Anyone read RDA?

So I have to confess I can’t bring myself to read the RDA draft. I’m not even sure where it’s located. It’s somehow just too depressing and likely to make me mad. Not to mention it’s intimidatingly gigantic , and I know if I start I’m going to want to read the whole thing. Man, I wonder if anyone’s read the whole thing.

But I’m pretty sure some people have at least looked at some of it?

I was reminded by reading Martha Yee’s tribute to Lubetzky referenced in the last post that, at one point, RDA promised us it was going to be ‘principles-based’, not just setting down arcane combinations of rules whose complicated interactions mechanically followed would result in text. (Gee, you think I’m talking about AACR2?)  But explaining the principle behind each rule — what it was for and intended to actually accomplish, it’s purpose — to aid the cataloger in figuring out how it actually made sense to apply. (And, also, I’d mention, a crucial aid to anyone trying to work with data so created in a sophisticated way).

But I have the impression it hasn’t actually done this much at all.

Can anyone speak to that?


3 thoughts on “Anyone read RDA?

  1. I haven’t read it all. I don’t think it was possible for RDA to meet all its objectives in the timeframe allowed. Particularly as what it was trying to do seemed to expand and change with every draft. What I think the text itself has done is re-set of AACR2 in the theoretical framework of FRBR/FRAD. In that sense it’s doing something like Svenonius’ text does: a sort of glorious syncresis of a century’s worth of cataloguing theory and practice. Which is why the thing is so damn large. There wasn’t time to take anything out or do any real fundamental revision of the rules.

    But I think that’s beside the point. The whole thing could be seen as a nostalgic swan-song for a disappearing era of traditional cataloguing — a ‘beautiful sunset mistaken for a dawn’ — if it weren’t for the formal model of entities and properties, which almost came out as an afterthought and which is what the DC-RDA work is going to build on. That will provide the basis for cataloguing to join the web of linked data and hopefully give it continuing relevance in the 21st century. The fussing over individual rules and whether certain elements are core or not are side issues in comparison.

    The sign for me that some sort of tipping point has been reached in that direction was reading Barbara Tillett’s RDA presentation to the ALA Midwinter where she talks about linked data and thinking in terms of DC description sets rather than records. That would have been inconceivable when RDA was started.

  2. I’ve read– or at least skimmed– every draft of RDA.

    My opinion of the whole venture is that the creators were caught in the crush between those who wanted cosmetic changes that wouldn’t change the nature of cataloging work and those who advocated drastic changes to both accommodate and fully take advantage of new technology. Unfortunately, I think it’s migrated to a middle ground that doesn’t satisfy either side.

    The one ray of hope I see is the DCMI-RDA mapping work that Diane Hillman is doing, which at least has the potential to make RDA usable in machine-actionable contexts rather than strictly through human mediated means. But even I (a cataloging manager, not an IT expert by any means) can see that RDA just doesn’t go far enough in creating truly standardized and linkable bibliographic data in a machine-actionable context.

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