Resource Description and Access

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Resource Description and Access (RDA) is a standard for descriptive cataloging initially released in June 2010,[1] providing instructions and guidelines on formulating bibliographic data. Intended for use by libraries and related cultural organizations such as museums and archives, RDA is the successor to Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition (AACR2), the prevailing standard for English language libraries since 1978.


RDA emerged from the International Conference on the Principles & Future Development of AACR held in Toronto in 1997.[2] It is published jointly by the American Library Association, the Canadian Library Association, and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in the UK. RDA instructions and guidelines are available through RDA Toolkit, an online subscription site, and in a print format. Maintenance of RDA is the responsibility of the Joint Steering Committee for the Development of RDA (JSC). The JSC is composed of representatives from the three RDA publishers and the Australian Committee on Cataloguing, the British Library, the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, and the Library of Congress.[3]


The primary distinction between RDA and AACR is structural. RDA is organised based on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR). These principles identify both the 'user tasks', which a library catalog should make possible, and a hierarchy of relationships in bibliographic data.[4] Descriptions produced using the instructions of RDA are intended to be compatible with any coding schema, including the data environments used for existing records created under the AACR2 rules.[4]

Reception and testing[edit]

In March 2012 the Library of Congress announced that it would fully implement RDA cataloging by the end of March 2013. Library and Archives Canada fully implemented the standard in September 2013. Several other national libraries including the British Library, National Library of Australia, and Deutsche Nationalbibliothek also planned to implement RDA in 2013.[5]


In the U.S., the cataloguing community expressed reservations about the new standard in regard to both the business case for RDA in a depressed economy and the value of the standard's stated goals.[6] Michael Gorman, one of the authors of AACR2, was particularly vocal in expression of his opposition to the new guidelines, claiming that RDA was poorly written and organized, and that the plan for RDA unnecessarily abandoned established cataloging practices.[7] Others felt that RDA was too rooted in past practices and therefore was not a vision for the future.[8] In response to these concerns, the three United States national libraries (Library of Congress, National Library of Medicine, and the National Agricultural Library) organized a nationwide test of the new standard.

Results of the U.S. RDA test[edit]

On 13 June 2011, the Library of Congress, the National Agricultural Library, and the National Library of Medicine released the results of their testing.[9] The test found that RDA to some degree met most of the goals that the JSC put forth for the new code and failed to meet a few of those goals. The Coordinating Committee admitted that they "wrestled with articulating a business case for implementing RDA", nevertheless the report recommended that RDA be adopted by the three national libraries, contingent on several improvements being made.[9] The earliest possible date for implementation was given as January 2013, as the consensus emerging from the analysis of the test data showed that while there were discernible benefits to implementing RDA, these benefits would not be realized without further changes to current cataloging practices, including developing a successor to the MARC format.[9][10]

Several other institutions were involved in the RDA test. Many of these institutions documented their findings in a special issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly.[11]

International reception[edit]

RDA was developed to be an international standard and is in step with the Statement of International Cataloguing Principles published by IFLA in 2009. RDA is also in step with established international display and encoding standards.[4] The emergence of the European RDA Interest Group (EURIG) and the addition of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek as a member of the JSC[12] signaled interest in RDA beyond the English-speaking library community.

RDA Vocabularies[edit]

The first set of RDA Vocabularies was published on the Open Metadata Registry in August 2011. The creation and publication of stable forms of RDA elements and controlled vocabularies/concepts makes RDA-created data accessible as open linked data for builders of applications. Alan Danskin, Chair of the Joint Steering Committee in 2011, noted, "The RDA vocabularies are a fundamental component of RDA, promoting consistent description and discovery of bibliographic resources. The Committee is committed to publishing and maintaining the content of the RDA vocabularies, synchronized with the text of RDA, in order to support their use by the resource description community and by developers of Semantic Web applications."[13]

Training and education resources[edit]

Several authors have noted that the Internet has facilitated the sharing of RDA training materials and information with other institutions.[14][15] However, this sharing is somewhat complicated by copyright issues.[16]

Professional catalogers—notably Adam Schiff and Robert Maxwell—and institutions—notably the University of Chicago, North Carolina State University, and the Library of Congress—have produced online training materials that have been widely used within the cataloging community.[17] User groups and professional associations are also using the Internet to facilitate the sharing of specific training materials, such as the Music Library Association's "Best Practices for Music Cataloging in RDA and MARC21" and the Online Audiovisual Catalogers' "Best Practices for Cataloging DVD-Video and Blu-ray Discs using RDA and MARC21."

RDA blog[edit]

Salman Haider, a cataloging and metadata librarian, created a blog about the standard in 2011.[18] The blog is an attempt to bring together "information, rules, references, news, and links on Resource Description and Access, FRBR, FRAD, FRSAD, MARC standards, AACR2, BIBFRAME, and other items related to current developments and trends in library cataloging practice."[19]

The blog has a collection of short posts on best practice LC-PCC guidelines.[20] There is a Google+ Community for RDA Cataloging having more than 300 members, which discusses the posts of the RDA blog.[21][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (19 May 2014). "RDA: Resource Description and Access". Background. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Joint Steering Committee for the Development of RDA (1 July 2009). "International Conference on the Principles and Future Development of AACR". Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (4 May 2014). "Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA". Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Oliver, Chris (2010). Introducing RDA: a guide to the basics. ALA Editions. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-8389-3594-1. 
  5. ^ "Library of Congress Announces Its Long-Range RDA Training Plan" (Press release). Library of Congress. 2 March 2012. 
  6. ^ Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control. "Testing Resource Description and Access (RDA)". Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  7. ^ Gorman, Michael. "RDA: The coming cataloguing debacle" (PDF). Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  8. ^ Coyle, Karen and Diane Hillmann. Resource Description and Access (RDA): Cataloging rules for the 20th century. D-Lib Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2007, v. 13, no. 1/2.
  9. ^ a b c "Report and Recommendations of the U.S. RDA Test Coordinating Committee on the implementation of RDA—Resource Description & Access". Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  10. ^ Library of Congress. "A Bibliographic Framework for the Digital Age". 31 October 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  11. ^ Hall-Ellis, Sylvia D.; Ellett, Robert O., eds. (2011). "Special Issue: RDA Testing: Lessons Learned and Challenges Revealed". Cataloging & Classification Quarterly. 49 (7-8). 
  12. ^ Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA. "Outcomes of the Meeting of the Joint Steering Committee Held in Glasgow, Scotland, 1-4 November 2011". Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  13. ^ Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA. "First RDA Vocabularies Published." 1 August 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  14. ^ Bloss, Marjorie E. "Testing RDA at Dominican University's Graduate School of Library and Information Science: The Students' Perspectives". Cataloging & Classification Quarterly. 49 (7-8): 593. doi:10.1080/01639374.2011.616264. 
  15. ^ Taylor, Arlene G. (1 July 2012). "Implementing AACR and AACR2: A Personal Perspective and Lessons Learned". Library Resources & Technical Services. 56 (3): 125. doi:10.5860/lrts.56n3.122. open access publication – free to read
  16. ^ Welsh, Anne; Carty, Celine; Williams, Helen. ""Mind the [Trans-Atlantic] Gap, Please": Awareness and Training Needs of UK Catalogers". Journal of Library Metadata. 12 (2-3): 250. doi:10.1080/19386389.2012.699854. 
  17. ^ Jin, Qiang; Sandberg, Jane A. (13 June 2014). "Implementing RDA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library". Technical Services Quarterly. 31 (3): 219. doi:10.1080/07317131.2014.908585. (subscription required)
  18. ^ Wong, Elise Y. (13 June 2014). "Tech Services on the Web: RESOURCE DESCRIPTION AND ACCESS (RDA) BLOG". Technical Services Quarterly. 31 (3): 299–300. doi:10.1080/07317131.2014.908641.  External link in |title= (help)
  19. ^ "About this blog". RDA Blog. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  20. ^ Library Resources & Access. "RDA Blog: LC-PCC Best Practices Guidelines". Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  21. ^ Catalogablog. "RDA Cataloging on Google+". Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  22. ^ RDA Cataloging. "RDA Cataloging on Google+". Retrieved 27 July 2013.

External links[edit]