RDA Salon Notes

RDA vs. AACR2: Implications for Social Justice, Featuring Rick Block
Monday January 11, 2010 (Notes by Jessa Lingel)

Rick Block introduced himself and his role at Columbia, provided a brief explanation of the handouts and proceeded to layout an introduction to AACR2 and RDA. Key points from the discussion follow.

  • AACR2 was published in 1978, delayed for two years because research libraries reacted to the number of changes.
  • One issue is how to decide what to teach (in terms of cataloging courses in MLS programs)
  • RDA – delayed to 2010 (which includes six months of testing, so really 2011)
  • 1994 – joint steering committee decided there should be a conference on standards, code
  • 2004 – first draft known as AACR3 – revision was required because it was seen as a reordering of rules rather than substantial revision or revolution. After protest, code was renamed.
    • Name may have changed, but Anglo-American influence/bias was still present
    • Trying to be a code based on the big picture (wants to be a content standard applicable beyond LIS)
    • Tied to future of cataloging (and question of will data be shareable)
      • Golden age of cataloging is over (according to Cutter) in 1904
  • FRBR – familiarity w/ FRBR is required for understanding RDA
    • Critics say it’s untested
    • Created in 1998
    • From IFLA, international organization taking the lead in cataloging standards
    • Entity relationship model
    • Mantra = find, identify, select, maintain
      • Too linear? Do people really search this way
    • FRBR is a model, not a code – based on relationships and so is RDA
      Question – how does this relate to subject headings? Is it more of a taxonomical relationship?
    • This is a step in the direction towards that direction.
      Question – Could LCSH be imported into group three entities in FRBR model
    • Ideally, yes, could allow for more complex relationships
      Question – What is the relationship between RDA and MARC?
    • The can coexist, but it will require new MARC fields. MARC will survive, but it may not be the structure standard for all that long.
      Question – Can MARC records be imported to RDA?
    • Yes, which is good for legacy records, but it means carrying over bad standards. Barbara Tillett at LoC is supportive, but can’t enforce change at LoC.
      Question – (regarding group one entities in FRBR) When is something a work versus an expression?
    • Refers to handout. In FRBR, there are families of works. RDA wants to represent relationship that exist in libraries but are not reflected in the catalog. Collocations would be by work, by expressions to work. Benefit to users include placing a hold higher on the FRBR hierarchy, assuming user doesn’t care about which edition/expression of a monograph s/he needs.
  • Libraries have information worth sharing – they should be supplying bibliographic information places like Wikipedia.
  • Group 2 entities in FRBR – more flexible for cataloging authors, author information
  • Group 3 entities in FRBR – subjects
    • Central idea of FRBR is collocation. Hopefully a work can be described once and then expressions/manifestations/items associated with that record
      Question – at what point does FRBR lose something through individual institutions using their own criteria?
      • Only 20% of works have more than one work, one expression. Model can be used in multiple ways. You’re using FRBR when you say you are, basically.
        Question – What’s in it for archives?
      • Archives are so individual. Advantage in FRBR as far as looking at groups of records rather than items.
      • FRBR helps with context, which is critical to archives
        Comment – FRBR is flexible, but it’s untested. MARC was so limited, FRBR offers more possibility. But with the impulse to link to everything, and needing to create records for all authors, seems like a lot of (front end) work.
        Question – how will MARC and non-MARC records be linked in a single catalog?
      • Short answer, it won’t. Catalogs are about MARC records, but that ill have to chance.
    • In terms of authority, records right now are just for disambiguation. Archives have great data and context, but cannot be shared.
    • Some developments include
      • Zine rejected as a genre term in LCSH
      • RDA is getting away from abbreviations, which is an Anglo-American hold over
        At this point in the discussion, people were invited to discuss articles they’d read related to RDA and AACR2.
        Comment – OCLS is preventing RDA from moving forward by ignoring it, preventing records from being stored. OCLC is anti-open source, constitutes something of a monopoly. Libraries need OCLC support – if OCLC isn’t behind them, it will be hard to implement RDA
    • It’s still unclear how OCLC and vendors will react to RDA.
      Comment – Perhaps we’ll see a movement similar to the iSchool movement where programs adopt RDA irrespective of OCLC.
      Comment - Martha Yee article – RDA abdicates responsibility for display and indexing (in favor of description). RDA needs a lot of work, semantic web isn’t there, AACR2 is broken.
    • Perhaps, but RDA may be a bridge.
      Comment – In terms of taking a historical perspective, the sense of urgency is perhaps overstated.
      Question Michael Gorman says RDA is craziness (pdf). What’s the deal? What is RDA?
    • Gorman gets a bum rap for being a luddite but at time’s he’s had other attitudes. He was an editor of AACR2, has concerns about throwing away ISBD. His basic stance is to be wary of throwing away 150 years of cataloging practices.
      Question – What exactly is being thrown away?
    • 8 areas of description, but more importantly AACR2 depends on format, and we need to get away from that. Resources are now “moving targets.” AACR2 is not only based on card catalogs, but on cataloging books.
      Question – In terms of RDA in the 20th century, expectations of users are different. RDA won’t resolve the problem of connecting users with resources. What do new descriptive tools mean for OPACs at non-research libraries?
    • There are practical benefits for patrons, users don’t care which manifestation, they care about the expression, sometimes the work.
      Question – What about libraries with users who have very specific needs (they do care about the manifestation)?
    • Current standards help users find specific things RDA shouldn’t change that.
      Question – is Anglo American resistance to RDA about giving up control?
    • Maybe. If it’s implemented, it’ll be run by a committee with a decidedly Western bent. Also, Dublin Core elements are still incorporated.
      Comment – So non AA participants are asked to implement but not contribute.
    • There’s been some progress as a community (example of non-Roman characters). In terms of developing nations’ implementation, important to point out that RDA will not be free.
    • RDA will happen because
      • ALA needs to recoup its investment
      • Some people really want it to happen
        • Germany
        • Canada
          Comment – Seems like some software is already being developed on the assumption that RDA will happen.
    • That’s required for testing.
      Question – how international is IFLA?
    • It’s mostly Europe, but also China.
      Question – what aspects of cataloging relate to issues of social justice?
    • It’s mostly a matter of subject headings. But even in descriptive cataloging, what gets included, what doesn’t has implications. RDA wont’ so much change that, although it raise the question of personal archiving.
      Comment – Given experience in training people in MARC and individual searching versus institutional searching, it’s hard to see those changing.
      Question – are there demographics for support of RDA?
    • Anecdotally, older catalogers are hesitant.
      Question – what is the role of objectivity in cataloging?
    • Particularly an issue in archives, perhaps, which are often more willing to situate personal bias or context.
      Question – what is the different between striving for objectivity versus not even trying?
      Comment – at least in providing context, it situates vocabulary.
      Question – seems like a lot of the frustration about RDA is that it’s about principles, but it’s hard to implement. What is the crux of implementation?
    • URI will be for individual works, creators. Disambiguation will still be a function if not the focus.
      Question – what about web real estate? How do you determine authority?
    • Names are non unique, even an issue in the non-library metadata world. Wiki disambiguation is better than cataloging.
      Question – how will RDA help or hurt zines?
    • It’s an issue in archives, there are advantages to putting zines in a traditional catalog.
      Comment –RDA allows for faceted, layered records, links to other records.
    • Some communities, like Germany, are way ahead on this.