The Ink of the Pen of a Scholar is More Precious than the Blood of a Martyr

View full image The Trouble with Islam Today, by Irshad Manji

Irshad Manji presented at the early Saturday morning plenary at OLA 2008, and she concluded with this saying from the prophet Muhammad:

“The ink of the pen of a scholar is more precious than the blood of a martyr.”

In her youth, Irshad Manji rebelled against the doctrinaire teachings at her madrassah in Burnaby B.C. She was eventually kicked out of her Saturday morning school for Muslims because of her questioning of the teaching that women were inferior and that all Jews were greedy. Seeking answers, she went to her public library and learned about early Islamic history. She was amazed to discover that the history of early Islam featured strong women and liberal thinking on many topics. Libraries as the guardians of diversity and promoters of equitable access to information were extolled as very important in her struggle to come to terms with her identity as a Muslim woman.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the recognition that some things are more important than fear.”

A key moment in Manji’s life was when she interviewed Salman Rushdie a few years ago. Since Manji had been vilified and threatened for her views, she had asked him how he could wish that life of fear on others. Rushdie’s response echoed the saying of Muhammad. In a free society, using our voices is not just a right; it is a responsibility.

When her book was published there were requests to have it translated and distributed over the Internet so that it could reach readers in the Middle East. The book was banned in some countries, but the Internet could allow people to access it in PDF format and to read it in relative security. From a cataloguing perspective, I thought this was a remarkable example of the benefits of the updated cataloguing rules since effective bibliographic control of translations and books in multiple formats is a big challenge– one that FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) and RDA (Resource Description and Access) attempt to deal with.

My next session was RDA: The Inside Story. RDA is the name of the new cataloguing rules that are to be published in 2009, although they are surrounded by some controversy and requests to do more testing of the underlying data modeling called FRBR. RDA will be a web-based tool, but it will be published in print too (although it is becoming massive in size– much bigger than AACR2 is now). RDA will be published incomplete as well. Subject headings will be incorporated later. It will also be translated, and a shorter version will be published eventually. The prototype of the web version may be available for CLA in May, but it will most likely be available for IFLA in Quebec City in August.

Other important tidbits:
– there will be an AACR2-RDA index
– training plans are underway
– the price for RDA will be based on a sliding scale based on the size of the library

I picked up another acronym to follow: IME ICC– the International Meeting of Experts on an International Cataloging Code. The last meeting was in August 2007 in Durban, South Africa: The final statement of this group will be released at IFLA in Quebec City in 2008. An excellent paper that explains the use of FRBR in the cataloguing code can be found here:

Pat Riva, a Canadian now at Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, is the current chair of the FRBR Review Group, the IFLA group that maintains FRBR.

The main RDA web page is at:

I also spoke with Tim Knight of York University. He keeps a blog that covers cataloguing issues at:

SCATNews is the newsletter of the Standing Committee of the IFLA Cataloguing Section.

IMAG0029.jpg Here I am at OLA 2008.

IMAG0028.jpg Cathy Taylor, a librarian colleague from the Guelph Public Library, attended a number of sessions on Friday.

My last session of the day was called It’s All About Access: How Technical Services Puts Users First. Two librarians from the University of Western Ontario discussed the problems and issues of cataloguing in today’s environment. There have been many changes in Technical Services over the years. In the past, Technical Services departments were huge because of the need for typing and data entry, and there was more original cataloguing. Today, cataloguing is more akin to systems work, with batch loading and processing of records, integrating metadata for electronic resources, and sharing and collaborating in a worldwide network. In the past, cataloguers took pride in constructing the perfect record; now, getting the records out fast and providing access as soon as possible is more important. In the case of e-resources, access is now instantaneous as soon as a record with a URL appears. The rush for quantity has put pressure on quality. Less information however also affects access in that there are fewer keywords and access points in shorter records. Therefore the reliance on derived cataloguing (even waiting a while until a fuller record appears) is considered indispensable. The few professional cataloguers left in a university environment do what little original cataloguing still needs to be done, and they do authority work as well (even with outsourced authority work, a lot of cleanup work is generated).

Software to check out: Carolina Barcode Font and CUFTS ( CUFTS is an open source OpenURL link resolver designed for use by library consortia. It was designed at Simon Fraser University. MarcEdit was touted as well.

Many sessions at the OLA 2008 conference also plugged Tim Spalding’s LibraryThing. Small departmental libraries even use it for their inhouse OPACs. LibraryThing has done interesting work with FRBR and social networking data. (

Classification added to MARC records for Knowledge Ontario database titles was discussed. One library added classification numbers for e-resource records in order to gather collection development statistics. However, adding class numbers is time-consuming, and the University of Western Ontario sacrifices the resulting statistical data in order to get the records out and speed up access to the electronic resources.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s