Sunday, June 29, 2008
RDA Update at ALA
As usual, the ALA Annual meeting here in Anaheim is a 4-day meeting crammed into two days. It is impossible to get to more than 3 or 4 meetings a day, even if you have the energy to do so, and there are at least two more at each time slot that you would like to attend.
I did make it to the RDA Update session that was in a very large auditorium. It started out quite well because, walking in with Diane Hillmann, co-author with me on the scathing Article: Resource Description and Access (RDA)): Cataloging Rules for the 20th Century, we came upon a table holding RDA promotional brochures, with an enticingly similar title. Yes, this time the century has been incremented by one.
Unfortunately, the first announcement is that RDA has been delayed once again, this time by two months. The public review version will not be available until October, and I had the feeling that "late October" would be an accurate statement. In case you hadn't heard, the final review will be done using the online system that is being developed, not through the familiar PDF documents that we have seen so far. This means that the chapters that we have not yet seen will remain unknown to us until that October date.
The good news is that ALA hired the smartest woman in the world, Nannette Naught, to create the online system and she has actually taken RDA, as we have seen it in its paper-ish form, and turned it into a huge complex of entities and relationships with their related instructions, scope notes and examples. It will be possible to create customized views and workflows within the system, and even add instructions relating to your library. (Since I can't see the purpose of each library doing this, I'm wondering if there won't be a market for customizing that ALA can respond to.)
The bad news is that this online subscription service will be the only way to access RDA. In other words, there will be no public access to the key library standard. Most of the questions at the session were from librarians worried about how this would be priced -- because where once they would buy a copy of AACR2, they will now have an ongoing cost to access the cataloging standard. And, yes, although the ALA rep Don Chatham was loathe to admit it, ongoing services do increase in price over time as a rule. (Note that ALA publishing is considering "derivative print works" if there is a market for them, which is logical. But there are no immediate plans for such works while all of the focus is on the primary product.)
I think the RDA product looks great, and I intend to spend much time with it during the review period -- in part because that is probably the last time I will be able to use it. I will be one of the many people who are interested in library data, even working with library data, but because I am not in a traditional institution I will not have access to the cataloging standard. I don't mind that I won't have access to the nifty tool designed for catalogers -- I don't need that. I do need to know what the rules are, however, so that I can continue to help people interpret library data.