Resource Description and Access (RDA) Update Forum

The RDA Update Forum was organized by the Cataloging and Classification Section (CSS) of the Associations for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS). It was held on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008 at 10:30am in the Lecture Hall of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It featured 3 speakers: Beecher Wiggins (from The Library of Congress), Marjorie Bloss (the RDA Project Manager) and John Attig (the ALA representative to the Joint Steering Committee).

Wiggins presented the response of The Committee of Principals for the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules and Resource Description and Access to the Library of Congress’ Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control. CoP disagrees very strongly with the Working Group’s recommendation to suspend work on RDA pending further testing of the FRBR conceptual model. CoP recommended that LoC continue offering input on the development of RDA, as starting a new FRBR study group from scratch would be both more expensive & less efficient than continuing work with RDA. CoP also noted that LoC’s potential withdrawal from the project could push back RDA’s release date even further.

Bloss gave a report entitled “RDA activities since June 2007”. The biggest development appears to be the drastic restructuring of RDA, including the release of new chapters and sections dealing with choice and form of entry (previously RDA part B). It was also announced that CogniLore Information Solutions had been selected as the vendor to develop the software for the RDA online product. The product is not yet available for public testing, but it is reputed to be both robust & highly customizable. An ALA RDA Implementation Task Force has also been established, to deal with training, continuing education, and coordination between institutions in RDA implementation. They are planning a program for ALA Annual 2008 in Anaheim. It seems inevitable that even experienced catalogers will require some training before full adoption of RDA. No one knows what form that training will take yet; much of it may be online. Bloss closed be encouraging interested parties to stay up to date on RDA between conferences by routinely checking the JSC website at

Attig gave a report entitled “RDA : a new cataloging standard for a digital future”. RDA as currently structured will allow any of 3 implementation scenarios: flat records (with all group 1 entities described in a single composite record), composite bibliographic records (with authority records representing each entity), or separate descriptions for each entity (with linked identifiers to show relationships). Examples were provided as part of his handout, and will hopefully be online soon. The reorganization was explained as an attempt to more closely align RDA with FRBR & FRAD. The most recent iteration of RDA has 10 sections, consisting of 37 chapters (not counting the 13 appendices). Sections 3, 4 and 9 are currently under review; the final draft is expected in July 2008. Attig agreed with Bloss that implementation would be difficult, but he focused more on the conceptual challenge of writing good rules that would be timeless and not bound by format.

The question, [comment] and answer session was very lively. General concerns were the death of LCRIs (in favor of local rule interpretations), the cumbersome nature of the print version of RDA, enticing early adopters to implement RDA and provide feedback to more cautious institutions, the role of OCLC and vendors, the incredibly dense prose style of RDA, and the impact of RDA on cataloger productivity. Most of the answers boiled down to “we don’t know”, “we know”, or “we’re trying”, but it was interesting to gauge crowd reaction to each point. My ears tell me that catalogers are excited about the idea of RDA, but feel that it will take years (decades?) to digest properly.

NRMIG blogger: Richard N. Leigh

This entry was posted in ALA Midwinter 2008. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Resource Description and Access (RDA) Update Forum

  1. Brenda Lacharite says:

    I need information concerning how the adoption of RDA will impact the field of cataloging, especially regarding ILS systems, MARC and patrons.
    Brenda Lacharite

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