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Promises, promises

RDA (Resource Description and Access) is being developed to update and replace AACR2. This began life as AACR3 but the name was changed to remove the Anglo-centric view (which is interesting, given the make up of the Joint Steering Committee for the Development of RDA aka “JSC”). Development for the new standard began back in 2004. Since that time many, many statements have been made then retracted then made anew then retracted then revised then…you get the idea.

The latest news is that RDA will be released in June 2010 (perhaps June 1, perhaps June 20, perhaps June 30 but certainly June 2010).  It will be released as the “RDA Toolkit”.  I disremember the source but on one of the lists in one of the recent discussions on RDA, someone said something to the effect that “RDA Toolkit” implies the rules are subordinate to the tools.  True. It does imply RDA is readily available elsewhere and this is a kit to use in conjunction with the rules. Or so it seems to me…

Pricing information was also released for the “RDA Toolkit”. Discussion erupted on AutoCat and other list servs regarding the pricing scheme. The vocal consensus has been dismay over the cost of RDA, citing this would be outside the ability of most libraries. Concerns over the ongoing cost of the online RDA versus the one time cost of AACR2 print editions were also noted.

In fact, the print issue (a pun!) has been on the floor for quite some time. Early on, RDA was to be available in both print and online versions. Later it was stated that perhaps concise versions of portions of RDA would be available in print.  At ALA in Anaheim (2008) the print versus online was addressed in a meeting. An ALA member reminded the JSC that a print edition was promised and in fact, that promise was still on the JSC website at the time.  A representative from ALA publishing emphatically stated no print edition would be forthcoming. Eventually the reference to a print version was also removed from the JSC website.

Because of all the changes, it is perhaps easier to understand why I was disremembering a meeting at ALA in Chicago (2009). I had thought I’d heard that perhaps the RDA rules or definitions or schema would be available for free whereas the online tool to utilize RDA would not.  I inquired on AutoCat (look in the AutoCat Archives for February 2009 Week 2, subject “RDA Rules Availability”).  Several people posted responses.  John F. Meyers stated:

I do not think this was ever on the table as a long-term option for access to the rules.  Under heavy pressure from various audiences for stand-alone products however, there was mention last year of the possibility of a one-time purchase of a fixed, flat version of the RDA rules — no updates, no tools, minimal linkages — basically an e-book. That possibility seems to be off the table for the present.  The registries of the vocabularies, which are being developed separately by parties outside of the Copublishers, should be freely available, if I recall and understand things correctly.  

And that was what I had disremembered. It was all clear again and I thanked John for his remembrance.

Troy Linker from ALA Publishing also responsed. He apologized for possible confusion for past statements…well, here, this is a clip from Troy’s response then a great response from Kevin M. Randall. Kevin says what I would say but much better:

Troy Linker wrote (and mind, this is a small clip of his statement, go to AutoCat archives as noted to read the full post):

I apologize if some statements made in the past were confusing, but it was never the intention of the Co-Publishers to communicate that we could make the full text of RDA available without a subscription.

Kevin M. Randall’s response:

This is not entirely accurate, depending on how far in the past you’re talking about.  While I never heard anything, at any time, even giving a vague hint that the rules would be available at *no charge*, from the very beginning it was being communicated that RDA (formerly AACR3) would be a product available in both online and print versions.  Gradually the print version was downplayed, but the idea of at least a stand-alone ebook was still being talked about by ALA Publishing, available for purchase; whether or not updates would be available was undecided.  But then as time has passed, history has been rewritten by ALA Publishing, as in the quote above (and earlier statements by Don Chatham, Associate Executive Director).

I have no doubt that the online RDA Toolkit will be the easiest, most effective way to use RDA.  But at the same time I also have no doubt that there will be people who need access to RDA but will be unable to use it in the online format.  However, being familiar with the drafts, I know that a print or ebook version would be *very* large and unwieldy (I have been told by colleagues that using the drafts to perform actual cataloging is *extremely* difficult).

Something in print *will* be needed; no one seriously thinking about this can honestly conclude otherwise.  But what that print something will be, when it will be available, and for how much, is now anybody’s guess.

Others on AutoCat in other threads have posted concerns about RDA.  I share those concerns. Do I think AACR2 needs to change? Yes. My  concern on RDA, however is that what I have seen has been riddled with errors and notes to indicate entire chapters will be written later AFTER the rule are released and in place over AACR2.  Yes, we need to get this out. Yes, we need to change. Yes, things such as the “rule of three” should have been abandoned long ago (and was, at least in my library) but to move to something that is far more difficult to interpret than the pedantic AACR2? Something that is priced beyond the means of the vast majority of librarians? Something that is incomplete at best?


UPDATE: posted May 13, 2010 (yes I am late to do it as the announcement was on April 28, 2010): 

PRINT! WE HAVE PRINT! We don’t know what print will cost or if updates are included but, by golly, print will exist! And other exciting offers … Check out the RDA Toolkit Solo-User Pricing, Double-User Offer, and RDA Print announcement from ALA Publishing to learn more.

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