Saturday, October 25, 2014

Transcription in Resource Description & Access (RDA) Cataloging

“Take What You See and Accept What You Get”

This is the overriding principle of RDA concerning the transcription of data. It is consistent with the ICP “Principle of Representation” to represent the resource the way it represents itself. This is a fairly significant change from AACR2, which includes extensive rules for abbreviations, capitalization, punctuation, numerals, symbols, etc., and in some cases directs the cataloger to ‘correct’ data which is known to be wrong (e.g., typos). With RDA we generally do not alter what is on the resource when transcribing information for certain elements. This is not only to follow the principle of representation, but also for a more practical reason: to encourage re-use of found data you can copy and paste or scan or download into your description of the resource.

Let’s see what this principle means for you as an LC cataloger, regarding capitalization, punctuation, and spacing.  It is critical that you understand LCPS 1.7.1; the overriding principles codified there are generally not discussed elsewhere in the specific instructions.

  • In the RDA Toolkit, display RDA 1.7.1

Note that the alternatives at RDA 1.7.1 allow for the use of in-house guidelines for capitalization, punctuation, numerals, symbols, abbreviations, etc. -- in lieu of RDA instructions or appendices.


Regarding capitalization, RDA 1.7.2 directs the cataloger to “Apply the instructions on capitalization found in Appendix A.  But LC policy says that you can follow the capitalization that you find, without adjusting it.

“For capitalization of transcribed elements, either “take what you see” on the resource or follow [Appendix] A.”

Punctuation, Numerals, Symbols, Abbreviations, etc.

LCPS 1.7.1, First Alternative says “follow the guidelines in 1.7.3 – 1.7.9 and in the appendices.”

Transcribed Elements vs. Recorded Elements

RDA distinguishes between transcribed elements and recorded elements.
  • For transcribed elements, generally accept the data as found on the resource.
  • For recorded elements, the found information is often adjusted (for example, the hyphens in an ISBN are omitted).

Language and Script

The basic instruction for most of the elements for describing a manifestation is to transcribe the data in the language and script found in the resource (“take what you see”).  RDA 1.4 contains a list of elements to be transcribed from the resource in the found language and script.

For non-transcribed elements:
  • When recording all other elements (e.g., extent, notes), record them in the language and script preferred by the agency creating the data (at LC, this is English)
  • When adding information within an element, record it in the language and script of the element to which it is being added
  • When supplying an entire element, generally supply it in English

Regarding non-Latin scripts, LCPS 1.4, First Alternative states the LC policy to record a transliteration instead, or to give both (using the MARC 880 fields)

[Source: Library of Congress]


Also check out following RDA rules in RDA Toolkit for further details:

1.7 Transcription
  • 1.7.1 General Guidelines on Transcription
  • 1.7.2 Capitalization
  • 1.7.3 Punctuation
  • 1.7.4 Diacritical Marks
  • 1.7.5 Symbols
  • 1.7.6 Spacing of Initials and Acronyms
  • 1.7.7 Letters or Words Intended to Be Read More Than Once
  • 1.7.8 Abbreviations
  • 1.7.9 Inaccuracies


1.7.3 Punctuation

This rule suggest to "Transcribe punctuation as it appears on the source"

  • Punctuation separating different elements. Omit punctuation that separates data to be recorded as one element from data to be recorded as a different element.
  • Punctuation separating instances of the same element. Omit punctuation that separates data to be recorded as one element from data recorded as a second or subsequent instance of the same element.
  • Add punctuation, as necessary, for clarity. [For example if the Title appears on the source of information with each word on a separate line then Comma can be added for clarity]


[Updated 2015-08-12]