There is this old post in AUTOCAT dated 18 Jan 2012 discussing the comment made by Seymour Lubetzky in 1953 are still relevant to today’s situation.
Here is the full content of the post.
From: SHEPHERD, MATTHEW <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 4:31 AM
Subject: [ACAT] Lubetzky’s “Development of Cataloging Rules” and Principles vs. Rules
I’ve been following this list for over a year since I took a technical services course in my MLIS program. I am breaking my silence today because of a 1953 Seymour Lubetzky article included in the readings for my cataloging course. The article, “Development of Cataloging Rules,” begins as a historical summary, but Lubetzky concludes with a statement that seems quite relevant to recent discussions about RDA, AACR2, and LCRI:
“There is a school of thought which maintains that economy in cataloging requires a code of rules which could be applied without the exercise of judgment by the cataloger. Judgment, they say, is expensive because it requires highly paid people and takes much time. It is questionable whether this theory was ever valid in large and scholarly libraries. It certainly cannot be so where catalogers are confronted with a vast and mounting variety of publications on the one hand and a growing maze of rules on the other. It also is detrimental to the future of a profession which will require a generation of catalogers able to cope with greater cataloging problems than their predecessors have faced. Such a generation could not be brought up on a cataloging diet rich in rules and poor in principles, and on a preparation in cataloging which involved the use of rules without the exercise of discretion and reason.”
It seems that Lubetzky is picturing a future world in which cataloging is done via flowchart (which I’ve seen in use for cataloging sound recordings), and in which seemingly trifling decisions are elevated to matters of great importance (which reminds me of MARC, ISBD, and AACR2).
I find it interesting that Lubetzky made these observations in a largely print-dominated environment. I think that the development of electronic formats in particular (both to be cataloged and to use for cataloging) has perhaps made the application of basic principles a more difficult prospect. The minutiae of descriptive cataloging must also be considered with respect to machine-readability, as well (such as standardizing terminology in the 300 field for faceting searches). In short, I’m not surprised that there is currently a greater emphasis on detailed rules and procedures than on underlying concepts.
I’m admittedly a greenhorn here, so I don’t have much experience to weigh in very strongly on this point. I am interested in what members of this list think about Lubetzky’s conclusion. Is cataloging theory and/or practice too heavily focused on low-level issues to consider the larger perspective? Have developments such as those associated with FRBR and RDA been working toward or against the establishment or application of principles?
I realize there’s a lot to digest in the above, but I would enjoy reading your thoughts.
The full Lubetzky article is available online at the following address: https://www.ideals.illinois.
With best wishes,
Matthew W. Shepherd
School of Library and Information Science
University of South Carolina