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RDA – draft and cost

RDA-L has a lovely discussion on what is a “draft” of RDA and what is “actual” RDA. I do love stimulating list serv ‘discussions’.

The “draft” messages actually start with a post by Adam L. Schiff (a response to a post by J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, all covered in Adam’s post):

It is incorrect to refer to the “present draft” of RDA. It’s not a draft, it’s a published work. Granted changes and refinements will be made, but it is as much a final work as the first edition of AACR2 was, which one would not also refer to as a draft.

Comments on that comment were many – how do we refer to the current iteration of RDA? Since it is designed to change and evolve, each moment the text has the possibility of change so how do we refer to right now in RDA? Oh yes, of course, one assumes that before changes are made announcements go out allowing the text will change at X time on Y date. But I haven’t read of any schedule or time frame specifying “Each Tuesday at 3:00 AM Lost City of Atlantis Time, we will change the wording of section 3.4.5 subparagraph 6”. So, it is logical to assume changes can occur at any time without prior notice. Thus creating this conundrum – how do we refer to the current iteration? “At 6:03 and 23 7/10 seconds AM Utopian Time, section 5.3 sub-subparagraph 23 stated [blank]”.

In the ‘actual’ RDA thread a post, Mike Tribby stated (go to the post itself to read the entire message):

…if RDA is to be a success, it is not and never has been the intent of the co-publishers to make RDA available for free or anything like free. In fact I daresay it has been understood from the beginning of this process that RDA was intended to pay for itself. It’s not a secret, though it’s also not the first thing the RDA crowd mentions when touting RDA.

Should cost of access and the possibility of universal access have been concerns? I think they should have been– but they were not. To perhaps put it crassly: theoretical purity was a higher concern than access. It’s hard to blame the co-publishers very much since none of them are exactly rolling in
extra money, and this process has been expensive, but some of us have been complaining about the assumed cost of subscriptions to RDA for some time now.

I’d like to emphasis this point.  RDA is not free – neither the creation nor the ongoing evolution are ‘free’.  The pricing does put it out of the reach of many libraries, we are not a rich profession and technical services is usually on the short-end of the budgeting. The reality is if RDA is implemented as The Rules, many libraries will use things like Mac’s cheat sheets or an RDA For Dummies book or simply copy another record and make guesses (what many do now in their own catalogs – copy and guess).

The cost of change is many – we have the actual cost of the product, we have the cost of training/learning, we have the cost of on-going purchase and training/learning … and we have the cost of not  changing. That is, as we move forward without change, we become less and less relevant in the world of today and perhaps, tomorrow. Which cost do we choose?

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  1. March 21, 2011 at 8:38 am

    If you treat RDA like the integrating resource that it is, then you cite the date viewed. Much like you would cite any web resource in pretty much any citation format, actually. You include where (what site) and when you viewed it to provide context. Since the “official” RDA is (rightly or wrongly) only available via the ToolKit, we can assume the where, so only the when would be necessary.

    Presumably (hopefully), like MARC, there will be numbered integrated updates. So you could refer to RDA update 1 2011 or update 5 2013.

    As for the cost, I’m not sure there is an easy solution. Some bits of it are free, and some are not. You can’t please (or meet the needs) of everyone all the time or you’ll go insane.

    Personally, I think the cost of NOT changing is the most severe. It will affect our entire profession and push us, as metadata and information professionals, into obsolescence. We have needed to change since the mid-1990s, and we, as a profession, are slow to change. So we have to suck it up and deal. There will be more changes to come, and they will be equally or even more costly (migrating from MARC, for example, is going to rock even the most financially stable institution). The only way forward is through, no matter how rocky that journey may be.

  2. Paul
    March 21, 2011 at 10:46 am

    What’s the very definition of illogical, in my opinion? Publishing a standard as an integrating resource.

    We work from ANSI/NISO Z39.19 for controlled vocabulary construction in transportation to develop/maintain our thesaurus, and we work pretty confidently that the ANSI/NISO folks won’t spring a major change on us without notification. Changes to the FRBR documentation are clearly stated on the IFLA page, with date of amendment. No mysteries at IFLA/ANSI/NISO.

