ALCTS E-Forum on RDA Summary

The moderators for the recent ALCTS e-forum on “Preparing you Library for RDA” were kind enough to create and distribute a summary of the discussions that took place. A big thank you to Chris and Mary Beth for making this information available and overseeing the discussions. For those who didn’t get the summary, here it is.

Day 1 of the e-forum focused on “Administrative, Policy, and Implementation Decisions for Adopting RDA” and “RDA Training and Education”.

Administrative, Policy and Implementation Decisions for Adopting RDA

Many of the participants indicated that they’re not testers and are waiting for the recommendations by the U.S. national libraries following the conclusion of RDA testing.

A few participants said their administration is supportive of investigating RDA at the local level.  Others questioned whether this is the right time to adopt a new cataloging code with shrinking staff and budgets.

There was discussion of using the RDA Toolkit.   A number of participants used it during the open access period.  Some participants were unsure if they could afford the Toolkit, and one person noted her institution may have to choose between Classification Web and the RDA Toolkit.  Others will be considering purchasing the print version of RDA in lieu of the online version.

There was good response to the question [which is paraphrased here] “If your institution is not testing RDA or creating RDA records, what would you like to learn from those who are doing so?”  Responses included:

  • learning whether a common set of best practices evolves from those institutions currently testing RD
  • how will RDA change the way one catalogs using OCLC’s Connexion.  How will it look?  Will templates change?
  • how will RDA affect our copy cataloging practices (if at all)?
  • how one can learn about RDA by being able to base it on what some catalogers have mastered for the last 20 years, AACR2R?
  • concern was raised about the new 3xx fields (336, 337, 338): how to implement, use, and display them in one’s ILS and when they should be applied.

RDA Training and Education

Several participants expressed concern about competing priorities.  Particularly at a time when technical services are being cut at many institutions, it is difficult to justify the expense of learning and implementing a new cataloging code.  Smaller institutions, especially school libraries, articulated concerns about opportunities for training that will help institutions with fewer financial and human resources.

Many institutions said they will not be performing formal training prior to a decision on adoption is made by the national libraries.  Others are taking “learn as much as you can” approach, watching how the RDA testing progresses.

Participants discussed how they’ve educated themselves about RDA.  This ranged from attending conference presentations, subscribing to RDA-L and participating in discussions on lists (AUTOCAT, RDA-L), webinars, etc.  Many participants noted that free educational opportunities are preferable, given the current economy.  Some participants began training their staff on FRBR and FRAD, then moved to RDA.

One institution holds regular weekly meetings to discuss their experiences using the RDA Toolkit and applying RDA concepts.

There was a question regarding shared workflows in the RDA Toolkit, which seems to include people’s test workflows.  The person who raised this question also wanted to know if it’s possible to control shared workflows at an institutional level.  [This question was sent to ALA Publishing and this is the answer that was provided: Workflows can be restricted to private, subscription, or public.]  The Library of Congress is making their sample workflows available so everyone else can see how they’re using the Toolkit.

To limit a workflow, select “share mode” when you’re creating it.  The choices are private, subscription, public. Workflows are available for future use under the subheading “Your workflows” in the Workflows section.

Several current or recent library school students summarized the role RDA has played in their cataloging courses and graduate programs.  Some educators responded, indicating various levels of emphasis on RDA in the courses they teach.  Catalogers and administrators wrote that exposure to the theoretical/conceptual models behind the rules — FRBR and FRAD in particular — is appropriate, and that hands-on training for applying RDA could be provided on the job.  Also noted was that for new catalogers, RDA could be the only standard they knew. A lot of training is focusing on the similarities and differences between RDA and AACR2, but what should education and training look like for those who haven’t cataloged before? The importance of including some GSLIS programs as part of the U.S. RDA test was emphasized as a mechanism for other programs to learn from their experience.

Day 2 of the e-forum focused on “Impact of RDA on Systems & Vended Processes” and “Assessment of RDA Metadata”

ILS vendors and how they’ve prepared to accommodate the transition to RDA

Participants responded about their about their respective vendors.  It was noted that initial implementation of RDA within our current cataloging infrastructure based on MARC should only be considered the first step in the transition.

