RDA for Public Services Staff
Presentation for Granite Falls Sno-Isle Library Staff
Renette Davis
March 7, 2013

As you have probably heard, the rules for creating records in library catalogs are changing. The new rules are called RDA: Resource Description and Access, and they are going to be implemented at the end of this month.

The current rules, AACR2, which stands for Anglo American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition, have been around for quite awhile (since 1978), so in 2004 it was decided that they need to be revised. At first the new rules were called AACR3.

A draft was published in 2005 and it was made available for public review. I happened to be on a committee that read portions of the draft and provided feedback, and I have to tell you, I was not impressed with that first draft.

There were actually many people who were unhappy with it, so the Joint Steering Committee, which is the organization responsible for developing our cataloging rules, decided to start all over with a completely different structure. At that point, the name was changed from AACR3 to RDA.

The Joint Steering Committee, or JSC, is composed of representatives of the national libraries and library associations of the US, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. They meet several times a year, often in Chicago, so I had the opportunity to sit in on several of their meetings.

It was absolutely incredible how hard they worked. If you can imagine 10 people sitting around a table, discussing minute details of cataloging rules all day long, for an entire week, you get an idea of how much work went into the development of the new rules.

Plus, there were many individuals who read drafts of each chapter, and provided feedback to whatever committee they were on. The committees then provided feedback to their JSC representatives and the representatives put together all of the comments and took them to the JSC, which then discussed each proposal.

So why did the library community go to all this work to produce a new cataloging code?

Well, for one thing, AACR was written in the context of the card catalog. Some of you are probably too young to remember going to the library, pulling out a drawer of a wooden cabinet, and looking through a bunch of cards in order to find a book, but that's what we did before online catalogs.

The cards were not very big, so many things had to be abbreviated. The librarians knew what the abbreviations meant, but sometimes the customers did not.

Also, in AACR, there was not enough support for collocation, which is the bringing together of like resources, such as all of the books by one author or all of the resources relating to a particular work.

Even though the old rules have been revised several times, they are still inadequate for the description of new types of resources, especially electronic resources, and there is not a clear theoretical basis that would help a cataloger know what to do in a new situation.

So, drafts of individual chapters of the new rules were issued in 2006 and 2007, and in 2008, the Library of Congress, along with the other two national libraries, announced that they were going to conduct a test of the new rules.

They selected 24 other institutions to participate in the test and The University of Chicago, which is where I was working at the time, was one of the official participants.

RDA was published in June of 2010 and the official test was conducted from July through December of 2010. In the first part of 2011, the national libraries analyzed the test results and in June of 2011 they announced their recommendation that RDA be adopted with certain conditions.

One of those conditions was that the bibliographic framework in which library data is stored and shared needs to change. We'll talk more about that later.

In February 2012, the Library of Congress announced that enough progress had been made on this new bibliographic framework that they were going to implement RDA on March 31, 2013.

So, what's different about RDA?

One big difference is that in RDA, there will no longer be a GMD, which stands for General Media Designation, following the title. This is the [electronic resource] or [videorecording] that you see in brackets following the title for those types of resources. Instead there will be three new fields: Content type, Media type and Carrier type.

I don't think this is actually going to make much difference for us at Sno-Isle because Polaris doesn't really use the GMD anyway. You can see the GMD when you look at the Full Display or the Librarian's View, but you don't see it when you get a list of resources after your initial search like in some online catalogs.

Another thing that I don't think will make much difference is that in RDA, there will not be as many abbreviations as there are in AACR2. For example, edition, pages, volumes, illustrations and color photographs will all be spelled out.

After the RDA test, some of the test institutions continued creating RDA records instead of going back to AACR2, so I looked to see if I could find an RDA record in Polaris, and I did find one.

Example #1 is a copy of the Librarian's View for the large print version of "She matters : a life in friendships" by Susanna Sonnenberg. You'll notice in the 300 field (which displays as "Description" in the public view) it says 389 pages instead of 389 p. like it would have done in AACR2.

You'll also notice that edition is spelled out in the 250 for Large print edition. In AACR2, that would have been ed. If you go to the bottom of the record, you'll see the 3 new fields: 336 for content type, 337 for media type, and 338 for carrier type. Since this is a book, the content type is text. Since someone can read it without any special device, the media type is unmediated and since it is a volume of pages, the carrier type is volume.

Another thing which is different about RDA is the "take what you see" philosophy. In AACR2, if there was a typo in the title, the cataloger could have put [sic] after the incorrect word to let people know that this is the way the title actually appeared on the resource. In RDA that will not be done.

Example #2 for Aminal house shows what it looks like now. If this were cataloged under RDA, the title in the 245 would just be Aminal house with no [sic]. In both cases, there is an added entry in a 246 for Animal house, so someone looking for it that way will be able to find it.

