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RDA out there on the webs

Jen over at the Celeripedean has a most excellent post about RDA. Go read it. I’ll wait here.

I could not agree more with what Jen has posted. Or, as I have been telling classes for the last two years, DON’T PANIC (and no throwing in the towel, you should always carry your towel).  You need to be aware of RDA, you need to understand the ideas and concepts but do you need to know the nitty gritty? Maybe not.  I think there are at least three major factors that will greatly effect (and affect) your library and whether it can/will go to RDA:

  1. What are the USA National Libraries doing?
  2. What are the ILS vendors doing?
  3. How much can you pay?

So let’s take these in turn.

What are the USA National Libraries doing?

They’re testing RDA. You can learn about the testing and get their materials by going to their website. A beautifully organized site too! As Jen points out on her lovely post, the USA National Libraries have stated they will not make a decision on switching to RDA until early 2011 (Beecher Wiggins stated at ALA 2010 that the decision will be made prior to ALA 2011, possibly in April or May).

If you, like most USA libraries, obtain the majority of your bibliographic records from a USA National Library (whether you go direct to the library or via a bibliographic utility), this will matter to you. If the USA National Libraries go with RDA then your library must make the decision to go RDA or obtain your records elsewhere or convert the RDA back to AACR2 or have a mixed catalog.

What are the ILS vendors doing?

Has your ILS communicated to you what is planned in the way of updating your system to accommodate the needs of RDA? Will it cost $$$ to get these updates or is it part of your continued  contract? Will they aid in converted dated/obsolete MARC field tags to the newer versions? Will that cost $$$?

If your ILS vendor is not planning for RDA or if it will cost $$$ to update your system, can you go to RDA? Probably not.

How much can you pay?

This is a biggie. RDA toolkit is not cheap, well, not in comparison to the old print AACR2 books. At last look the AACR2 books cost $90. This is generally a one-time purchase. RDA Toolkit has a variety of costs, based on access.  It is also a continuing cost since you are ‘subscribing’ to it rather than owning it.  Can your library afford access? What about training? You will need to train staff to utilize the new tool as well as the new rules. And don’t forget the potential costs in your ILS updates.

What do you need to do now? Keep an eye on RDA, watch and see what the USA National Libraries are planning. Check with your ILS vendor to see what is planned.  Start listening to some of the free (and almost free) webinars out there. Jen’s post lists a ton of great options for you.

My opinion? I wishy wash back and forth on this, I don’t know what will happen. I think change is needed but I think change is more essential in the systems than in cataloging rules.  I think we need to (as so many Greats have said) “free the data”.  I think there is a ton of information that is not being utilized in our systems already but since (in general) systems people do not know or understand MARC, they are not utilizing it.  From my perspective, whenever I have discussed with systems people the wealth of data they tend to be amazed.

Funny. Traditionally in libraries the disconnect is between Reference and Cataloging – we have all heard the commentary on that Great Debate (and are we not amazed that it is still going on?). But truly the disconnect seems to be between Systems and Cataloging. These two, even more than Reference/Cataloging, need to get along and discuss what exists and what can be done with it. If your Systems person doesn’t know what is in the record or where it is, how can that Systems person add that to the search or display?  Sigh. Another discussion for another day.

  1. September 17, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Interesting – I have recently started having some thoughts/conversations where I definitely see a crucial disconnect between systems and cataloguing, sadly.

  2. September 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks Céline and thanks for the link to your blog, http://thingblogging.wordpress.com/, which I’ll be adding to my list.
    “Crucial” disconnect, that is exactly right. There is a problem here and if we are going to improve our catalogs, we’d better figure it out because it will not matter how many neato-keen things we add IF our systems people do not know/understand and use it.

  3. September 20, 2010 at 8:37 am

    I feel like catalogers in larger institutions are really losing ground – I see few jobs out there, and I hear many large academic and public libraries now outsource their cataloging. That scares me – how can someone unfamiliar with your users generate good, useful, tailored metadata? Ugh.

  4. September 20, 2010 at 9:45 am

    @ Jason, I agree. I think there are many reasons for that however. Catalogers do not advertise themselves very well – we are the ‘stereotype’ in the library (introverted, change resistant, and quirky … with cats). The Metadata message really needs to get out there. More articles like Laura Miller’s http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/09/09/google_books/index.html will help but catalogers too need to break the stereotype.

  1. September 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm

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