Experiences transitioning to RDA
The British Museum has recently switched from Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2) to Resource, Description and Access (RDA) in a hybrid-catalogue intervention.
Alan Danskin, Collection Metadata Standards Manager at the British Library recently presented to the Association of Pall Mall Librarians on the introduction of RDA. He pointed out that for many; RDA was created due to the perception that AACR2 was not fit for purpose. This is because it has not adapted well to recent changes in user expectation and technology where information in presented on different platforms such as the web. Therefore, managing the cataloguing environment has become increasingly complex and the metadata captured needed to change.
There are free online training materials and webinars available for learning about RDA. However, the main issue with implementing RDA in small libraries or museums is that there are not many training courses or advice available. I have only come across the ‘RDA in a day’ course offered by the BL. As many will know this became very full, very quickly! Alan stated that the course was success and would run again possibly this year.
For those who have recently been to library school, you may be aware of the inner workings of the RDA Toolkit. However, this resource, vast as it may be still requires a subscription. Furthermore, it does not provide a business case for the idea of implementing RDA into your library. For example, the costs in planning, systems configuration and loss of production due to the impact of training staff. However, Alan did stress the long-term benefits in better services and discovery through metadata presentation and thus better catalogue user experience.
Luckily for me, the plan for switching to cataloguing records in RDA was well underway before I began working at the British Museum. The ability to have healthy discussions with several qualified librarians in the workplace has been valuable, especially when I have had multiple arising questions. The need for an experienced trainer to whom I can directly engage with has been much more preferred than wading through pages of the toolkit. I also believe that it has increased quality assurance and reduced erroneous cataloguer judgement while cataloguing. For example, we have discussed and agreed on local practice for 300 field physical description in the 'color' or 'colour' argument, choosing the former. We have also decided to limit the statement of responsibility in the 245 field to 6 authors before stating [and others]. The first entry being added to 1XX fields and the other 5 entries to 7XX fields.
My biggest challenge so far when creating RDA records has been authority control and collaborators. It is always difficult to know which authority you are dealing with when names appear in non-roman language scripts that are no present in the Library of Congress Authorities. I will definitely be working on these aspects of cataloguing with RDA throughout the next few years. Especially as Alan Danskin stated to the horror of many at his presentation, that "as it becomes more difficult to deal with legacy data and incorporating identifying entries in MARC, the future of cataloguing is likely to not be MARC format". Therefore, it is becoming a growing necessity for cataloguers to get to grips with RDA, its core elements and structure based on the conceptual models of FRBR (functional requirements for bibliographic data) and FRAD (functional requirements for authority data).
For those who do not have subscription access to the RDA toolkit and simply want an introduction to RDA practice, it may be best to invest now in the new publication 'RDA essentials' by Thomas Brenndorfer. It is available at Facet Publishing for £69.95 (£55.95 for CILIP members). For those who are debating whether to switch from AACR2 to RDA, Anne's Welsh book on 'Cataloguing and Decision-making in a Hybrid environment: Transition from AACR2 to RDA' is out in August 2016. I am definitely looking forward to her suggestions on support for cataloguers during this whole process.