RDA and the library patron

RDA is here whether we want it or not.

As yet my library system has chosen not to implement RDA.  However, seemingly we will not be able to hold out forever…

To all those libraries who are using RDA – I have some questions.  The most important of which is this:

“Does RDA cataloguing benefit the patron?  In what way?”

We must remember that the whole reason for cataloging in the first place is to enhance access for our end users.   We do this by being consistent and thinking of the patron’s needs and wants.

Our library has an excellent catalogue with an AquaBrowser overlay.  In my opinion it offers patrons an easy-to-use, comprehensive catalogue with optimized use of icons and graphics. How can RDA improve this?  Will it really….?

How does spelling out the word pages or sound benefit the end user?In this day of prevalent social media which uses abbreviations more than we ever have in the past, why are we stopping the use of abbreviations in our catalogues?

Are libraries jumping on the RDA bandwagon like lemmings? Why?  Has the worldwide library community invested so much time and money in the implementation of RDA that they now feel obliged to keep it for those reasons only?

RDA provides instructions and guidelines for formulating data for resource description and discovery.  I would argue that we describe our resources very well without RDA and that the patrons can discover/access it easily and efficiently.  Hence the name of our catalogue “Discover“.

How does it benefit the end user to change an author authority record from:

Sandford, John, 1944 Feb. 23-          to

Sandford, John, 1944 February 23-

Really…  what patron would care if this change were made?  Does this authority change enhance access?  Isn’t access the reason we catalogue in the first place?

If it ain’t broke…. don’t fix it.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog posting are my own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of my employer.


4 responses to “RDA and the library patron

  1. (Not sure if I left this comment before because there was a log in issue.)

    I think the main reason why RDA should replace AACR2 is to make library data to be better consumed by machines, rather than human beings. So I agree with you that RDA may be irrelevant with end users, but I still think RDA is meaningful.

  2. One of the most difficult things with have about comprehending the value of RDA is that we are still locked into thinking about RDA from a MARC perspective. Maybe spelling out months or pages looks (and is) useless, but RDA brings to the table much, much more than that. The value of RDA will become more evident when we move out of the MARC environment and machine actionable data will be utilized more as well as the ability to show relationships between resources through linked data and displays that our current library systems cannot. I once felt the same way that you do, but now I can’t wait to see what BIBFRAME will bring to discovery of information that we currently do not have.

  3. RDA is only the very first step on the long road to the semantic web. We have to start somewhere! It is the attempt to start collecting data that will be needed once we move from MARC to a new framework. It is a way of opening up our data to so many possibilities. Whether your library has ‘adopted’ RDA or not, it is in your catalog. We are looking at a paradigm shift that allows for even deeper metadata description.

    I teach ‘accidental’ catalogers. Those who found themselves in a library career by default in their small or rural libraries. This makes complete sense to them. They come from the ‘outside’ where they see what the web is capable of and really come at it from the users point of view. What RDA will bring to the catalog is that capability to serve patrons better by providing more in depth carrier, format, and medium information. No one has started using these fields to their capability, but the first ILS to do so will show how amazing this added data is.

    RDA is also the first step to communicating data with other computers by using more of the coding techniques and ISO language used in the ‘real’ world. It is the beginning of leaving the library silo and becoming a full partner in the world of cloud-based information.

  4. Richard Goodwin

    The inbuilt assumption in many pro-RDA teaching modules is that non-RDA cataloguing is not trying to help the library user. I have yet to meet a cataloguer who does not try to anticipate the needs of users in their cataloguing, and I think it’s insulting that cataloguers should be told that they have been leading users astray for all these years.
    On the matter of abbreviations, I can see the advantages in spelling out words — but let’s face it, any catalogue user who gets as far as a physical description area of a record will be able to suss out that p. = pages. Remember that many databases (such as Medline) just give you a bunch of numbers. I am not silly enough to swallow the RDA claim that “cm” or “cm.” (depending whether it’s followed by a series or not) is not an abbreviation, but a symbol, and therefore is okay to use. Coming from a code that is an abbreviation itself, there is some irony here!
    Adding content to a bibliographic record for the world wide web is a nice idea. My employer does not pay me to do that. My employer pays me to describe the item in our collection, and to provide access to it, and to make sure it is not mixed up with other records.
    Adding RDA content is expensive and prone to error, and often downright silly. My statement of responsibility says “edited by” — why should I waste time figuring out that I need to add $eeditor to a 700 added entry? Why am I wasting my time adding meaningless terms like “issuing body” or “sponsoring body” to 710 fields when neither really suits the item in hand?
    Adding content to a bibliographic record for what the the world wide web MIGHT want inthe future is a poor idea. Librarians are not the best people to figure that out. There are people with genius IQs who work for search engine companies who do a better job than librarians. Libraries have about a century’s worth of records in some form of machine-readable form. A middle level IT person could surely write a program that would translate that into something RDA-like for the net — if it becomes necessary.
    I would prefer that librarians use any spare time to lobby publishers to provide correct spelling in their cataloguing.
    When I use a union catalogue, I don’t like looking at 2,3 or 4 versions of an RDA record for 1 item, which exist because people have chosen different options, and I still can’t be sure any of them is the record I want. Duplicates exist of AACR2 records, but it is usually easy to spot that they are for the item in your hand — not so with RDA.
    I can find any MARC record that I create publicly on Google. I don’t like lowering my work-rate with records that look RDA-like for some maybe-possible future user. And I don’t like the inability of RDA to provide answers or a philosophy that would inform an answer, on the many questions that can arise when dealing with unusual materials. AACR2, AACR1, the Red Book and a host of others did provide an answer. If RDA likes to take the approach that it’s not a cataloguing code — then let’s not abandon AACR2, which is. And cataloguers still need codes.

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