Wednesday, August 12, 2009

For Catalogers: - My thoughts on RDA (Resource Description and Access) the new AACR2

American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference, Chicago July 9-July 15 - Report on Pre-conference RDA , FRBR and FRAD : Making the Connection

For catalogers and others with an interest in information organization and access RDA (Resource Description and Access) is the new set of cataloging rules/standards which will replace Anglo American Cataloging Rules AACR2. RDA is based on the FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) and FRAD (Functional Requirements for Authority Data) conceptual models. RDA was developed to simplify the patron’s task in finding, identifying, selecting and obtaining the resources they need in the library’s catalog.

Some perceived advantages of RDA for Cataloging:
· Although RDA is built on some of the key principles of AACR2, it has been described as a more comprehensive set of instructions and guidelines for describing all types of resources – traditional as well as digital and web based resources. Rules for cataloging digital and web based resources were not adequately covered by AACR2. For example, if cataloging Internet resources using the current AACR2 rules a cataloger would need to consult at least 3 chapters in describing this resource. RDA was developed specifically for libraries operating in a digital environment. (A comparison of AACR2 and RDA is adequately covered by Tom Delsey, editor of RDA at the ALCTS sponsored session Look before you Leap: Taking RDA for a Test Drive

· RDA is based on the FRBR conceptual model which emphasizes the relationship between a person’s work, the expression and manifestation of this work and the work’s physical copy (item). This enhances the clustering of bibliographic records to allow for better displays in library catalogs. For example, users will be able to view all the different editions, translations and physical formats of books and other resources in one macro/summary level cataloging record. OCLC provides one example of a catalog which has been FRBR-ized. Another is OCLC Fiction finder

· RDA is compatible with the MARC21 format. This compatibility is beneficial for catalogers as there will be no need to re-catalog older bibliographic or authority records. New fields have been added to the MARC format to accommodate RDA rules for description of digital and web resources: Field 336 (use to described content such as cartographic dataset, cartographic image); Field 337 (used to describe media such as microform, audio); Field 338 (used to describe Carrier type such as audio disc, microform cartridge).

· RDA was developed with input and suggestions from groups within and outside the library community. This allows for the standard to be readily adapted for use by information communities other than libraries. For example, organizations which use and support Dublin Core elements and the ONIX standard (publishing community) in creating metadata can easily adapt RDA to meet their needs.

· RDA emphasizes the rule “take what information you see on the resource you are cataloging”. This is advantageous for automating cataloging workflows. Technical Services departments in libraries can create workflows which utilize automatic machine–capture or harvesting of metadata already embedded in the resource. This is a time saver and can be viewed as more efficient as less time will be spent by catalogers on editing these machine-generated records.

· RDA is being developed as an online, web-based tool with no immediate plans for a print version. As an online product it offers the following advantages:

·The interface can be easily customized to fit specific workflows and to catalog specific types of materials. Additionally, documents with local cataloging rules, policies and procedures can be easily integrated into RDA online.

· RDA will display the current rules and guidelines and the old AACR2 rules simultaneously in a single viewing pane.

· Catalogers can add personal notes and highlight rules useful to their workflow using a personal login.

RDA has not been officially released as a paid for product. October 2009 is the schedule date for testing by different library types in the US. The distribution date for the online product is 2010.

Here is the testing timeline as described by the Library of Congress:
· Test Days 1 through 90: Test partners use this three-month period to become familiar with the content of RDA and with navigating RDA Online.
· Test Days 91 through 180: Test partners produce records in the test and share them with the US National Libraries RDA Test Steering Committee.
· Post-Test Days 1-90: The US National Libraries RDA Test Steering Committee analyzes the results of the test and prepares its report to the management of the three national libraries.
· After Post-Test Day 91: The report is shared with the US library community.
To view more information about the proposed methodology for testing RDA visit

For more information on RDA visit

For an overview of RDA with screen shots of the current version, and to view RDA in VTLS ILS system visit the following URL link to the ALCTS RDA Implementation Task Force session “Look Before You Leap: Taking RDA For a Test-Drive”


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