Results from the RDA Test Committee

The US RDA Test Coordinating Committee released its final report today in which it concluded that “RDA should be implemented by LC, NAL, and NLM no sooner than January 2013. The three national libraries should commit resources to ensure progress is made on these activities that will require significant effort from many in and beyond the library community.”

The Committee clearly struggled with the business case for implementing RDA, stating that “the test revealed that there is little discernible immediate benefit in implementing RDA alone. The adoption of RDA will not result in significant cost savings in metadata creation. There will be inevitable and significant costs in training.”  Given the potential benefits of RDA to the end user, however, the Committee recommends the implementation of RDA.

The Committee recommends that “Library schools should ensure that all of their students are familiar with FRBR concepts and terminology, the International Cataloguing Principles, and the value and potentials of linked data on the Web. While advanced cataloging students who will be graduating within the next year will need to have some familiarity with AACR2, the schools should be transitioning from teaching using AACR2 to RDA, so that students graduating in 2013 and on are ready to join staff who will be using the new rules.”  I think this statement is perhaps a little naive.  The view that only some familiarity with AACR2 is necessary is problematic, since for the immediate future, a lot of work will be needed to convert existing AACR2 record to RDA.  My students would have struggled significantly with RDA had they not been well versed in AACR, so it’s not clear that RDA can work as a standalone at the moment, given the current state of library catalogue records. This statement does not distinguish between advanced and basic cataloguing skills.

If a program has only one cataloguing course, how is it possible to provide adequate instruction in both AACR2 and RDA?  Do you teach only RDA?  Teaching FRBR alone requires a fair amount of work, and I find that in programs where cataloguing is not a required course (which is quite common), ensuring a good understanding of FRBR is very challenging, since students often lack sufficient understanding of, and grounding in, cataloguing practice.   Our students are introduced to FRBR in our core Organization of Information course, but since this is a survey course, not  much time can be given to this topic. It was only once students had a firm  grasp of AACR and library cataloguing that they could appreciate FRBR, and this includes only those students who took the  basic and advanced cataloguing courses.  It would have been helpful for the Committee to perhaps consult in more detail relevant instructors in LIS programs to get a more comprehensive view of the instructional landscape, as one brief paragraph isn’t sufficient to address this very important area.

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