RDA: Resource Description and Access — Frequently Asked Questions

What is RDA?

Resource Description and Access (RDA) is the descriptive cataloguing standard designed to replace the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2). It was published in 2010.  

Why is RDA needed?

RDA has many of the strengths of AACR2 but its new features will make it more useful for description in the digital environment. 

  • RDA has been developed with the end-user in mind.
  • RDA provides a consistent, flexible and extensible framework for the description of all types of resources, including digital resources and those with multiple characteristics.
  • RDA is compatible with internationally established principles, models and standards.
  • RDA is compatible with a range of encoding schemas, such as MODS, Dublin Core, ONIX and MARC.  It will allow library bibliographic records to be integrated with those produced by other metadata communities, and to move into the digital environment beyond library catalogues.
  • RDA will enable, with systems support, the grouping together of bibliographic records for different editions, translations or formats of a work, to achieve a more meaningful display of data for users.
  • RDA is a Web-based product, which enables cataloguers to move between related instructions using hyperlinks, and to integrate their own institutional policies.  

Who developed RDA?

RDA was developed by two international bodies: the Joint Steering Committee for RDA (JSC) and the Committee of Principals (CoP).  

The JSC is responsible for the development of RDA and for consulting with stakeholder groups. Membership of the JSC is drawn from the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing (CCC), the American Library Association (ALA), the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the Australian Committee on Cataloguing (ACOC), the British Library and the Library of Congress. 

The Canadian Committee on Cataloguing represents the interests of Canadian libraries on the JSC. The Canadian Committee on Cataloguing is represented on the JSC by Library and Archives Canada. 

The JSC reports to the CoP, which is responsible for broad policy, budget and management issues. The CoP is comprised of representatives from the Canadian Library Association, American Library Association, CILIP, the Library of Congress, Library and Archives Canada, the British Library, and the National Library of Australia. 

Who publishes RDA?

The co-publishers of RDA are the American Library Association, the Canadian Library Association and in the U.K., the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). The RDA Toolkit has been produced under contract with ALA. 

When will Library and Archives Canada implement RDA?

Library and Archives Canada will implement RDA no sooner than early 2013. LAC will coordinate implementation of RDA with the British Library, the Library of Congress and the National Library of Australia.  

How do I find information about the RDA Toolkit?

Learn more about the RDA Toolkit

What does the RDA Toolkit cost?

A subscription model has been developed by the co-publishers: American Library Association, Canadian Library Association and the Chartered Institute of Library and information Professionals (U.K.) and RDA pricing details are available. 

What about RDA in French?

The Association pour l'avancement des sciences et des techniques de la documentation (ASTED), is coordinating the translation activity and working with Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) and other partners to develop the French translation.  

What needs to be done to implement RDA?

Each library will need to decide when they will implement RDA. RDA implementation will typically include training of staff and possibly a review of existing cataloguing workflows and policy decisions. 

Conversion of existing records will generally not be necessary, as records created using RDA were made to integrate with AACR2 records in existing databases. The global updating of headings will be required in a few cases. For example, there will be changes to the structure of Bible uniform titles, and the abbreviated word "Dept." will be spelled out in full. The JSC has kept these changes to a minimum. 

Changes to MARC21 have been made to accommodate new RDA data elements. Libraries will need to consult with their library system vendor about the vendor's plans to accommodate RDA changes.  

What about systems? 

Library systems will need to support the creation and exchange of RDA data.  Systems vendors are aware of this impending change, that will require MARC21 changes. These MARC21 changes will need to be incorporated by vendors into the cataloguing modules of library systems. This will enable the importing and/or exporting of bibliographic and authority records. Changes will also be required to indexes in library systems to allow for the search and display of new data elements.  

Changes to existing records will generally not be necessary as records created using RDA were designed to integrate with AACR2 records in existing databases. However, global updating of headings will be required in a few cases, for example the headings for "Bible" will change in RDA and also headings for corporate names that include the abbreviation "Dept."   

Will changes to OPAC displays be required?

It is hoped that eventually library systems and Online Public Access Catalogs (OPAC) will evolve to take full advantage of the data created using RDA, with its underlying Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) structure of work, expression, manifestation and item. These changes will improve the ease and effectiveness with which users are able to find, identify and obtain the resources they need. For example, resources in a variety of formats such as print, online, microform, sound recording might be grouped for display purposes to show they belong to a particular work or expression, allowing users to view and navigate between related works much more easily. However, given the time required for system developments, these changes might not be a reality for several years.  

What are LAC's implementation plans for RDA?

Decisions on which RDA options and alternatives LAC will follow will be made in conjunction with the other Anglo-American national libraries and Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) to minimize differences in practice. Similarly, LAC will work with the national libraries on decisions regarding retroactive changes in legacy headings, with the aim of keeping these to a minimum.  

LAC will incorporate MARC21 changes in its library system, AMICUS. 

More information on LAC implementation plans will be posted as they become available.   

What about the Canadian Union Catalogue on AMICUS?

Records created using RDA are intended to integrate with AACR2 records in existing databases. Once RDA has been implemented, the Union Catalogue will be able to receive MARC records from Canadian libraries reflecting both AACR and RDA cataloguing rules. 

How do I find out more about RDA?

The JSC Website has links to a number of useful presentations made on RDA.  

What can Canadian libraries do to prepare for RDA?

There are several things Canadian libraries can do to prepare for RDA.  

  1. Become familiar with the concepts of RDA and view useful presentations on RDA. The JSC Website also has a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section for your information.  
  2. Contact your library system vendor to see how they plan to accommodate RDA changes. Library systems will need to support the creation and exchange of RDA data. Systems vendors are aware of this impending change that will require the accommodation of MARC21 changes. These MARC changes will need to be made by vendors into the cataloguing modules of library systems to enable the import and/or export of bibliographic and authority records. Changes will also be required to indexes in library systems to allow for the search and display of new data elements.
  3. Determine who will be responsible for coordinating overall RDA implementation at your library. Review current policies and procedures. Decide how to communicate changes to staff. Create a plan for updating existing documentation and for writing RDA documentation.
  4. Inform public service and other non-cataloguing library staff about RDA. Discuss how the changes might impact on their work.  

Training and documentation

Like other libraries, LAC's implementation of RDA will include staff training and a review of cataloguing workflows and policy decisions. LAC will not deliver training to libraries across Canada but will make any documentation that is developed available on the LAC's Web site. LAC is working with the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing and the Canadian Library Association's Technical Services  Network. 

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