This record also shows the GMD of [sound recording], right after the title, which would not be there if this were cataloged under RDA. Instead there would be a content type of performed music, a media type of audio, and a carrier type of audio disc.

Another thing that catalogers sometimes do in AACR2 is add [i.e. followed by the correct word] if something is misspelled. That will also not be done in RDA.

In Example #3, for "Junie B. Jones and the mushy gushy valentime", you can see that the cataloger added [i.e. valentine] after the misspelled word in the 245. In RDA, the [i.e. valentine] would not be added to the title, but there would be an added entry in a 246 for "Junie B. Jones and the mushy gushy valentine", spelled correctly.

Also in this record, you see "ill." beside the 69 p. in the 300 for Description. In RDA, that would be "pages" instead of p. and "illustrations" instead of "ill."

Another change from AACR2 is that there is no longer a "rule of 3". In AACR2, if the resource named more than 3 persons or corporate bodies performing the same function, the cataloger would omit all but the first one and add ... [et al.]. In RDA they can all be named.

Example #4 for "50 years of American sports" shows only James Buckley in what's called the statement of responsibility after the title, but I have the book here, and you can see on the title page that there are actually 6 additional authors. If someone is looking for books by these other authors, they won't find this one because those other authors aren't listed in the record. In RDA, however, all of the authors can be listed.

Again, if this were RDA, in the Description area, "p." would be "pages" and "ill." would be "illustrations". Also, "chiefly col." would be "chiefly color".

One other change from AACR2 is that if the place of publication is unknown, instead of putting "S.l." in the record, like is done now, the cataloger will either guess at the place of publication or will add "Place of publication not identified". Similarly, if the publisher is unknown, instead of putting "s.n." in the record, the cataloger will add "publisher not identified."

Example #5 for "Duvall immigrant" shows what it looks like now with S.l. and s.n. in the 260 for the Publisher, Date area. In RDA, it would be [Place of publication not identified] in square brackets and then [publisher not identified] in square brackets.

It would also not have c1977 for the date. Instead it would either have "[1977?]" in brackets, guessing that the publication date is the same as the copyright date or [date of publication not identified]". In either case, the copyright date would appear as a separate element, either using the copyright symbol or spelling out the word "copyright".

One other thing in this record is that in the 300 for Description, "ports" would be "portraits" under RDA.

These all seem like pretty minor things, mostly just cosmetic. I doubt whether most customers will even notice the differences. So why is there so much concern about RDA implementation?

I think one reason is that under RDA, a number of headings are going to be different. By heading, I mean the official form of a name or a uniform title which is used in the record so that all the works by that person or corporate body or all of the works which have been given that uniform title will be gathered together.

One major group of headings that will be different is for Bible. Now, for example, if you are looking for a book about Matthew, which is in the New Testament, you would look under Bible. N.T. Matthew. In RDA, you will just look under Bible. Matthew.

Example #6 for "Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew" shows how it looks now in the 630 for Subjects. Under RDA, the N.T. will not be in the heading. It will just be Bible. Matthew -- Commentaries.

If a book is only about the Old Testament or the New Testament, instead of looking under Bible. O.T. or Bible. N.T. as you would now, in RDA you will look under Bible. Old Testament or Bible. New Testament.

Example #7 for "Forged : writing in the name of God" shows 4 subjects under "Bible. N.T." in the 630s. Under RDA, each one of these will have "New Testament" in the middle of the heading instead of "N.T."

Another major group that will be different under RDA is for corporate bodies that include the word "Department".

This can be seen in Example #8 for "Washington Department of Ecology publications". If you look at the 710, which is an added entry for a corporate body, you can see that Dept. is abbreviated. In RDA, that would be spelled out in full.

These are the kinds of changes that we will be seeing in the next few months, but the real change is going to be when we migrate from MARC to whatever the new bibliographic framework is.

When we look at the Librarian's View in Polaris, what we see with all the numbers on the left is a version of the MARC record. We have been using MARC since the early 70s for creating and sharing bibliographic records.

The problem is that no one outside of libraries can use our data. People can't just do a Google search and discover that there is a book in their local library on the very topic that they're looking for.

They have to know to go to the library's website and search there in order to find library resources. In order to get library information out on the web where everyone can see it and use it, we have to move to a completely different way of managing bibliographic data.

This is what the new bibliographic framework, which I mentioned earlier, will do. Instead of having a single MARC record for each version of a work, there will be many individual statements about a work, all linked together to provide information about the resources that we have in the library.

This is called linked data, and there are a lot of people thinking about how this is going to work for libraries. I attended the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting which was here in Seattle in January and there were a number of meetings where linked data was discussed. At one of the meetings, Sally McCallum, who is Chief of the Network Development and MARC Standards Office at the Library of Congress, said, "The change is colossal but it will happen."