Article Summary for Lecture #6- Wajenberg

Wajenberg, A. (1989).  A cataloger’s view of authorship. In E. Svenovius (Ed.), The Conceptual Foundations of Descriptive Cataloging, pp. 21-27.  San Diego: Academic Press.

What constitutes someone being an “author”?  Does it apply only to the person who creates a new work, or could an author also be someone who compiles multiple articles, books, etc.  into a new work, commonly known as an anthology?  Authorship is a simple concept that wouldn’t normally be thought of as debatable.  However, in the world of cataloging and organization, defining who an author is can be both difficult and frustrating.  Arnold S. Wajenberg dives into this issue (with, as he says, “trepidation”) and discusses some of the different views of authorship.

Wajenberg uses two cataloging theorists who have dealt with this issue in the past-Lubetzsky and Carpenter. Lubetzsky defines an author as someone who “produces” a work, but his definition isn’t complete because authorship can also include different versions or add-ons of the same work.  Carpenter, however, uses the examples of “multiple” and “diffuse” authorship.  This is where translations and screen adaptations of certain works come into account.  So many changes can be made to an original work that the changes become “bibliographically significant”, which is why this topic becomes so important to catalogers.

However, new problems are now emerging for defining authorship: computers.  Wajenberg gives an instance of a computer program that “authored” a book.  It created the book, but there were two men who created that computer program,; one of the men wrote the introduction for the book.  Wajenberg mentions that The Library of Congress uses the title as the search entry, which avoids the problem of author categorization altogether, but there is no entry for “Racter”, which is the name of the computer program that created the book.  He proposes that a possible solution to this problem would be to include in AARC2 a section about computer programs as authors.

Wajenberg’s main point, however, is shown when he gives his own definition for authorship: “an author of a work is a person identified as an author in items containing the work, and/or in secondary literature that mentions the work.”  He also notes that the identification of the author can be anywhere in the work, but it is best to have formal identification to make it clear for the cataloger who the author is.  Authorship can be attributed by association; therefore, the computer program Racter is very clearly an author.  On the other hand, the cataloger must too be able to have the knowledge to locate the author in non-formal identifications in order to properly organize the work.

Arnold S. Wajenberg’s article is outdated for today’s use (as it was written in 1989), but has many good points and brings to light some of the problems and struggles in the library world.  He seems wary of the future of computers and programs, but has very credible and thought-provoking suggestions with how to handle the future of bibliographical organization.  He also makes it clear that a large responsibility rests on the shoulders of catalogers- they are the non-biased organizers of the bibliographic world, after all.  Wajenberg has a good command of his audience and uses clear, concise language to prove his point.   Finally, “A cataloger’s view of authorship” carries with it a sharp wit, and that is something that I think we could all appreciate when debating a subject as dry as authorship.

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