Thoughts on the 3R Project
Part 1 of this series is available here.
Now that some time has passed since the rollout of the beta version of the new RDA Toolkit, in this section, I would like to look at the conversations around the changes and the implications they have for the cataloging community.
Three issues that continued to come up in the discussion around the new version were:
- The absence of an outline, enumeration, or another organizational schema throughout the toolkit;
- The absence of embedded AACR2 rule links in the RDA Toolkit;
- RDA’s role as a cataloging standard.
Out of Order
On rda-l, the first issue that came up in response to the RSC Secretary’s announcement was regarding the removal of numbering throughout the RDA Toolkit. The original online RDA Toolkit was structured much like a print book would be, with numbered chapters containing series of nested instructions. The major concerns expressed by the cataloging community surrounding the absence of these numbers was that there is no longer a way for catalogers to refer to a specific instruction (either verbally or in print).
This change does not take into account that the work catalogers do does not exist in a vacuum. Communicating about the rules that guide our work is necessary when discussing or asking for clarification regarding a rule among colleagues, cataloging instruction, and documentation. The 3R project will have functionality for institutions to build documentation inside of the Toolkit, but that will be addressed later in this post.
The outcry from catalogers and cataloging instructors did not go unheard. On July 6th, the RSC put out a Statement on Instruction Numbering, supplemented by “a fuller exploration of the challenges of instruction numbering and the direction they are pursuing” on the RSC website (RDA Toolkit, 2018). There is a current call for suggestions from catalogers about how to design a system that would allow people to hone in on specific instructions within RDA.
The call features an almost excessive level of restrictions, requiring that “[v]iable solutions:
- should not imply a preferred order of instructions or options;
- should not impose a hierarchical structure on the RDA text;
- should not require any additional editorial action when text is added, moved, or deprecated;
- should work for both the element pages and the guidance chapters;
- and should avoid any use of language-based terms or letters, as RDA is an international standard (RDA Toolkit, 2018).”
A version of AACR2 has been included in the RDA Toolkit since its release in 2010 with links in RDA elements that served as a sort of crosswalk between the two standards. In a December 2013 update, the RDA Toolkit was further enhanced so that the AACR2 display linked out to additional cataloging-related documents (RDA Toolkit, 2016).
In the 3R release, this functionality was removed in favor of a section for AACR2 in the Toolkit’s Historical Documents (RDA Steering Committee, 2018). Most libraries in North America will have a mixture of AACR2, AACR2-hybrid, and RDA records in their catalogs. This change will make the process of upgrading records from AACR2 to RDA more cumbersome.
RDA is meant to be encoding format neutral, to provide guidelines for library metadata creation as well as cultural heritage resource metadata. Where the RDA guidelines were unclear or instructed to rely on cataloger’s judgment, particularly for MARC format cataloging, catalogers were able to refer back to the corresponding AACR2 guidelines to get a better understanding of previous policies. Our work is collaborative by nature, with records being shared across institutions through OCLC, so having a common standard in place (whether RDA or falling back on AACR2) helps us ensure uniformity with the practices of other catalogers.
RDA’s role as a cataloging standard
The new 3R Project’s RDA Toolkit has evolved far beyond MARC cataloging. If we are going to keep up as catalogers, it will likely require us to develop or subscribe to additional documentation or application profiles relevant to our work in order for us to navigate the Toolkit. The way we teach cataloging will also have to adapt, for better or for worse.
This is not inherently a bad thing, but it is important to recognize and address that, with this step forward with RDA, people are being left behind. There is a digital divide in our profession. A disparity between the resources available in academic, special, government, and public libraries—whether small or large.
How might libraries who cannot afford the Toolkit or with limited resources to devote to developing their own cataloging resources be affected? Will those who may not have the resources to subscribe to the online Toolkit still be able to get a print version of this content that has been restructured for computer readability over human readability? Will embedded local documentation in the Toolkit decrease information sharing among catalogers? Will it pose the risk of a loss of organizational knowledge, should organizations choose to move away from RDA in the future?
We are fortunate that the Toolkit is still in beta, and open for community comments at least until the end of 2018. This is a conversation happening now. The cataloging community needs to address our underlying assumptions regarding RDA over the next six months, and use this opportunity to organize and express our concerns.
3R Project. (2018, June 6). What to Expect from the RDA Toolkit Beta Site. Retrieved from RDA Toolkit: https://www.rdatoolkit.org/3Rproject/Beta
Barnhart, L. (2018, June 8). [RDA-L] News on the RDA 3R Project beta release. Retrieved from rda-l – Open discussion of RDA and related topics: http://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/rda-l/2018-06/msg00006.html
Dunshire, G. (2018, June 8). Outcomes of the RDA Toolkit Restructure and Redesign Project. Retrieved from RDA Steering Committee: http://www.rda-rsc.org/sites/all/files/RSC-Chair-19.pdf
Library of Congress. (2015, February). RDA Refresher Performance Support: What is Different from AACR2? Retrieved from RDA Training Materials: https://www.loc.gov/catworkshop/RDA%20training%20materials/RDA-refresh/rdarefr-diffa2.pdf
RDA Steering Committee. (2018, July 28). 3R Project Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from RDA Steering Committee: http://www.rda-rsc.org/node/551#43
RDA Steering Committee. (2018, January 1). About RDA. Retrieved from RDA Steering Committee: http://rda-rsc.org/content/about-rda
RDA Steering Committee. (2018, April 26). Changes to 3R Rollout and Schedule. Retrieved from RDA Steering Committee: http://rda-rsc.org/node/571
RDA Toolkit. (2016, October 7). AACR2 in RDA Toolkit. Retrieved from RDA Toolkit: https://www.rdatoolkit.org/index.php/AACR2
RDA Toolkit. (2018, July 6). Statement on Instruction Numbering. Retrieved from RDA Toolkit: https://www.rdatoolkit.org/node/163