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5.6 The cataloguing of AV-media

Rainer Hubert, Österreichische Phonothek, Vienna

Paper presented to the Cataloguing Open session at the IASA/IAML/IAMIC Conference in Helsinki 1993

A working group for cataloguing was formed recently within IASA and this may be the occasion to give a short glimpse of pertinent activities in Austria, for this new working group is not so much a beginning but rather the consequence of efforts reaching back many years. The members of this group have been working together in another committee for AV-cataloguing rules for a rather long time and have come to similar views towards cataloguing. Therefore it seemed logical to go on and further with discussing the problems of AV-cataloguing - even after finishing the mentioned rules.

So when reporting about this cataloguing group of AGAVA I will rather speak about ideas, concepts and plans, not so much about a group of persons.

The first systematic attempt to come up with cataloguing standards for AV-media in Austria was made in the middle of the seventies. Under the auspicies of the Austrian standards institute some AV-archivists and quite a few librarians came together and devised provisional cataloguing rules. They were derived from the model of libraries rules or rather overshadowed by them. The AGAVA protested and suggested some changes and I was asked to articulate our objections and it ended as things like that very often do: I was invited to join the group and my involvement with rules work began. Meanwhile some other "AV-guerrillas" also entered the group and so the outlook changed a bit. New aspects were brought in: for example we added a new field in the bibliographic description - a field to contain all data relating to the creation of the medium. That is, this new field aimed at unpublished material, for which of course no publication data would exist. This was necessary, because there was one - in my eyes very wise - starting point of the rules, that they should concern themselves with published as well as unpublished material. How difficult this is and what problems arise especially when dealing with unpublished media we only realised in the years to come. - Nonetheless we reached an end at last and - after "pre-rules" in 1979 - the ÖNORM A 2653 - let's call it the "first" ÖNORM" - was officially approved in 1983. It left a lot to be desired, but was on the other hand a first step in more or less the right direction.(1)

Some years later a revision of the rules was necessary, mainly because so many new media had come into being and they had to be included. The working group of the standards institute met again - and this time there was a higher percentage of contributors coming from AV-archives. At first we were not entirely sure if it would make sense to go on with the work, because we saw, that the existing "first ÖNORM" was not applied very much and that the catalogue practice of several AV-archives and mediathèques differed widely. We were not sure, if it would be possible to bring all the necessary factors under one heading.

When we started at last, we were convinced, that only substantial changes - not only adding some new media - could make the revision worthwhile and only then it would be possible to meet the case. It was far from easy to find new solutions and it was especially difficult to attain concord in the main points of our reform. It was a very time-consuming process which involved endless discussions, even quarreling, coming up with new ideas, leaving them aside the next time and devising new ones, producing version after version of a rule or of parts of it. It was stressful, sometimes boring, quite often fascinating. It is strange, that such a remote subject as cataloguing and its very esoteric details can produce such vivid discussions and stir up so many emotions. But it did it alright!

In the end, after years, in 1991, we had new, "second", ÖNORM A 2653 - and we had found a particular outlook on cataloguing. We had come to a common position agreeing about the main points - more or less.(2)

All problems however are not solved with one cataloguing standard and we felt, that we should go on with the exchange of opinions, with the discussion of experiences with the new rules and of basic questions of AV-cataloguing. The rules work as such ended, but we decided to continue meeting within AGAVA on an informal basis.

Before paticularizing let me summarize the main points of the standards, or the main ideas of our group. It has to be a :

1. Multimedial approach, based on a special concept of the term "audiovisual"
2. Comprise published as well as unpublished material
3. Include elements of the content analysis in the bibliographic description
4. Aimed at computer cataloguing, that is omitting some old traditions of librarianship.(3)

Back to point 1., the multimedial approach. - The reason for coming up with rules for all AV-media is twofold - practical and philosophical:

a) Most of the institutions using AV-media have to catalogue more than one kind of medium. It doesn't make sense to employ two or even more different cataloguing rules for different kinds of AV-media in one institution.

b) The basic similarities between different kinds of AV-media are overwhelming: AV-media are analogues of optical and/or acoustical processes or situations. These analogues are produced by machinery. What constitutes an AV-media is not so much the fact, that most of them need technical equipment for their reproduction, but that they need it for their coming into existence, for their production. So the AV-media in the full sense are sound recording, film, video and photography. Practical reasons suggest however, that media like the overhead transparency should be treated analogously.(4)

When defining the range of cataloguing rules for AV-media this also should include some concepts about the position of AV-media within the bigger frame of the information media as such, that is their relationship to printed matter, paper records and so on. One has to think about the different models, which librarianship or archival science offer. I cannot go into this in full length. Only one remark, which is very important to me:

There is a term, a concept, often used, especially by librarians, which I detest: Non-book-material. This term includes a kind of division of the information media as such: on one hand printed matter on the other the "rest", all other media. The term combines extremely heterogeneous material. It makes things unclear and sounds racist to me: on one side there are the "whites", the books, on the other all other races, respectively media, the "Coloured", the "Non-book-materials". This is particularly absurd, because books make the most special field of the information media: media, styled by the publishing process, which gives them unique hallmarks. When dividing information media into book and non-book-material we measure the very general - all media without books - by the very special, the printed matter. This invites disaster in the long run.(5) Therefore when coming up with our multimedia rules we had also to tackle some very basic questions. Having said this I have to confess, that this is my special interest or hobby-horse and not all of the members of the group will feel so strongly about "non-book-material".

