by being able to catalog more kinds of objects into the same system. It seems to be trying to imitate the feel of a Google search. At its core the object of cataloging is to describe objects so that they can be found. Both RDA and AACR2 would say that is their goal.

Michael Gorman’s harangue against RDA has some valid points. He was advocating further revisions of AACR2 rather than an entire rework of the system; in fact he claims to have written up revisions that would accomplish everything that RDA accomplished, but at a fraction of the cost spent on implementing the new system of RDA (Gorman, 2007) (Gorman, 2016).

The Library of Congress, being one of the main backers of RDA, is pleased with the outcomes they have seen in its implementation, stating that:

The primary benefit to the Library of Congress from its implementation of RDA is that the new cataloging standard provides more flexibility in cataloging decisions; makes cataloging data easier to share internationally; permits clearer linking among related works, and is more suited to describing digital and nonprint library resources. Library of Congress management believes that the straightforward RDA instructions are one reason the Library has achieved its production goals in an era of constrained staffing and budgets (Morris & Wiggins, 2016, p. 28).

Finally, by premising the joint implementation of RDA on the demonstration of credible progress toward a new bibliographic framework, the Library of Congress and its implementation partners have embraced the linked-data model for future encoding and interchange of bibliographic data, which promises to make library data much more visible and useful on the Internet (Morris & Wiggins, 2016, p. 29).


In some ways the debate over RDA vs. AACR2 is a moot point, since RDA is now being used and will become the standard. The more I read the more I understand the need behind RDA, we do need a cataloging system that allows for the cataloging of many kinds of materials, which will yield web style search results. Linked data, metadata, and descriptions are all needed for digital objects, archival objects, and our lovely old books so they can be found by users. Could AACR2 have been updated again to accomplish this? I do not have the experience to form an opinion on that. I do know that new, shiny, and expensive seems to be current society’s preference to everything. But with shiny new technology, it is possible that a shiny new system is required.



Adamich, T. (2008). RDA (Resource Description and Access): The New Way to Say, “AACR2.” Knowledge Quest, 36(3), 64–69.

Chandel, A. S., & Prasad, R. V. (2013). Journey of Catalogue from Panizzi’s Principles to Resource Description and Access. DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology, 33(4), 314–322.

Gorman, M. (2007). RDA: Imminent Debacle. American Libraries, 38(11), 64–65.

Gorman, M. (2016). RDA: The Emperor’s New Code. A brief Essay. Italian Journal of Library & Information Science, 7(2), 99–107.

Morris, S. R., & Wiggins, B. (2016). Implementing RDA at the Library of Congress. Italian Journal of Library & Information Science, 7(2), 199–228.


Thoughts on Gorman and RDA

This was a cataloging assignment early in the semester.

Gorman, M. (2007). RDA: Imminent Debacle. American Libraries, 38(11), 64–65.

Michael Gorman’s article was pretty strong in its attack of RDA. I have to wonder how much of it is out of a desire to not change. As the principle author of AACR2 he has a vested interest in that, and his language is such that it would be easy to dismiss this article as jealous ravings.

Trying to look past the emotional language, I see his complaints as follows:

  1. AACR2 works. It works for books and other media.
  2. AACR2 is internationally standardized.
  3. The metadata of RDA will be uncontrolled terms written by non-professionals
  4. AACR2 is being replaced by Google and free-text searching
  5. FRBR is good for theory but not for cataloging.
  6. AACR2 has minor flaws that could be easily corrected
  7. The RDA does not include standards
  8. He doesn’t like the format of that early draft
  9. He is confused by the examples of this early draft
  10. He found editorial errors in the early draft


His obvious flaws include:

  1. He is working from an early draft of RDA
  2. He uses emotional inflammatory language


Many of Gorman’s complaints are possibly due to the fact that he was responding to an early draft of RDA. A lot of things, like confusion, format, and editorial errors get worked out as a written work goes through editing. I wish he had stuck to the actual content of RDA, then it would have been easier to make a judgement about it. This article was published in 2007, and I do not know what has changed or what RDA actually became when it was finished.

I am currently in a Metadata class, and it seems to me that AACR2 is clunky for digital items. I have spent a good bit of time looking in the catalog at work matching up vinyl records, and that is horribly clunky.  I know that the goal of both is for objects to be found.

Having said all of that, I believe that as a rule the powers that be do tend to change for the sake of change, and often the new is much more complicated than the old without being appreciably better. Gorman raises many valid questions.  But as technology and resources change, cataloging will have to change too.

In the end, reading this article gives me questions to ask of RDA. Does it work better than AACR2? Does it effectively catalog books (and other things) so they can be found? We are still using subject headings, where does Gorman’s concern about losing those come in? How does RDA fit internationally, has it been adopted internationally? And how have libraries changed over from AACR2 to RDA? What is the cost of switching over?



The Awe of a Special Collection

For this week’s essay I lifted a portion of my journal from my internship last semester in the Special Collection/Archives at Samford University:

08/31/16  …I also spent some time talking to Jennifer and Tabitha about my desire to work in a seminary library.  Jennifer then took me to see a part of the Spurgeon Collection.  Oh my.  I held the original transcript of a sermon that Spurgeon preached in 1888.  It was transcribed in what I assume is shorthand by someone sitting in the audience as Spurgeon preached; he preached without notes.  This sermon was on the “Run the race” text, I suddenly can’t remember the reference.  Spurgeon himself edited the transcript… in blue ink.  Then it was sent to the printer who printed the galley sheet, which Spurgeon also edited in blue ink.  I read the whole first part.  It was amazing to think that these papers were his personal edited notes of what would become books of his sermons, from some 125 years ago.  Spurgeon himself made the edits, I was looking at the ink of his actual handwriting, his thoughts as he formed them into what he wanted to communicate.  Samford has 30 of these sets of original transcripts and galley sheets of his sermons.  The more I think about it the more awesome it becomes.

This is the power of a Special Collection; I was inspired. The feeling of holding Spurgeon’s original work still lives in me.

And for blogdoms enjoyment, a random quote that I copied as I read: “What all these years of being paid to read other people’s letters have done to my moral scruples I will leave to your imagination.”

Macleod, Julia H. BC 11. “Problems In Manuscript Cataloging.” Summary of Proceedings…Conference of the American Theological Library Association 10 (1956): 43 ff