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336, 337, 338

Or, the RDA types Content, Media and Carrier.

In my last post, Systems and Cataloging, Céline and Jason had some quite wonderful and thought provoking things to say. Go on, go read it and don’t neglect the comments this time!

Céline says what I have heard previously (she also says new stuff and states all quite beautifully), that is RDA is geared to separate the rules from the format. MARC is the format whereas AACR2/RDA are the rules. AACR2 bleeds into MARC (or vice-versa) quite a bit and part of the purpose of RDA is to separate the rules from the format.

Except, of course, that it doesn’t. Did you see the title of this post? Are you a cataloger? Your mind went immediately to MARC and the new fields.  Except these are really RDA elements (attributes?) shoved into new MARC fields. Guess what? Many already refer to them as 336, 337, and 338 instead of  “Content, Media, and Carrier types” . This will continue to happen so long as we have MARC. It is the nomenclature of cataloging and has been for quite some time. Vocabulary is quite a powerful thing.

It’s easier to say “245” than “title and statement of responsibility”.  We (that is, catalogers) tend to use the tags to describe whatever rule OR field we’re working in. Jason did it in his comment – he talked about the Desc which is what OCLC calls the 000 (or ‘leader’) position 18. He didn’t say “the descriptive rules utilized to create the cataloging record.” I do the very same thing.

I know we want to separate the rules from the format but it ain’t gonna happen whilst we still talk about it all using MARC tags or OCLC labels instead of the actual name of the type, attribute or element.

And please know, I am not dissin’ MARC. I rather like MARC. I like that I know MARC, I like that is it easy for me as a cataloger to determine what MARC field has what information and where to record the information I gather about the item I am cataloging. But I do recognize MARC has outlived it’s usefulness. When the majority of libraries stopped using cards, MARC was fairly outdated and continued to be so. I know there are better ways to record the information we currently record in MARC – heck I can look at ANY database program and see so much more is available because of the way the data is recorded.

However, I think that until the ILS, Systems folk and catalogers all get on board and all together we create a new place to put the information … well, I just don’t see the change a’comin.  I hope I’m wrong (and I probably am, I’m truly not that bright).

Psst…if you wandered on this post looking for information on how to use the 336, 337, and 338, go on over to the Library of Congress MARC Standards for the 3xx fields. Honestly you should just go ahead and bookmark the Library of Congress MARC Standards page for reference in the future…

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  1. September 28, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Another great post, Carol! When I started cataloging, I saw the rules and the format as two mutually exclusive items – one fed the other, but in a very distinct way. It seems to me now that they are symbiotic, and that records work best when they are symbiotic. I know I might be rehashing this (or really making a mess of it) but if RDA does not see widespread adoption – perhaps the committees should arrive at a place where both the rules and the format are created and introduced together, and are shown as independent but symbiotic items for cataloging.

    Just a thought, but I am not LC!

  2. September 28, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    “symbiotic” – good way to put it. I think I agree. No, I know I do.

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