Wednesday, June 13, 2007

ATLA Day 2 -- Learning to Love RDA

This morning's preconference workshop was Changes in RDA, presented by Judy Knop from ATLA. The following is a summary of what was presented. You can read my complete notes here.

While RDA (Resource Description and Access) was supposed to be completed by now, the development process has been slowed down with a goal of completing the new cataloging rules sometime in 2009.

In her presentation, Judy emphasized that the Joint Steering Committee has four objectives for RDA:

  • Responsiveness to user needs
  • Cost efficiency
  • Flexibility
  • Continuity with existing cataloging practices
During the presentation, I was interested to note, however, how many times cost efficiency is winning out over the other considerations.

Consider a title page like:


RDA requires one to transcribe this title as: 245 $a Christ rucified. There is only one "C" so it only gets transcribed once. In our discussion it was pointed out that, while less likely, it would also be correct under RDA to transcribe the title as: 245 $a hrist Crucified, or, 245 $a Crucified hrist.

This kind of literal presentation of title page text is an example of how RDA is paving the way for automated transcription of bibliographic data by scanning processes. But it seems unlikely to me that any automated scanning process could actually convert the above title into any one of the three examples above. A human cataloger, however, is required to perform this transcription process in a literal-minded way that a machine would be incapable of duplicating.

RDA is also designed to bridge cataloging practices from the text-based to the non-text-based world. Thus the introduction of bibliographic elements such as media type and carrier type to allow for the cataloging of materials in a wide variety of formats. A corollary of this new emphasis on variety is that text-based monographic materials are no longer assumed to be the default. So now the term "unmediated" is going to be introduced as cataloger-speak for books and other print materials. "245 $a Gone with the wind $h [unmediated]" will be the correct way to differentiate Gone With the Wind, the book, from Gone With the Wind, the film [projected], or Gone With the Wind the DVD [video]. In a similar way, carrier types will allow differentiation between such types as audiocassette, online resource, microfiche, videodisc, and -- the new default for monographs -- volume. A 300 field for a typical book will look like:

300 $a 1 $f volume (24 pages, 12 pages of plates) : $b coloured illustrations ; $c 21 cm

The great debate over how to handle uniform titles for Bible books has been resolved: "O.T." and "N.T." are being dropped altogether in favor of directly subdividing by Bible book: Bible. Genesis; Bible. John. Where one is working with the entire old or new testament, it will always be spelled out in full: Bible. Old Testament; Bible. New Testament. And Jewish catalogers have decided not to fight for any distinction between the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament. Jewish and Christian canons will be different, but both will use the simple term "Bible" subdivided by Bible book.

We are still at least two years away from the completion of RDA. How soon it will be implemented will depend on how soon ILS vendors are willing/able to accommodate its changes. Judy commented that she was not aware of any ILS vendors who are currently participating signficantly in the development of RDA. Learning to love RDA is going to be a process, and for many of us, it may be a very long process indeed.

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