Saturday, November 23, 2013

Why RDA?

Why RDA?

Let’s first encounter head-on the questions from those who ask:
“Why we don’t just amend AACR2 again, like we used to?”

To address such questions, we need to:
  • Examine the current cataloging environment -- and how it continues to evolve
  • Perceive how Resource Description and Access (RDA) is an improvement over AACR2 as a tool for that environment

The Cataloging Environment

Catalogs are no longer isolated within the walls of an institution. Bibliographic data from any source can now be integrated into the wider Internet environment. New kinds of links can be made, and new displays can be generated for users from data packaged in new ways -- all of it on a global scale in multiple languages and scripts. These can be called ‘linked data systems.’  We now have the technology to provide global connection anywhere that computers can operate.  That includes the digital connections of cell phones or smart phones with Internet connections to link to any user -- any place -- any time.

The information systems and content in the future will be accessible on the Web. The elements that describe our resources will be available to libraries and users everywhere in the world through a Web front-end that connects users to services and data. That data may come from publishers, from creators, from libraries and other institutions … or from anywhere.

Actually, bibliographic data and digital resources are already on the Web, and we’ve started adding the controlled vocabularies from libraries to help identify resources. RDA enables us to identify all the identifying characteristics of all the things we have in our collections, in ways that machines and the Internet can manipulate for more useful displays for users.

Our entire cataloging environment continues to evolve:
  • It is increasingly Web-based.
  • We need to catalog a much wider range of information carriers than we did in the past.
  • We need to deal with many more types of content and complexity of content in the resources that we catalog.
  • Metadata is now created by a wider range of people, who have a wider range of skill levels -- not only by skilled professional catalogers, but by support staff, non-library staff, vendors, wikipedians, and also publishers.  Some of us are using structures other than the MARC format for our records (e.g., using Dublin Core for some digital resources).
And we now have access to descriptive data for resources in digital form – even when the resource is in standard book format, the descriptive data is now available from many publishers using ONIX, which is information we can capture for our bibliographic records.

In the digital world we sometimes find that basic bibliographic description is an integral part of a digital object - the software that helps create the digital object or digitizes an analog object, automatically provides a basic set of metadata, that is attributes or data elements.  Think of how the software for word processing, like Microsoft Word, suggests a name for your document based on the first words you type (ironically the “titles” for early manuscripts were the first line of text, too!)  Or how it can automatically provide the date you created the document. So we can envision the automatic creation of some of the bibliographic information our cataloging systems can capture, saving the cataloger’s time.  RDA builds on this to emphasize transcribing what you see for the basic elements of bibliographic description (‘the representation principle’).

A key aspect of this new “Semantic Web” environment is that it is built on element-based metadata schemas and vocabularies -- and that is exactly what RDA delivers.

The Problems with AACR2

During the 1990’s there were many complaints about how unsatisfactory AACR2 was:
  • “It has become increasingly complex”
  • “There is no logical structure”
  • “It mixes content and carrier data”
  • “Hierarchical and other important relationships are not adequately addressed” 
  • “It reflects an Anglo-American centric viewpoint” 
  • “It pre-dates the FRBR entity-relationship conceptual model”
  • “There is not enough support for the ‘collocation’ function of cataloging”
  • “It did not foresee the Internet or the existence of well-formed metadata or vocubularies”

[Source: Library of Congress]