Academic journal article Notes

The Development of Resource Description & Access and Its Impact on Music Materials

Academic journal article Notes

The Development of Resource Description & Access and Its Impact on Music Materials

Article excerpt

The development of Resource Description & Access (RDA) (1) as a replacement code for the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2d edition, 1998 revision (AACR2),(2) stemmed from repeated calls to revise the cataloging rules to better accommodate the ever-evolving types of resources that libraries acquire. For example, the papers presented at a meeting of experts in 1997 at the International Conference on the Principles and Future Development of AACR explored various contentious topics, such as content versus carrier, issues related to seriality, and the definition of a work.(3) In 2004, the Committee of Principals for AACR appointed an editor to create an initial draft of AACR3, to take these and other issues into account. At that point, no one foresaw the final direction the new code would take. It evolved over six years with changes in name, organization, content, and the vision for how cataloging records can interoperate with other data on the Internet as we move into the future.

This article explores the development of RDA in relation to current cataloging standards, with a particular emphasis on the impact its implementation will have on description and access for music materials. After reviewing RDA's foundations and how stakeholders were involved in RDA development and review, the article highlights unique aspects of RDA, how its data can be used within and beyond MARC, and explores some significant changes from AACR2. The concluding sections focus on RDA testing, revision, and implementation.


In spite of the changes throughout its development, RDA remains deeply rooted in Anglo-American cataloging traditions while also aligning with newer international conceptual models, such as the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) (4) and the Functional Requirements for Authority Data (FRAD).(5) In addition, the International Federation of Library Association's (IFLA) recent "Statement of International Cataloguing Principles,"(6) under development concurrently with RDA, informed the new code's overall objectives and principles.


Interested stakeholders, including specialized communities, have played a significant part in RDA's development. Members of MLA's Bibliographic Control Committee reviewed each draft, providing detailed comments on issues related to description and access for music resources. MLA's suggestions and examples were often incorporated into RDA.(7)


RDA, unlike AACR2, is strictly a content standard. It contains few rules about punctuation, order, and formatting. Display and encoding standards, such as ISBD: International Standard Bibliographic Description (8) and MARC21 bibliographic and authority formats9 are relegated to appendices; they are not integrated into the instructions or examples.


While many of the AACR2 rules migrated to RDA, they no longer appear in the same order or context, forcing catalogers to look at the instructions differently. RDA's organization follows the framework laid out by FRBR and FRAD, grouping instructions by entity and describing separate data elements and their attributes. Because of this structure, RDA does not organize instructions by the ISBD areas of description, nor does it contain separate chapters that lay out the rules for descriptive cataloging by format. Rather, all instructions relating to a particular element, such as title, are grouped together and apply to all resources. These organizational changes will enable RDA to remain flexible as library resources evolve; existing instructions can be extended to new formats in a way that was not possible under AACR2.

In a variation on AACR2's levels of description, RDA specifies which elements are core, or essential, to include when describing a resource or identifying a person or corporate body. In some cases, core elements are conditional. …

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