Changes to Modern Greek Transliteration Tables sign now

We, the undersigned, protest the new Modern Greek transliteration table mandated by the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/romanization/greekm.pdf) and insist that the changes to transliteration practices be tabled indefinitely. The most significant change involves removing or omitting the romanized h (that represents the rough breathing in the transliteration of polytonic Greek) in bibliographic and authority records for all monotonic Greek but also instructs the cataloger to retain the h in cases where the word is written in polytonic Greek. Thereby, the LC mandate splits Modern Greek publications into monotonic and polytonic subsets, which has serious consequences for library professionals and researchers, such as:

The LC mandate assumes that researchers and public services staff are aware whether modern Greek publications with which they are working or searching are monotonic or polytonic Greek.

The LC mandate will require catalogers and technical services staff to have advanced knowledge of Greek in order to implement the tables properly.

The LC transliteration table offers the following guidelines for identification which may be confusing to most users and library professionals:
Katharevousa, an archaizing form of modern Greek, is written in polytonic orthography. Demotic, the colloquial form, can be written in either polytonic or monotonic. In 1976, demotic became the official language of Greece; in 1982, monotonic became the official orthography.
If it is not evident whether the text to be romanized is in polytonic or monotonic orthography, examine the rest of the item. If that provides no information, consider an item issued before 1982 to be in polytonic, and an item issued in 1982 or later to be in monotonic.

The LC mandate will force researchers to search Greek words beginning with vowels in two different ways: with and without the rough breathing. For example: Hetaireia Hellenikou Logotechnikou kai Historikou Archeiou and Etaireia Ellenikou Logotechnikou kai Istorikou Archeiou. The mandate fails to consider whether researchers will know if a specific item for which they are searching used monotonic or polytonic Greek and/or if the catalog record for a post-1982 item has undergone retrospective conversion.

The LC mandate will necessitate the retrospective cleanup of bibliographic records for Greek publications dating between 1982 and 2010 as well as changes to an even larger number of existing authority files. Otherwise, the mandate creates an arbitrary dividing line between pre-2010 and post-2010 records that will confuse users and library professionals alike.

Retrospective cleanup will require complex machine conversions. Among the possible complications:
o Machine conversions will need to distinguish monotonic Greek from polytonic Greek and from other languages (for ex. parallel titles in English) in bibliographic records.
o Non-filing indicators in the MARC 245 field will need to be changed for every title that begins with the definite articles ο, η, οι, and αι for monotonic Greek publications but left as-is for post-1982 polytonic Greek publications.
o Serials records for Greek publications will need to be split to reflect those publications that switched from polytonic orthography to monotonic orthography between 1982 and the present.

Because of the complications of machine conversion, technical services staff will need to review many physical items and bibliographic records manually.

Libraries with large modern Greek collections are anticipating that such a conversion project will affect upwards of 50,000 titles in their possession.

Presently, many libraries struggle with limited resources. It is likely that most libraries with modern Greek holdings will be unable to participate in an expensive and complex retrospective conversion project. This means that catalog records using the older standards will persist in many catalogs.

The LC mandate includes updating existing authority files to reflect monotonic Greek. The recommendation of LCs Policy and Standards Division is that [authority] headings would be revised as necessary on the first occurrence of cataloging a resource in monotonic Greek. As is the policy (AACR2, 24.2C and LCRI 24.2C), headings romanized from languages having undergone orthographic reform are revised to reflect the new orthography with reference from the form in the old orthography. Delays will compromise the integrity of existing authority files and their value to researchers.

In addition, LCs standards for revised authority files are unclear: For example, the new geographic name authority is Ērakleion (Greece), in place of the older authority Hērakleion (Greece) and selected over the more appropriate modern Greek spelling Ērakleio. Yet, LC retained the h in the authority record for Dēmotikē Pinakothēkē Hērakleiou, because the usage in this 1994 resource is clearly noted as polytonic.

In a time when library professionals and resources are stretched thin and when researchers struggle to navigate an already complex digital world, the LC mandate is imprudent. Not only was there no communication with the community of Hellenic studies librarians and scholars when LC approved the change in the tables in December 2009, but the change is disruptive, confusing, and expensive to implement, with no added value to researchers.

While many agree that the current system of adding the "h" for the rough breathing mark may be an out-dated practice, it is a convention that librarians and scholars have learned to work with and are comfortable using. There is a finite group of words that require the rough breathing: http://www.polytoniko.org/kano.php#dasunomenes. One solution that would be easier to implement is that a similar list could be included as an addendum to the existing table to help new catalogers and users determine when the h should be added. During recent discussions in the Hellenic studies librarian community, a number of other solutions have been proposed, which should also be given due consideration.

As those most affected by the LC mandate, we strongly recommend that LCs new transliteration standards for modern Greek publications be tabled indefinitely, pending further discussions and analysis in the Hellenic studies library community and until such a time that there are funding and resources for the planning and implementation of any national retrospective conversion projects.

Petition co-authors:
Deborah Brown Stewart, Librarian, Byzantine Studies, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library
Rhea K. Lesage, Head and Bibliographer for Modern Greek, Modern Greek Section, Collection Development, Widener Library, Harvard College Library


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Michelle ProctorBy:
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