Bifurcation of our catalogues between RDA-style and AACR-style continues apace. A Queensland colleague, Annette McGrath (Queensland Theological College), raised the question of the 264 $c field for publication date.
In a record she downloaded, the information entered was . In the book itself, the information was clearly given as (c) 2013 and there were no other dates suggested, no reprints or editions. Annette found this “fairly straightforward.” Can anyone tell me, she asked, why it was catalogued with square brackets around the date? She thought square brackets were only used when the date is uncertain. What is going on?
Many, many RDA and other recent records are coming to us with [square brackets] around the publication date, even though the date is stated clearly in the book. In the old AACR Rules, these brackets were only used where no date of publication &c. appeared in the item. Rule 1.4F7 gave several examples of what to do, all of them using square brackets. That was the precedent and all such records pre-RDA stay as such in our catalogue, with square brackets to indicate the date is a calculated guess, or lifted from a source outside the text.
In the old days it was fair to assume that such a presentation may have been made by a cataloguer who did not have the book in front of them, e.g. in pre-publication cataloguing through an agency.
Further notices on e-lists helped explain why bifurcation is active and growing rapidly.
Rebecca Kemble (University of Canberra) weighed in, saying that the brackets are there because the 264 1 is for publication information only. If the book doesn’t specifically state the year that it was published, the cataloguer can use the copyright date but place square brackets around it to show that the date of publication has been inferred. Copyright dates should be put in the 264 4 $c field.
With Annette’s example, the actual publication date of the book has not been given, even though the copyright is 2013 and was no doubt published in 2013. This does seem to break with the convention that a book with a copyright date published in the same year it is being catalogued is, by an astounding process of rational thinking, the year of publication.
RDA’s desire to include the various kinds of dates in different subfields has turned this rather obvious dating process into a rule-bound nightmare. Because we cannot say with 100% certainty that a book with c2013 actually came out in 2013 (though most of them did) we must now place [square brackets] around every instance where only the c2013 is given.
This practice further confuses the average user of our catalogue, not to mention the advanced bibliographer, who will have a combination of AACR dates where the brackets mean one thing and RDA dates where they mean something else.
Whether such rules will compel publishers to state the date on the title page more often is one of those questions we meet in our dreams. Unequivocal expressions of exact date at all times are not the rule in publishing.
In RDA language, the copyright date is a supplied date. While in fact, in vast quantities of books, copyright is the only date from which to infer publication year. It is, however, in RDA terms, not a secure or final date. No wonder there are so many records coming through with square brackets surrounding the date. I do wonder if all those records have given the source in a note.
Since RDA was introduced I imagine a great deal of heat and light has been witnessed on Autocat and other cataloguing lists about this matter, possibly in about equal measure.
Impishly I added on one list, it’s still fun to receive the first book of the new year in the previous year. Brill of Leiden are particularly good at this game and I fully expect the first Brill 2015 book to arrive in about November 2014.