Posts Tagged ‘AACR2’

Denton’s historical contextualization of FRBR

April 17, 2010

Denton’s article “FRBR and the history of Cataloging” does a great job of assessing the history of cataloging and contextualizing the development of FRBR as a product of this history, rather than a new and unaffected standard.

The thing that struck me about this article was that Denton manages to take a very long tradition of cataloging and classification theory and boil it down in a way that makes it not only accessible but relevant in terms of what we as librarians try and accomplish today.  By sticking to the basic principles of access and service that unite all the different theories and principals he summarizes that FRBR is just a continuation this tradition. I find that his keeping the discussion at this level it was extremely helpful for me, a budding cataloger who has a long way to go before understanding it all.

I think the point he brings up about FRBR being developed out of a long and rich history of cataloging are especially pertinent in light of what Maggie Dull has said in her “Dear Marc” post about catalogers glorification of MARC and AACR2.  By holding these standards as the epitome of cataloging it becomes very hard for change to be implemented. I see this as the problem of people taking cataloging  standards out of their long term historical context, and I think more people need to think about FRBR in the way that Denton does.

I think that any profession that has settled into a routine of doing things certain way will have problems when change arrives.  Many people want to either ignore the change it or take issue with it. I currently work for a financial compliance office which is having trouble getting the financial advisers to turn in paperwork that is compliant in terms of federal regulations. Because the government is cracking down on the financial industry right now, it’s becoming a real issue. Older and seasoned financial advisers don’t see the issue in context of the changes that are happening in the profession and in society, and many of them are just going about business as usual because they don’t see the problem in doing so. In her post on Catalyst for module 2, Maggie Dull made a good point about how if people don’t find in fault in their current tools they will not be as receptive to new ones.

I think that the problem is exacerbated by the fact that more and more cataloging departments are primarily relying on paraprofessionals, rather than librarians, to do the majority of the cataloging. I think many cataloging department heads dread the idea of having to re-train all of their staff on a new set of rules. While Denton’s contextualization does a great job for helping people to understand FRBR, I don’t think it puts a dent in that dread of re-training people who’ve been living by AACR2 and MARC day in and out for years.

Denton, William. “FRBR and the History of Cataloging.” In Understanding FRBR: What It Is and How It Will Affect Our Retrieval Tools, Arlene Taylor (ed.). Accessed at: