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RDA blog posts, comments and informal testing

Two blogs posts I read today, plus a comment on one of my posts made me think again. Oh, and the CRCC RDA informal test results – they also peaked my interest.

So – let’s start with Diane Hillmann’s Irresistible Apology of the day. This is part of Diane’s report from her attendance at ALA Mid-Winter this past week. I quote:

I still think that it’s hard to justify the time and expense of the testing that has just concluded, which tests RDA only as used in a MARC environment, not RDA itself.

OK, what? I thought there were test records made using other ‘containers’ than just MARC. So I checked at the Library of Congress RDA test records site, and find the test records are indeed almost all of MARC. Hmm. This changes my opinion. I had thought the test was also testing in other ‘containers’ as the formats have been termed. If RDA is meant to separate the rules from the format … should not the test incorporate as many of these formats as possible? Otherwise what is the point? How is that a valid test for the intent of RDA? Can anyone give me more examples than the 11 MODS records on the Library of Congress RDA test records site? Was a similar test done in Dublin Core? How about RDA work with EADS? What about MARC in XML? Or ONIX?  I have to agree with Diane’s statement:

The result of this from the point of the community has been useful insofar as it has provided an avenue for some initial training and participation, but not so useful from the point of view of really providing any understanding of RDA implementation.

Now look at What’s the point’s RDA and OPACs. Again, I quote:

I think RDA is looking into the future and predicting what we will all want and trying to make provisions for it. We (some of us, including me) criticise RDA because it neither sticks with the standards we’ve already got, nor offers anything our present OPACs can make use of in any kind of a helpful way.

I have to agree again, currently RDA is not being used by any Integrated Library System out there – not to my knowledge. From everything I read and see, the vendors are waiting to see what we want. The latest cataloging modules I’ve seen are all still written so that the cataloger (or clerk or whatever) has to have an intimate knowledge of MARC, not AACR2 and not RDA but MARC. I have the same question as What’s the point”:

What do we want, really really want – something that used to work, something that works now or something that might work in the future?

Finally, James Weinheimer commented on my post Why RDA, revisited.

I still maintain that the RDA folks must demonstrate the business model that will show precisely how things will change for the better: what will libraries get from the changes? I haven’t seen anything at all convincing yet and after all, we’ll still be stuck in the “horse-and-buggy days” of transferring MARC records in ISO2709 format! Why not change that first?

I agree. I think replacing MARC  has real potential for proving a difference and demonstrating the benefits of change.  When we force MARC to try to do what RDA is intending … I think failure occurs. MARC requires quite a bit of handling to making the desired linking/FRBR-like concepts (that RDA is based upon) occur. And please note, I have been of the camp stating MARC is fine but I finally saw the light after a Karen Coyle talk.

After they demonstrate the real advantages of RDA in concrete terms that all can understand, everybody could begin to discuss it, do some research and ask the various groups: reference librarians, selectors, and yes: even the users themselves. Then we may be able to figure out if it is worth the expense and disruption during one of the most difficult moments in the history of libraries–that I can remember, anyway.

You’re right of course James. The actual physical benefit is not clear. I am now at least understanding RDA more – that it is a restructuring and re-wording of AARC2 to try to engage and communicate with Systems and others (that is, not just ‘catalogers’). That RDA is meant to be more flexible than AACR2 as new formats come around is clear. But what is not clear is the benefit to the libraries right now – and let’s be honest, now is what matters to budget.

The results from the CRCC informal test seem to support that view. There are positives but, perhaps it is my reading, it seems the negatives are stronger.  If nothing else, the idea seems to be RDA is not ready – not yet anyway.

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