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Cataloguing principles, data, and catalogue features. Some reflections from IFLA ICP revision

By Agnese Galeffi

Abstract

The International Cataloguing Principles are currently being revised by IFLA’s Cataloguing Section. The group dedicated to carrying out this task is composed of Dorothy McGarry, Elena Escolano Rodriguez, Maria Violeta Bertolini, Bobby Bothman, and Agnese Galeffi. Rather than a radical revamping of the text, the revision is a relatively minor one.\ud Even if it seems a little paradoxical, the principles of cataloguing have to be updated in concomitance with the changes that occur in the functionality of catalogues. The aim of this presentation is to remind that principles, data, and the functionality of catalogues constantly exert a reciprocal influence on each other.\ud The title “Cataloguing principles, data, and catalogue features” juxtaposes three different elements: Principles (of cataloguing), Data, and the Functionality (of catalogues), but in reality this juxtaposition isn’t so bold. The section headed “Scope” in the 2009 ICP tells us that “The principles stated here are intended to guide the development of cataloguing codes. They apply to bibliographic and authority data and current library catalogues.”\ud \ud Can it be possible that the principles are a “guide to the development of cataloguing codes” at the same time as being applicable to both data and catalogues? In order to effectively fulfil the role of a guide, principles should tend towards generality and universality. How, then, can it also possible to utilize them to assess two products of cataloguing work – data and library catalogues – which in turn are (also) composed of such data?\ud \ud Cataloguing can be considered a phenomenology, which is to say a description of phenomena: the way in which a reality manifests itself. In fact, we can regard both resources and entities (to adopt FRBR terminology) as phenomena.\ud To gain a better insight into the revision of 2009′s ICP, it might be useful to ask ourselves exactly what, in a general sense, principles are. Well, it’s interesting to discover that they can actually be two different things, depending on whether you chose to interpret the term from a philosophical or scientific viewpoint.\ud The concept of a “principle” first emerged in the ancient Greek between the 7th and 6th centuries BC. The philosophers Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes spoke of an αρχή (archí), meaning “principle, beginning”, in their effort to identify the primordial substance from which all things originated. This chronological precedent also served a benchmark of value. Thus the term αρχή took on the more general meaning of “foundation” or “raison d’etre” in an essentially ideal, intrinsic sense. The Oxford dictionary defines “principle” as “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning.”\ud \ud In the realm of the natural sciences, however, the term “principle” refers to the (more or less) universal methodological laws that the said sciences have to obey within the structure of their respective doctrines. These principles are based on experience; they are, in fact, generalizations of more specific laws.\ud \ud So, to which of these two categories do cataloguing principles in fact belong? Are they philosophical or scientific principles?\ud \ud In order to be philosophical principles, they would have to be representative of a basic principle underlying everything; they would have to be intrinsic and universal in nature; they would have to belong to cataloguing per se, be at its core, be its very essence. But can this really be possible?\ud In order to be scientific principles, they would have to be derived from generalizations drawn from practical, real life experience. In the FRBR – one ICP’s basis –, when addressing the “recommendations for a basic level bibliographic record”, we are informed that “the assessment was based in large part on the knowledge and experience of the study group members and consultants, supplemented by evidence in the library science literature gathered from empirical research, as well as assessments made by several experts outside the study group”. I would like to underscore the terms evidence, empirical and assessments, all of which refer to the perceptible, phenomenological world.\ud If a principle is derived from a vast amount of experimental experience, it follows that if that experimental experience changes in some way, then the principle (or principles) will also change. The principles we’re concerned here with are closely bound to the cataloguing experience, which is aimed at creating research tools. Changing the descriptive experience – what is described and for whom – should necessarily result in changes in the underlying principle or principles

Topics: IA. Cataloging, bibliographic control.
Year: 2014
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.rclis.org:22745
Provided by: E-LIS
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