Descriptive Standards Roundtable @ UKAD Forum 2014
Thanks to everyone who was at the UKAD Forum on 27th March 2014 for a really good day, full of many different views on and ideas about standards. Thanks, in particular, for all your input into the two activities DSR set up during the day. Here is my attempt to describe and summarise those activities, but please feel free to jump in with your own views on them in the comments below.
The first activity was a request for feedback on the following questions;
- Which standards do you use?
- Are there any standards you would like to know more about?
- Do you think it is useful to add controlled access points (index terms)? Do you have any comments on this?
- Do you have any comments on standards? Are you confident using them? Are they important? Are they tricky to use?
And here are the responses.
- ISAG(G) was the most commonly used standard, closely followed by ISAAR(CPF). Honourable mentions also went to a whole raft of other standards including; MARC21, AACR2, LCSH, RDA, NCA Rules, EAD, METS, MODS, Dublin Core, ISDF, SPECTRUM, PREMIS, EAC and UKAT.
- EAG was the standard that the most people wanted to find out more about, but there were also calls for more information on RDA, RDF, PREMIS, MODS, DDI and EAD. Reading these lists, we can perhaps all sympathise with the comment made that “This Forum is a riot of acronyms! I don’t know what most of them mean!” On which note, don’t forget that one resource to help with this is the Section for Archives and Technology’s Guide to Standards which can be found here. Take a look and if the standard you want isn’t there, why not let us know and we will see what we can do. This question also led to a comment about an ‘accession standard’ and the question of why there wasn’t one, which engendered considerable debate. What do you think? Should there be a standard for accession records?
- Overall the consensus seemed to be that it was useful to add controlled access points. Comments included the following; “It helps users find what they want and explore different themes”, “essential, especially if unable to provide detailed item-level cataloguing”. It was also noted however, that it was difficult to know how many index terms to use and to what level to apply them, and that subject indexing was difficult to implement consistently. Again, please let us know what you think, or, if you want to get a better sense of indexing, check out the UKAD Indexing Tutorial at http://www.ukad.org/UKAD-Indexing-Tutorial/
- There were loads of comments here as you would imagine. A number spoke about the issue of inconsistency or flexibility in the application of standards and the degree to which this negated some of their usefulness in ensuring consistency of practice. Others raised many of the issues, which are already listed in the DSR issues log, such as the NCA Rules and non-Western names, the question of cataloguing born digital records, the value of the hierarchical approach to cataloguing in a digital environment and so on. What though should we be doing about these issues? How can we collectively address them?
The second activity was the slightly madder Mass Metadata Mapping Movement. Everyone attending the conference was given a label with the name of a data element on it. To make things simple(?) these elements were drawn from only three standards; ISAD(G), PREMIS and ISO 23081-2. Attendees were then asked to find other elements to which they might map themselves. This proved more difficult than it sounds and when, at the end of the day, attendees were asked to sit on one side of the room with their ‘maps’ or the other side if they remained unmapped, the vast majority of the elements remained lonely hearts. An interesting finding then and one that you might like to explore further by considering what it means for the coherence of what we do, when metadata standards for archival description, digital preservation and recordkeeping would appear to be fairly incompatible?
So, thanks again to those who took part and we hope you enjoyed yourselves. Then again, whether you were there or not, please let us have your thoughts on this and on standards and descriptive practice more generally. Questions too are welcome and we will do our best to answer them.