RDA overview


Here is a summary of RDA’s Cataloguing Rules and the Solo Librarian presentation on October 19, 2011 by Mark Rose of the Intergovernmental Committee on Urban and Regional Research at a Special Libraries Association meeting.

First some background: AACR2 was cancelled in 2005 as major cataloguing changes were needed. RDA was designed for digital world. It is intended to combine digital media with dictionary catalogue. It is an acronym for Resource, Description and Access. There are core elements and options elements.

RDA has a database approach to the bibliographic record, so it relates to authority data as well. One needs to understand the principles of FRBR (Functional requirements for Bibliographic Records) and FRAD (Functional Requirements for Authority Data) for using RDA. Some new concepts introduced including subjects, which AACR2 did not address.

  • Group 1 entities: Works, Expressions, Manifestations and Items
  • Group 2 entities (responsibilities): Person, Corporations and Families
  • Group 3 entities (subjects): Concepts, Objects, Events and Places
  • FRBR is based on User Tasks: Find, Identify, Select and Obtain

There will be longer records because of new concepts. Some new changes with RDA include, previously there was general material designation,  but now 3 types replace that:

  • content
  • media
  • carrier

Some other major changes: No more rule of 3 for authors ; list all authors which is good for legal libraries. Enter information as found like 2nd edition not 2nd ed.  And don’t correct spelling with [sic] and don’t alter punctuation. Ultimately this will be easier to catalogue as not following obscure rules, but individual records will have more characters, then the file sizes for the catalogue will increase potentially having implications for slower search speeds, according to Rose.

There is an RDA toolkit as well. A workshop held regularly called RDA Essentials is free and open to everyone to support transition to RDA. RDA Toolkit Essentials debuts on November 16th returning live webinar every other month, intended as resource for those needing an introduction or a refresher on RDA Toolkit and its features. Thanks to Amra Porobic of Insurance Bureau of Canada for pointing it out.

ILS vendors: Sirsi is working on RDA enhancement. But Inmagic currently has no RDA plans and a library would need to commission as a project, and for some 3rd party resellers, Andornot out of British Columbia, RDA is not on their radar. World Cat has some test RDA records and potentially Library of Congress does too. Amicus at National Library of Canada is also studying RDA.

Breaking news:  Library of Congress concluded its investigation and saw potential incompatible issues with MARC. And they go one step further by not supporting at this time and call for re-imagining MARC too.

RDA is official as of now, but not implemented and embraced by library community as a whole. University libraries appear to support it. For example Daniel Paradis at Concordia University has training materials showing RDA and AACR2 side by side. This will help put RDA into context. It is an excellent resource.

The future for cataloguing is as murky as reading tea leaves as RDA potentially means less standardization across catalogues,  more potential for errors with more information, and ultimately are the users needs served by more information?  I leave the last word to Mark Rose who asks: “RDA works in theory but does it work in practise?”

– Brenda Wong


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