Sources of Information in Resource Description and Access (RDA)


The AACR2 concept of “chief source” has been replaced by the RDA concept of “preferred sources.” This is not only a change of term but also reflects RDA’s expansion from a single source to multiple sources for information. The preferred source of information is still the source where you find the title proper. For most elements, RDA gives you permission to take information from any source, with the choices given in a priority order.

If data is taken from outside the resource, it is enclosed in square brackets. For some elements, the data can come from “any source”; consult the ‘sources’ instruction for each element, or 2.2.4. 
  • Exception: when cataloging a resource that doesn’t typically have bibliographic information on the resource (e.g., photograph, sculpture), you do not need the square brackets. 
The sources given in the AACR2 part I chapters have been condensed into three categories: 
     A. Resources with pages, leaves, etc., or images of pages (
     B. Moving images (
     C.All other resources (

A. Resources with Pages, Leaves, etc., or Images of Pages
RDA provides a priority order for the preferred sources for these materials:
  • Title page, title sheet, etc. (or image) 
  • Cover (or image) 
  • Caption (or image) 
  • Masthead (or image) 
  • Colophon (or image) 
If you have exhausted those sources, you can use the source where the title is located.

If your resource doesn’t have a title page, use a source where the information may be formally presented (e.g., perhaps introductory pages). But these are still within the resource.

  • There is an alternative for microform or digital resources, which says to use an eye-readable label. There is also an exception for early-printed resources, with a different priority order. 
Resources Issued in More Than One Part
RDA provides the instructions for resources issued in multiple parts. This includes serials, multipart monographs, integrating resources, and kits. 
  • If the parts are sequentially numbered, use the lowest-numbered issue or part available 
  • If the parts are unnumbered or not sequentially numbered, use the issue or part with the earliest date of issue 
  • If the concept of sequential numbering is not appropriate (e.g., for a kit), use the resource as a whole; if this is not possible, generally determine the main part 

B. Moving-Image Resources
Moving images are typically contained in carriers such as film, DVD, etc. For these, the source is generally where the title appears.

RDA provides a priority order for the preferred sources for these materials: 
  • Title frames or title screens 
  • Label that is permanently printed on or affixed to the resource, excluding accompanying textual material or a container 
  • embedded metadata in textual form containing a title 
When none of the listed sources apply, use a source where the information is formally presented. 
  • There is an alternative to use a label and skip the title frames so you don’t have to project the image to find the data. 

C. Other Resources
RDA provides a priority order for the preferred sources for resources other than those in the first two categories
  • Label 
  • Embedded metadata in textual form containing a title 
  • If neither of the above is appropriate, use a source where the data is formally presented 

Other Sources of Information
RDA 2.2.4 provides a priority order for the other sources when you can’t find a title from the resource itself: 
  • Accompanying materials 
  • Container not issued as part of the resource (e.g., a case made by the owner) 
  • Other published descriptions of the resource 
  • Any other source (e.g., a reference source that indicates how the resource is commonly known) 

[Source: Library of Congress]

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