Teaching cataloguing again

After a two-year absence (sabbatical and new administrative duties), I’m delighted to be teaching cataloguing again in the upcoming academic term. Over the past two years, I’ve redesigned the suite of metadata courses we offer at SIM. Given the growing importance of metadata, I thought that our MLIS program needed to provide students with more opportunities to study the theoretical and practical applications of metadata. The core course provides the theoretical framework, but trying to squeeze the practical applications into one course was proving inadequate, especially given the developments in FRBR and RDA, and the growth of multi-media items that our graduates will need to handle in a variety of environments. Registration numbers for both courses are high; in fact, I’ve had to employ waiting lists; I’m gratified that my interest in this topic is reflected in students’ choices.

Probably the biggest question I’m facing, which is, I’m sure, true for all cataloguing instructors, is how to balance two cataloguing codes: Students must now be familiar not only with AACR, but also with RDA. How much time to devote to the two systems? I’ve decided that the first-level course will focus on only AACR; given that most library records exist (and will continue to do so for a long time) in this format, it’s important that they have a firm understanding of this standard. The second-level course is still heavily biased towards AACR (with emphasis on multi-media), although RDA will be covered to a limited extent. It’s not clear at the moment how LIS schools are going to handle the two standards; will we need to add a third course exclusively on RDA? Since RDA has a strong basis on AACR, this may not be necessary but, given the complexity of RDA, this may be wishful thinking on my part.


13 thoughts on “Teaching cataloguing again

  1. I’m still a student, but I would tend to agree with you – more AACR2 than RDA now – as there are so few libraries doing anything but talking about RDA. As it slowly sees more widespread adoption (LC), then you turn down the AACR2 and turn up the emphasis on RDA.

    • I agree, Jason. In most cases, cataloguers versed in AACR are getting on-the-job training in RDA. As you say, AACR is still the primary code used in most libraries in North America, and it must be understood first before making the transition to RDA. I hope your studies are going well.

  2. I’m teaching AACR2 primarily, but have been including short “boxes” that explain how RDA is going to be different. I also have RDA as optional reading for each part of the course where appropriate. So far my students have managed to not get them mixed up.

    • This is a great idea, Amanda. I think it would provide a more relevant context for where RDA differs from AACR. Distributing the RDA readings is something I plan to do as well. I’m glad to hear that your students are not getting mixed up, as this is a fear of mine.

  3. Here in developing country of Nigeria, many librarians are yet gain knowledge of RDA much less contemplate the introduction in the school curriculum. we just had only one national seminar to my knowledge, where it was brushed over.

    AACR will remain with us for a long time to come.

    • Musa, you raise an excellent point. We have a number of international students in our program who are in a similar situation with respect to AACR, so we definitely need to continue teaching this standard.

  4. Hi Louise–this is an issue that we (myself and my almost-done doc student, Karen Snow) have been working on as well. I’ve offered a 5-week experimental course called “Introduction to RDA” for the past two summers and it has worked out nicely. This past Sum 2010 class was great because we had free access to the RDA Toolkit. We’ve also starting phasing in RDA into the AACR2-based courses–a little more every semester. We will have to teach both for several years, in my opinion.

    Incidentally, this past week I presented the keynote address at the “V Encuetro de Catalogacion Y Metadatos: 2010, Arios de la Investigacion en Catalogacion y Metadatos” at the Centro Universitario de Investigaciones Bibliotecologicas, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. I was very interested to see how they are approaching RDA, but soon realized that they have only recently–recently meaning within the last 10-20 years–been applying AACR2 (RCA2) and not very consistently from what I understand. From the perspective of a cataloging educator I feel their frustration with trying to make sense of FRBR, RDA, etc. They have no Spanish translation of RDA to work with (yet, I hope) and they are hampered by funding difficulties as it concerns access to the types of systems and software that we in the States and elsewhere are fortunate to enjoy.

    One of my students in my basic cataloging course made an interesting comment last week–we were discussing the issue of their being the “generation” of librarians who do have to know both rule sets—he said he felt a bit short-changed, but that he would have felt even more short-changed if he hadn’t been told anything at all about RDA. I think this validates the phasing-in-RDA approach we are taking and that even though it may be messy and chaotic for a while it is worth it. As well, I’m starting to see ‘knowledge of FRBR and RDA’ in cataloging job postings so I feel we should kick it into full gear fairly soon.


    • Shawn, I like the idea of the 5-week course; did you teach this over and above your normal teaching load? I’m the only instructor at the School of Information Management who teaches in the area of the organization of information, so I’m always a bit concerned about how much one person can do. Something I’m thinking of exploring is reaching out to the library technician program in Halifax, since we two are the only institutions in Atlantic Canada who teach LIS.

      Another point that needs to be considered is the expense to the students, since they will need to purchase both AACR and RDA. Our funds at SIM don’t allow us to absorb the costs of online subscriptions, so the only feasible alternative at the moment is to require the students to pay the online fee for RDA, as well as their purchase of AACR. I would be interested in hearing how other instructors and schools are dealing with this, now that the free access to RDA has expired.

  5. It is outside of my regular 3/2, but I have an excellent doctoral TA, Karen Snow, who teaches several cataloging courses for me. We’ve had a huge surge in enrollment in our basic and advanced cataloging the past few semesters. The only way I could handle it all is having Karen plus two other TAs. Unfortunately for me, she will most likely be defending in the Spring and so on the job market, and will leave me. On the plus side, we now have a new professor, Oksana Zavalina, who was hired specifically to teach in InfoOrg.

    We attach a course fee (approx. $50) to the cataloging courses that helps us to maintain subscriptions to Cataloger’s Desktop, Classification Web, and soon RDA Toolkit. I would definitely encourage you to talk with RDA Toolkit people–they are trying to be very accommodating to library schools. It is a benefit to them to do so, in my view. And, there is access to AACR2 within the Toolkit which might allow you the option of not subscribing to CatDesk. However, the sheer number of other tools in CatDesk are great to have, too. I am hoping they will merge CatDesk and the Toolkit at some point, but not sure if and how that will work.


    • This is very helpful, Shawne, thanks. We have avoided charging a supplementary fee to the course, since university regulations can be a bit tricky here, but I can make a strong argument in their favour, which is the approach I wish to take.

  6. i.m teaching aacr2 and marc could you please help me to updated my courses, and if there are some references to rda, with exercises
    best regards

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