    Why is RDA so different from this model? A standard that allows for change, maybe big, maybe, small, and in some unknown frequency seems to me like a house built on shifting sands.

    2. What I think is needed for RDA is a good ROI analysis. Strictly speaking, that would mean putting a value on every variable of cost and return. There are some obvious known costs for RDA implementation, but it was pointed out on the RDA listserv that putting a value on the benefits of RDA implementation isn’t possible.

    I think we can present some solid, immediate case examples for benefits of implementation, even if they don’t have a dollar amount attached, and I hope that’s what we see in the national testing report this summer. Local example: at an RDA presentation, our reference librarian picked up on the fact that with RDA implementation we’ll be using relationship designators. Her opinion is RDs will immediately benefits students and faculty. I’ll add RD for corporate bodies will allows us to more accurately build the bibliographies of works completed that are required for research performed under federal funding.

    What’s not helpful? Future talk like “we’ve got to change, we’re already dinosaurs, and/or there’ll be scary consequences ahead.” That’s not helpful to management. Solid examples are.

    • March 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      To respond to your comment number 1 above:
      But RDA isn’t a standard in the traditional ISO definition. It’s not going through the standard vetting process. It’s a set of guidelines and instructions. There are many many options that allow for implementation at a variety of levels and different types of institutions/systems. It’s meant to be fluid and flexible, while still using as it’s base a set of core elements necessary to make a resource (resource meaning pretty much anything you can think of) uniquely identifiable for both a human user or a machine user.

      So yes, it is an integrating resource that (hopefully) will respond to the needs of the users as the world of information grows and changes.

      There are elements within RDA, such as the vocabularies (including relationship designators) that could be considered standards (or standard vocabularies, as they are being registered by Diane Hillmann), but RDA as a whole is not a “standard” in the true sense of the world and was never intended to be from what I understand.

      As for comment #2, ROI isn’t possible as long as we’re implementing RDA in a MARC environment. Many of the true benefits of RDA (such as those relationship designators), are not fully realizable in MARC or in our current systems. A second fundamental change has to take place to move us into a more flexible structure for the RDA data that will allow for full implementation and use of RDs and many of the other RDA vocabularies.

  3. Paul
    March 24, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Comment #1: RDA as a standard: the ISO definition of a standard is just one of many out there. If RDA calls itself a standard, it is a standard. If the developers intended it not to be so, they shouldn’t have included that language. Also, RDA did in fact go through a multi-year vetting process in its protracted development stage. Actually, RDA is now in yet _another_ vetting stage–the period between the end of the U.S. national test and the announcement by the national libraries.

    The fact that RDA doesn’t function anything like a standard, and as you say, is fluid and flexible, is precisely its weakness. The RDA options present a real dilemma to my library. We’re a special collection within an PCC academic library, so we’ll adopt RDA along with the other PCC libraries, and follow their set of options. On the other hand, we’re part of a tight-knit community of subject-specific libraries. We rely heavily on each other’s original cataloging–it comes from no other source. Should that community decide on its set of RDA options?

    Do you side with your parent institution, or do you stay closely integrated with your special library community?

    Comment #2: For the libraries I work closely with, they’re outside of academia, and ROI is _mandatory_ for even the smallest expenses. $150 for cataloging documentation at these libraries? That’ll be a big “no” from management for many.

    Going back to the problem of RDA in the MARC environment–this is is just the kind of theorizing that’s fine in an academic library, but is absolutely pointless for other library communities.

    What’s my hope here? That the U.S. national test report will include non-theoretical, non-futuristic ROI-esque examples that will make a good business case for RDA adoption for those outside academic libraries.

    • March 24, 2011 at 10:22 am

      Thanks Paul (and Shana for keeping the conversation going).
      I could not agree with you more with regards to the $$. Further, it is not affordable by the masses, even if there was an ROI.
      Can you expand a bit on the statement “Going back to the problem of RDA in the MARC environment–this is is just the kind of theorizing that’s fine in an academic library, but is absolutely pointless for other library communities.”? I’m not sure I understand it correctly.
      Regarding RDA “standard”, I see your point and can see the very real issues could evolve from the situation.

  1. March 23, 2011 at 6:16 am

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