Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

RDA Implementation in Large US Public Libraries

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

RDA Implementation in Large US Public Libraries

Article excerpt

The international cataloging community began an epic journey in June 2011 when the Library of Congress (LC), the National Library of Medicine (NLM), and the National Agricultural Library (NAL) announced that they planned to conditionally adopt Resource Description and Access (RDA), the new cataloging standard developed by the Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (JSC). Prior to the US national libraries' official implementation of RDA on March 31, 2013, several American libraries had already adopted it for their own use. The Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) took a differentiated approach to RDA implementation, setting separate deadlines for the mandatory use of RDA in authority and bibliographic records. The PCC established March 31, 2013, as the date after which all new authority records entering the LC Name Authority File (LCNAF) had to be coded as RDA, but PCC libraries were allowed to continue to use the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition (AACR2) for bibliographic records until December 31, 2014. All libraries that subsequently ingested the new records created by LC, PCC libraries, and other early adopters thus became de facto implementers of RDA, whether or not they had approved of the new standard.

RDA's developers sought to achieve a number of goals with the new standard. One of its primary objectives was to be responsive to users' needs, enabling them to fulfill the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records' (FRBR) objectives of finding, identifying, selecting, obtaining, and understanding information about resources and agents relevant to their research needs. (1)

Providing effective bibliographic control for all types of resources, which AACR2 lacked, was deemed as a key component in meeting this objective. RDA specifically includes instructions to help catalogers better describe the types of materials acquired by twenty-first-century libraries, particularly nonprint, nontextual, and unpublished resources. (2) Furthermore, RDA's increased reliance on cataloger judgment in applying instructions was aimed at attaining a greater focus on local user needs. (3) In addition to users' needs, consideration was given to how RDA would be used and implemented by libraries and their cataloging practitioners. Cost-effectiveness and continuity were some of RDA's major design objectives. RDA metadata records must be produced in a cost-effective manner and compatible with existing records in online catalogs, particularly those developed using AACR2 and related standards. (4) Moreover, the intent was for RDA to be clearly written and easy to use and interpret, with numerous examples provided that are appropriate and relevant to specific instructions. (5) Finally, RDA was intentionally published as a web-based toolkit to incorporate the features and functionality of online access. (6)

Catalogers have had several years to apply RDA and assess its impact both on their own practices and their users. While there have been numerous post-implementation studies of RDA within individual libraries and national cataloging communities, most have focused primarily on training issues and changes to the local integrated library system (ILS) necessary to accommodate RDA elements and the corresponding new MARC fields. To date, however, there has been a paucity of research examining whether catalogers believe that RDA has met its stated purposes and goals. Furthermore, in studies where library type is the study's emphasis, the RDA research conducted thus far has concentrated primarily on academic libraries with scant regard for public libraries, despite the fact there are 2.4 times as many public libraries as academic libraries in the United States. (7) This paper intends to fill both of these knowledge gaps by investigating how the transition to RDA has been handled in large US public libraries since LC/PCC's implementation, specifically using a survey that examined whether public library catalogers believe some of RDA's major goals have been met and how some of the anticipated impacts of RDA implementation have been handled. …

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