Academic journal article Alexandria

The International Development of RDA: Resource Description and Access

Academic journal article Alexandria

The International Development of RDA: Resource Description and Access

Article excerpt


The world has several cataloguing codes in use now, and the one used most widely throughout the world is the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2). Despite its wide use, during the 1990s, there were many complaints from users around the world about how impossible AACR2 was after all of the amendments and updates.

The complaints were made during conferences; they were posted on list-servs and stated in correspondence with the Joint Steering Committee for Revision of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (JSC). Those of us on the JSC heard and also agreed that AACR2 was getting too complex; there was no logical structure to it; that it mixed up content and carrier terms; and it was missing hierarchical and other relationships important to the things we catalogue. That was understandable, because AACR2 was written before the internet and before the IFLA conceptual models and cataloguing principles were agreed. The Joint Steering Committee, who is responsible for the rules, also received requests from around the world to please remove the Anglo-American biases, so it could be used more globally. So those of us on the JSC at that time decided it was time to do something about these complaints.

More precisely, in the late 1990s the JSC decided to actively try to make changes for the future of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules. We realized that all the changes in our environment with the world wide web and increasing internet access, as well as the development of conceptual models that gave us a new way to look at our environment, also gave us new opportunities for improving how we catalogue and how we deliver bibliographic information to users. In 1997, the JSC held the International Conference on the Principles & Future Development of AACR in Toronto, Canada. We invited experts from around the world to share in developing an action plan for the future of AACR.

Some of the recommendations from that meeting guided the thinking about new directions, such as the desire to document the basic principles that underlie the rules and explorations into content versus carrier. Some recommendations from that conference have already been implemented, like the new views of seriality - with continuing resources and harmonization of serials cataloguing standards among the ISBD, ISSN and AACR communities. Other recommendations from that conference are now goals for RDA, like further internationalization of the rules for their expanded use worldwide as a content standard for bibliographic and authority data.


In 2002 work began on a draft revision of AACR2 then called AACR3. However, by April 2005, the plan had changed. The reactions to the initial draft of AACR3 came from rule makers around the world and from national libraries and other organizations, including the German Expert Group for RAK (Regeln für die alphabetische Katalogisierung) and the Deutsche Bibliothek (now the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek), national libraries in Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, South Africa and more. Those international comments really helped improve the instructions. The JSC was very appreciative of the time and effort that everyone contributed to the process. The comments particularly raised concerns about the need to move to closer alignment with the FRBR model and to build an element set. The internet world and visions of the semantic web from Tim Berners-Lee had started really taking off, and it was clear doing cataloguing the way we always had, would no longer do. We could not continue to produce records in the MARC format in systems that could not talk to the rest of the information community - we had to plan for the future to assure libraries remain a vital part of that broader community. We needed to plan for linked data environments.

So, a new structure and plan were developed, and the name was changed to Resource Description and Access to emphasize the two important tasks of description and access. …

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