There were questions raised about a number of systems and the majority of responses were about Sirsi/Dynix, ExLibris, Innovative, and there was a response about Polaris. Information about individual ILS vendors is based on responses provided during the e-forum, so libraries who are customers of a particular vendor are encouraged to contact them for additional information.

Sirsi/Dynix:  Will begin working to update their ILS systems to support RDA and FRBR.    Symphony customers have customized format policies and it’s not possible to load a new version of the policy tables.   They are required to add new fields to 9 bibliographic format policies and (up to) 14 authority format policies.  Many Sirsi libraries have limited index keys available for indexing of new fields.

ExLibris: ExLibris updates the tag tables periodically with releases of the software especially when there are major releases, although individual libraries can update their tag tables as needed.  Individual libraries also control their own OPAC displays.

Innovative: Innovative has provided a FAQ about RDA for customers.

Polaris:  Will implement RDA on build 4.4.

A question was raised about how RDA will work with finding aids.   The Archivist’s Toolkit was cited as a means for creating EAD finding aids and mapping them to MARC.

The role of reference and public services personnel in assessing the a value and benefit of RDA

One respondent replied that patron feedback should be considered since catalogs are useless if they don’t enable patrons to locate what they’re seeking.

Public services’ input was also noted as they serve on the front lines.  A good deal of cataloging treatment is determined by input from public services.

Types of things that should be included in RDA testing

In regards to testing, responses included:

  • ease of finding items and employing different search strategies.
  • How easy it is to find an item.
  • Try different search strategies and see how well they pull up the desired results.
  • Have patrons try to find the items and see how well they do.

There was discussion about consideration of non-MARC schema being included in RDA testing.  It was reported that institutions are also testing Dublin Core, MODS and MARCXML.

Although the following topics were discussed on Day 1, and there was additional discussion (provided below) on Day 2.

Potential authority control conflicts between AACR2 and RDA headings.

Although authority control was discussed on day 1, there was a good deal of discussion of this topic on day 2:

Concern was raised regarding authority conflicts for subject, name, and title, particularly during transition from AACR2 to RDA, particularly the potential for the revision of abbreviations to wreck havoc on existing authorized forms of headings.

The difference between RDA’s ability to control headings and current practices were discussed.  RDA will enable catalogers to record data more precisely in a manner that will help differentiate the names of people and agencies that currently are chiefly differentiated by heading strings.  The promise of linked data to streamline workflows and to provide disambiguation pages to provide differentiating data for names was also discussed.

Desire for a clearer vision of how AACR2 authorities and RDA authorities relate to each other was articulated.   [In the days following the e-forum, LTI posted a statement to their website regarding RDA implementation and LTI’s services.

Training tips

A discussion of training tips, which began on day 1, continued on day 2.  Respondents noted that they have created RDA records in their test systems, have held regular meetings at their institutions, and have taken advantage of presentations, web sites, etc. to stay informed.  Adam Schiff’s documentation and LC’s Policy Statements were cited as helpful resources.  One respondent noted her institution is examining RDA core elements in conjunction with LC Policy Statements.


Links to resources cited during the course of the e-forum discussion, as well as others, are provided below:



FRBR blog

Joint Steering Committee for the Development of RDA

Presentations on RDA

RDA-L (discussion list)

Library of Congress

Documentation for the RDA (Resource Description and Access) Test (includes the timeline for testing, test partners and select partners: systems, rules, formats)

LC RDA test examples

North Carolina State University RDA training documentation

OCLC’s “About RDA” page (RDA resources and RDA-related resources from OCLC, including the policy statement on RDA cataloging in WorldCat)

RDA in MARC (May 2010)

Schiff, Adam Changes from AACR2 to RDA: A Comparison of Examples

Shrader, Tina. “ Overview of the U.S. RDA test”

University of Chicago Library

Davis, Renette, “Preparing for RDA testing at the University of Chicago”,_June_28#ALCTS_CRS_Continuing_Resources_Cataloging_Committee_.28CRCC.29_Monday_Update_Forum

Resource Description and Access (RDA) Testing at the University of Chicago Library


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