Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

volume 32, no. 2, 2001



Bibliographic Control: a Collaborative Activity

This issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly continues existing features and columns including the News Column and the CCQ Interviews, provides a report on the Library of Congress Conference on Bibliographic Control, an opinion piece on authority control, and introduces a new column called ERC for Electronic Resources Cataloging. Lyn Condron and Cecilia Piccolo Tittemore are column editors for ERC and in their initial offering they discuss their plans for the column and also seek your input.


The interview with Karen Drabenstott provides insight into how she became interested in library and information science and focuses on her career concern of subject access to information and her support for enhanced bibliographic records.
The Library of Congress Conference on Bibliographic Control for the New Millenium tackled the challenges of networked resources and the web. Descriptive, subject and authority control issues all gained attention and discussion in the three day session. The opinion piece included in this issue provokes thought by questioning the very value of authority control. As editor, I believe it is important to confront key issues facing bibliographic control and through publication stimulate additional discussion and investigation.


Subject access is itself the focus of attention in three additional articles. Two authors report on a meta-analysis of subject access critiques while form and genre implementation at the Library of Congress is considered in the context of music subject cataloging. An author from Nigeria examines syntactic and semantic consistency in the language of Library of Congress Subject Heading using literature and librarianship for analysis. Once again it is clear how interdependent the world's libraries are in attempts to standarize cataloging and share cataloging tools. The online availability of these resources can only help improve cataloging consistency across countries.


A final new article reviews the experience of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals Library in its provision of analytical cataloging of full-text journal databases. Finally, one article that appeared in CCQ 30(2/3) is reprinted, this time with the full complement of figures. Ordinarily an errata statement would appear. However, in this case the material inaccurately omitted is sufficiently substantive to merit reprinting the article in its entirety. The news column completes the issue.
Several trends are obvious in this issue: bibliographic control, broadly defined, is continuously evolving: subject access is every day more important: long standing assumptions can merit challenge; and, there are no geographic limits to those with a stake in the future of bibliographic control.


Cataloging and other aspects of the organization of information often see advances after opening discussion to participants of diverse specialization and geographic origin. The give and take of offering position papers that are then debated and refined is accepted widely as a means of achieving the most satisfactory approach to take to bibliographic control issues. Many international forums exist to deliberate and posit positions that are given further feedback within the appropriate groups in individual nations. As Thomas Jefferson once observed, "the wise know too well their weakness to assume infallibility; and he who knows most, knows best how little he knows." [1] On a similar theme Henry David Thoreau pointed out, "A man is wise with the wisdom of his time only, and ignorant with its ignorance." [2] What Jefferson and Thoreau both understood is that there is no perfect final answer and that we are products of our time and should be judged in the context of our times. Consequently, it is natural that bibliographic control evolves as time passes. It encounters new challenges in uniting users with their desired information as the methods of information distribution change. New media, new formats, more diversity in users, changes in sharing data, all are part of our evolving universe of which bibliographic control is one subset. The desire to improve bibliographic control and the many iterative processes involved in agreeing on rules and standards are one aspect of acknowledging that the collective wisdom is often better than an individuals. At the same time individuals may take leadership in espousing a position or new thesis to be tested. 


Similarly the process of peer review followed by Cataloging & Classification Quarterly and many other professional journals is designed to give an author the benefit of the wisdom of experienced individuals in the field. With few exceptions authors are grateful for the comments they receive and the opportunity to improve their work before it is published. I know that I have always appreciated the comments I have gotten in the review process and my final product has been improved because of the reviewers' expertise. Whether on the mini-level of reviews of individual manuscripts or the macro-level of the development of international standards in bibliographic control we benefit from collaboration, consultation, and review. Electronic communication has facilitated these processes but not changed their essence. We advance more wisely if not more rapidly through collaboration than we do singly and we anticipate the future to our best abilities while bound by the times in which we live.

-- Ruth C. Carter

[1] Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, March 6, 1813, in Gordon Carruth and Eugene Erlich, the Harper Book of American Quotations (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 256.

[2] Henry David Thoreau, entry dated January 31, 1853, in his Journal, 1906, in Carruth and Erlich, Harper Book of American Quotations, p. 257.

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