This diversion should not be misunderstood: we did not look for such basic questions: we were driven to discuss them because of the practical problems encountered.

Now a remark about some regulations which seem necessary to us, when comprising different kinds of AV-media or other different media in one catalogue. There is of course one field for a detailed technical description. But this is not enough. The kind of of AV-medium in question have to be given as a final last point of the title proper as such. Only then will the user know with what kind of medium he/she is dealing with, when reading a list of short titles: Macbeth [tape].

Point 2.: The ÖNORM includes published as well as unpublished material. - Cataloguing rules for published AV-media do not abound, but they exist. For example RAK (Rules for the alphabetic cataloguing) - on which ÖNORM A 2653 is based in several respects - also contains special rules for published AV-media. These rules however not only exclude unpublished material, they are also made from the point of view of libraries which also have to deal with "non-book-material". So they follow too closely the model of the cataloguing of printed matter. That at least is my opinion. AV-archives cannot apply these rules anyway, because in their holdings, published as well as unpublished material is mixed. It was our wish, that they all should be treated by the rules in order to enable us to make one catalogue for all our holdings. As far as I know ÖNORM A 2653 is the first cataloguing standard to give the same weight to unpublished as to published media.

The main problem of that approach is, that you have to make provisions for very different needs. You have to bring together the outlook of an AV-librarian who is only cataloguing for example music-CD's and the point of view of a cataloguer in a research archive for example cataloguing stills of burning volcanoes.

With this we come to the next item:

Point 3: Special requirements for unpublished material, that is including content in the bibliographic description.

When dealing with unpublished media you have to give a lot of data yourself. No publisher puts data onto the carrier which you have only to transcribe in a particular way. You have to give a title, a subtitle etc. by yourself.

Some special problems occur when dealing with unpublished recordings which are not works. What do I mean with that? A work is the final product of a often long process of forming and styling. The author, the publisher, are giving it a particular form. In a work not only the content counts, but also the form - and it is the form, which is used for the bibliographic description. A lot of unpublished recordings - I call them "documentary recordings" - are not works in that sense. They record something which is not shaped for being recorded. They record independent processes. - A typical work would be a disc of an opera, a typical documentary recording would be a tape recording of the street noise on the Ringstraße in Vienna on October, 3rd, between 9.30 and 11 o'clock. In one case - the opera - mainly formal data are catalogued, in the other case nearly only the content itself is catalogued; the noise as such is described. This means that the classical division between bibliographic description and the later analysis of the content is not applicable for our needs. I should explain here, that this division is very important and strictly executed in Austrian libraries, especially in the big ones. The formal cataloguing, the bibliographic description, is done by cataloguers with a high school background; the analysis of the content comes later, sometimes weeks or month later, and is only made by cataloguers with an academic background.

One area, where this division is especially unwise is in the author field. Normally here only persons taking a part in the creation of a work and in its publication are mentioned: the author, the composer, the translator, the singer etc. But what is to be done with documentary recordings, for example the filming of an every-day-live event? What is to be done with John F. Kennedy when cataloguing the famous amateur film of his assassination? Following the classical division between formal cataloguing and content analysis "Kennedy" would be a subject heading and this subject heading would be given only after the cataloguing. We thought that it is much better to combine this, that is to include "Kennedy" in the bibliographic description as such. We managed this by creating a new class of persons playing a role in relation to the recording: "Akteure". By this we mean persons or beings recorded in acting on their own. "Akteure" do not act because they are recorded. They follow motives of their own. Coming up with this category of persons, animals or even things is a kind of a trick: it enables us to include "hidden" subject headings in the bibliographic description.

Not only tackling documentary recordings is tricky sometimes; some other types of work can make trouble too. I will mention here a problem not dealt with in the ÖNORM - as I said the ÖNORM is only a beginning. Some recordings have, so to say, different levels, different strata of works - a work within a work within a work. This is true with books too when you take into consideration that they have the level of the author writing a literary work and the level of the publication of the already existing literary work, which leads to the work in its printed form. But these are only two strata and they are very easy to discriminate. No user has problems to differentiate between the author and the publisher in the catalogue entry. But think of a case like this: a play which is performed in a theater and, at the same time, is recorded and broadcast by a televison company some days later; this transmission is then recorded by an audiovisual archive. This makes a big bundle of data which has to be brought into the catalogue in a way that makes clear what refers to what. There are lots of persons referring to different work strata; there are different dates and so on. This is not very easy to solve and no patent solution exists. To discuss problems like that it seems important to me that our group goes on with its work.

Point 4. Our rules can be used for conventional card catalogues. We have some special requirements for that. Basically however we aimed at computer cataloguing. So the order of the fields is of secondary importance. No heading is necessary; we need not trouble ourselves with the question of whether the recording will have its entry under the heading of the author or the title (for example in the case of anonymous works). All entries are made under the title.


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