Yesterday I attended the RDA briefings from test participants session at ALA Midwinter. I only caught the tail end of Beacher Wiggins’ update from the Library Congress, but as I understand it, LC will announce their decision regarding the results of their testing of RDA by Annual, if not sooner. One thing Beacher said struck me: regardless of the decision, we live in a world of mixed data and will have to get used to it. Of course, that’s been the status quo for years, if not decades; RDA is now just the latest player in the metadata standards dance. At least one major academic library test partner has already made its decision about adopting RDA; Christopher Cronin from the University of Chicago, reported that the catalogers there made a unanimous decision to continuing cataloging in RDA after the test is completed.
Besides Christopher, several other test partners relayed their experiences: Penny Baker from the Clark Art Institute Library, Richard Hasenyager from the North East Independent School District, Kathryn La Barre from the UIUC GSLIS program, and Maritta Coppieters from Backstage Library Works. Here’s my idiosyncratic summary of the tester’s experiences:
- Changing to RDA won’t be the end of the world.
- Everybody is continuing to work in a MARC framework; the testing group has not been experimenting (or had time to?) with alternative metadata carriers or frameworks beyond some tests of creating Dublin Core records.
- The testers who work with authority records seem to universally like the new RDA fields.
- Nobody is mourning the passing of the rule of three.
- Nobody likes sticking both the publication date and the copyright date in the 260$c.
- The RDA Toolkit, as a software tool, is still a work in progress. Some like it, some don’t.
- A clear understanding of FRBR is required for understanding RDA. During the Q&A, there was a discussion in the audience about training current catalogers; the consensus seems to be that it is difficult to teach FRBR to catalogers steeped in the AACR2 language, and much easier to explain FRBR to library school students. Is this a sign of a generational divide?
I was very sorry that none of the public library testing partners gave a briefing. However, I think Richard Hasenyager’s conclusion about when and if the NE ISD will adopt RDA applies to many public libraries: the ISD is willing to adopt RDA, but they can’t do it by themselves; the systems and materials vendors need to have full support for RDA records before it is economical for the school district to proceed. If libraries are to shift from AACR2 to RDA, this must be addressed. There is already a divide between academic and public library catalogers; having academic libraries do original cataloging in RDA while public libraries copy catalog using whatever records they can get (thereby adopting RDA by default without necessarily being fully invested or trained in RDA) would not be an ideal outcome.